REVIEW: WEEZER - VAN WEEZER
One more hit?
Well, well, well, look who finally showed up to the party. After a hefty delay of one year and having been pipped to the finish line by OK Human in January, Van Weezer is actually out. The band's 16th outing (yes, I'm one of those that counts Death To False Metal, bite me), it doesn't disappoint on the long-awaited return for the guitar heroism that Weezer has garnished throughout their career, though you'll inevitably be comparing it to the classics in no time.
From the title, you'd expect this to be chock full of fret-tapping wizardry and hectic harmonics, and, whilst that is present, it's more of an homage to the hard rock and metal of the 70s and 80s that the band grew up on. Weezer are more cosplaying as an 80s metal band than going the full Teal again, but the marriage of heavy metal and the band's mastered art of nerd rock only works to varying degrees.
Opener "Hero" is the most Weezer-oriented song you'll find here, with one of Rivers Cuomo's trademark earworm choruses and a simple but effective structure that keeps everything tight and concise with a taster of the licks to come. The same can be said for the Leppard-esque "I Need Some of That", a nostalgic view at Cuomo's love for the likes of KISS, Aerosmith and other Marshall stack affiliates of the 80s, and the chugging guitars of doom juxtaposed against the catchy-as-fuck chorus of "1 More Hit" makes the track a personal album highlight. However, it's on lead single "The End of the Game" that the band truly goes full hog on the name "Van Weezer", emulating the late great Eddie Van Halen with an explosive scorcher of an intro riff that's packed to the brim with infectious harmony and melody before hitting us with that nerdy charm we all know and love from the Californian rockers.
On the flipside, the second half of this album is a mixed bag, something that has been an issue on past Weezer albums (see: Pacific Daydream). There's a warning of some "meh" tunes when "All the Good Ones" follows the opener with its "Beverly Hills" sluggish rhythm and overtly sugary coating, sounding like a cut from Cuomo's brief stint writing pop songs for the likes of All Time Low and B.o.B. "Blue Dream" is fine, I guess, though it's an example of the softer songwriting of Cuomo clashing with the sex, drugs and Satan-worshipping of 80s power metal, using the legendary riff from Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" to awkward results. "Sheila Can Do It" and "She Needs Me" are rather throwaway filler tracks, although there are some nice glimmers of promise in both tunes, with the latter's solo coming off quite well.
The elephant in the room is "Beginning of the End", previously heard on the Bill & Ted Face The Music soundtrack with the mysterious addition of "Wyld Stallyns Edit" tacked on the end. Initially, I thought this was just a different mix, as Patrick Wilson's drums are sometimes overbearing (a problem that plagues a lot of the album), but it's otherwise one of the most solid Weezer songs they've dropped in recent years, hitting #3 on our top 50 of 2020 list. However, the WSE wasn't a bass boost; it was the superior version, as the Van Weezer version of this song is jarring to say the least. After getting used to the structure of the WSE, the small changes and baffling cuts make this version feel like a Frankenstein's monster with different pieces tacked on at the last minute. It's an unfortunate cut of what was an incredible song, save for the drums and the fade out reprise of the solo, and makes it a personal low point for the album.
Thankfully, gorgeous acoustic number "Precious Metal Girl" closes out the record, allowing Cuomo to wear his metal-loving heart on his sleeve, showing that the band are probably better suited writing songs about metal rather than centring Weezer songs around metal riffs. Overall, there's a good album here, wrapped in a lot of genuine love and admiration for the power metal heydays of the 80s, but it could've been greater with a more rounded classic production, a little less fluff, and the Wyld Stallyns Edit of "Beginning of the End".
Listen to: 1 More Hit, The End of the Game, Precious Metal Girl
FFO: Def Leppard, KISS, Van Halen