Wowee, everyone – This is a bad one!
Weezer’s Black Album is another chapter in the band’s nosedive into lousy music. The Black Album follows Pacific Daydream, the band’s last project of original music. Pacific Daydream was completely devoid of any real power behind its tracks, amounting to a very bland and very safe record. Where Everything Will Be Alright in the End and the White Album both combined for an impressive bounceback in terms of quality for Weezer following the Red Album, Raditude, and Hurley, Pacific Daydream was a major step back, thus resulting in Weezer becoming one of the most frustrating bands in my eyes… or… ears – whatever. The frustration stems from the band’s seemingly repetitive formula of: offer something fun and promising for a couple albums, experiment, create garbage music. Repeat.
It was announced shortly following Pacific Daydream’s release that the long-awaited Black Album would be coming next. For a few years, this album had been hinted at by the band as one that dealt with dark and/or challenging topics in the style of “Beach Boys gone bad” (frontman Rivers Cuomo actually used that phrase). What we got instead is nothing short of a complete disappointment. Where Raditude offered the absolute bottom of the dumpster for Weezer material, the Black Album comes awfully close to hitting that dumpster’s floor.
Rivers stated in early interviews on the Black Album, “I’m thinking of swearing, which is something I’ve never done in songs.” I was concerned by this because of the possibility of swearing just to swear. When bands do this (most often in alternative rock nowadays), it is so blatantly obvious and it results in corny trash lyrics. The vocalist comes off like the teacher who cursed to seem cool in the eyes of the students, but really just wound up making everyone cringe. Unfortunately, this “cringe” is achieved far too often in the Black Album with the following examples of swear-lyrics:
“I’m an ugly motherfucker, but I work hella harder” and “Don’t step to me, bitch” (both of these are in the same song “Can’t Knock the Hustle”)
“I had to quit, your band sounds like shit” (“I’m Just Being Honest” – also, holy irony…)
“Fuel up, bitch, there’s no more slackin’” (“Too Many Thoughts in My Head”)
The awkward lyrics don’t just result from the swearing. Oh no, far from it, in fact. You can pretty much go to any track in the Black Album and find lyric after lyric of lazy and uninspired writing. Some examples of this include:
From “Piece of Cake”:
“Hop on this trash / Be my last chance / We’ll eat ice cream / Weep for Betty”
“She was into me / And then she changed the dial like I’m grunge or gangsta rap”
“Hey man, cheer up / Make your own luck / Have a nice life / Have some more Sprite”
“And maybe it’s because I’m Irish / I just couldn’t keep my big mouth shut / Is that an eight, is that a zero?” (“I’m Just Being Honest”)
From “Too Many Thoughts in My Head”:
“Stay up reading Mary Poppins / Overwhelmed by Netflix options”
“I’m so high on cookies, it’s insane”
“Comb my hair like I’m a gangster”
“Can’t seem to get connected / What was the name of the network? / Dumb thoughts with a dumb program / I need a little more, a little more RAM”
“Walk soft with a big stick, woo / Now I play guitar, it’s sick, woo / This is the definition of flow, woo / Nobody cold as this, woo” (“California Snow”)
In addition to being awkward, none of the lyrics in any of these songs form a single cohesive topic. At the end of each song on this album, aside from maybe two or three of them, I was struggling to summarize what each one was about. I’ll take Living in L.A. as an example:
“I wonder what it’s like out there / And my eyes are like far away spaceships / You are a sealed up door / There’s gotta be more to our lives than this / This girl I like / I’m talking ‘bout this girl I like / But I feel so lonely, feel so lonely / Uh, uh, yeah, I’m living in L.A.” … WHAT?! Is this a song about thoughts on life, liking a girl, or living in a certain city? My head is spinning from the insane high-speed rate at which topics were so drastically switched across only those 8 lines. But there’s an ENTIRE ALBUM of this. Apparently this is somewhat intentional, as Rivers Cuomo has stated he has spreadsheets consisting of random lyrics that he uses to string together entire songs. Sure.
Narrowing down on the, dare I say, “high points” of this album, there are only two songs that warranted repeat listens: “Zombie Bastards” and “Byzantine”; however, even these have their troubles. Starting with the positives, “Zombie Bastards” is one of the few songs with a consistent theme lyrically, relating to Weezer making music to fight back against the “zombie bastards”/internet commenters telling them to quit (hi there); though, to a more widespread audience, this song relates to living your life and doing what you love despite the “haters”. This song has a solid instrumental and vocal melody to go along with the interesting concept. The chorus is very catchy – it’s fun and wacky to sing “die, die, you zombie bastards”. I’m a fan of this creative analogy. The main issue with this track is the substantial amount of filler lyrics throughout (“blah, blah, blah” and “la-dee-da”). It would be one thing if these lyrics were emphasized with more thorough melodies to justify their presence, but they are seemingly thrown in to fill the syllables needed in each line. “Byzantine” was the most interesting song instrumentally on the Black Album and was also the catchiest in terms of melody upon first listen, in my opinion. The instrumental is pretty much a first for Weezer, essentially performing their take on elevator music while adding a smooth “doo-doo-doo” backing vocal melody that drives into your brain. The weird-ness of this instrumental catches your attention, especially when it pairs well with the chorus vocal melody; a poppy and upbeat refrain that is also soothing, somewhat along the lines of Beach Boys’ “Kokomo”. The issues with this track are in its verses. The “Byzantine” verse lyrics are weak and the melody does not nearly equal that of the chorus. While this song is one of my favorites from this album, I find myself basically blank-minded in the verses, enjoying the instrumental but waiting for the chorus to hit each time. Also, the opening line of the chorus “Put on your red beret, baby / Moonwalk naked across the room” is quite unpleasant.
As for the rest of the Black Album, I need a drink… or a few, to go through it all in one sitting again. It’s just…not good. And also bad.
The Black Album’s opener, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” has a catchy hook of “Hasta luego / Adios” but, boy oh boy, does it get annoying after a while. Rivers stated that the Black Album, and this song in particular, were inspired by hip hop, which I guess is somewhat evident here but not executed well. The lyrics and the delivery of them make this a tedious track to get through. This track might as well have been titled “Please Oh Please Put This in an Uber Commercial” as the chorus is simply “Can’t knock the hustle / Leave a five star review and I’ll leave you one too”. Wow.
Rivers Cuomo has stated he does not do drugs. Rivers Cuomo also wrote a song called “High as a Kite” for this album, which plays out exactly as you think it would from someone who does not do drugs. While this is another rare track that has a coherent theme lyrically in the Black Album, basically the overall message is “high = feeling good”. Additionally, the vocal melody and instrumental both relish in their overly simple nature, never really expanding throughout the song. Next.
“Piece of Cake”, “I’m Just Being Honest”, and “Too Many Thoughts in My Head” are songs that are far too simple melodically and instrumentally, far too scatter-brained lyrically, and far too predictable overall to entertain me and hold my attention. The repetitive nature of the uninteresting instrumentals combined with the lack of complexity in the lyrics in each of these tracks made me feel like I was completing boring and mindless assignments rather than enjoying songs. If I did not owe it to this review to give each of these multiple full listens, I would have skipped to the next track after the first full verse and chorus in each and would not have missed much, if anything at all, that would have been different from that point. It became grating to hear the same pieces repeated in each track until their completion and, while I was thankful that one had ended, the next one followed the same method.
“The Prince Who Wanted Everything” is a track that offers a few catchy melodic points here and there but overall feels very plain and basic. There, again, is no clear strength coming through the track. The instrumental is crazy simple so the song relies on its vocal melodies, which are pleasing in some spots but just as simple as the instrumental overall.
The Black Album closes with “California Snow” which is a song about god knows what that is the biggest nosedive in Weezer’s attempt at hip hop. Here, Weezer tries to draw from some trap-genre elements but as soon as the lyrics hit, “California Snow” trips and falls to the ground right out of the starting blocks. The chorus is steady and hammering, while the verse vocal melody is average. As an overall production, “California Snow” is somewhat unmemorable and loses whatever initial appeal it had by its completion.
Overall, the Black Album is one I will likely forget from Weezer, much like I did with Pacific Daydream. Aside from “Zombie Bastards” and possibly “Byzantine”, the album is lacking in uniqueness while being awkward and annoyingly repetitive. I hope Weezer will come back stronger than this in their next album, though this project does not offer me much hope in the way of that.
Best Tracks: Zombie Bastards, Byzantine
Weakest Tracks: Can’t Knock the Hustle, Piece of Cake, I’m Just Being Honest, Too Many Thoughts in My Head
Overall Score: D+