OK Human is a quintessential Weezer title, a joke that camouflages sincere intent. By winking at Radiohead's classic OK Computer, it also acknowledges that this album is inherently human music, a collection of songs that tug at sometimes complicated emotions. Loneliness lingers at the margins of OK Human but the album never feels lonesome due to how the songs are dressed by a large orchestra, their strings softening the edges of Rivers Cuomo's compositions and underscoring their essential warmth.
[fatter, sadder, less productive]
Let's set about this with blatant honesty. Reader, you and I both know there is no objectivity to be found with Weezer, the best terrible/worst good band of our time; no easy metric by which to judge this baffling group with no clear career trajectory whatsoever, that no-one seems to hate more than their own fans.
I could make a pretense, sure. I could say there are things about OK Human that are objectively good: the embarrassment of riches that is the chorus and bridge melodies, the absolutely pristine mix, the way the orchestra truly functions as an instrument unto itself rather than just being background support for some normal-ass Weezer songs.
Remember when Weezer were releasing singles like 'Beginning Of The End' and 'Hero' to hype up the release of their upcoming album 'Van Weezer'? Forget about all that for now! The lads have decided to release a surprise new album instead. . .
In case you tuned out sometime around 2005's Make Believe, let's get you up to speed. Weezer have quietly and steadily become one of the most interesting bands in modern rock, amassing an unpredictable catalogue full of wild misfires (2017's Pacific Daydream), striking returns to form (2016's White Album) and divisive pop experiments (2019's Black Album). Unlike almost any other band 15 albums into their career, it still feels like Weezer are capable of making either a masterpiece or a complete stinker -- mostly depending on whatever mood frontman Rivers Cuomo happens to be in on a given day.
When talking about Weezer albums there have often been more misses than hits. OK Human however, positions itself more toward the latter. Although the album is fresh, it's still distinctly Weezer-y and may not necessarily be for non-Weezer fans. The record isn't groundbreaking material, but it's definitely nice to have a new Weezer album that isn't trying to recreate their old material and instead looks to the future of their sound.
It's never quite clear where Weezer's self-awareness begins, as the LA quartet do have a tendency to have their metaphorical sonic punchlines fall flat. Their 2019 take on 'Africa' might well have been an inspired, meme-friendly choice; the decision to follow this with an entire record of throwback covers (2019’s ‘Teal’ album) was less so. And while the misfit nature of their first few records continues to resonate with ever-more youthful angst, their continued insistence on peppering power-pop riffs with autotune and overly-produced beats can make like a Steve Buscemi reaction gif.
Records in the former category are easy enough to identify - beyond the obvious candidates, they're the ones where Weezer remembered that they were Weezer , the very reason why 2015's White Album remains their best record of the 21st century. Yet, for all the flaws in their catalogue - and they are legion - even Weezer's most mundane failures are always worth listening to at least once. Take their last LP, 2019's Black Album.
Weezer were supposed to cosplay 2020 in the image of Rivers Cuomo's pop-metal idols Van Halen: after forays into lounge-pop, Jay-Z homage, trap production, and Toto covers, the self-explanatory Van Weezer promised "back to big guitars," an album-length prologue for barnstorming baseball stadiums with fellow Monsters of KROQ Fall Out Boy and Green Day; the yearlong delay of both tour and album suggests that they're a package deal, and that if Hella Mega Tour has to once again reschedule its optimistic July kickoff in America, there might not be a point in dropping Van Weezer either. In the meantime, here's OK Human: crafted in the image of Cuomo's orchestral-pop hermit heroes, announced and released within the span of two weeks, an album that owes its lyrical content and entire existence to pandemic living. But no matter how many obvious differences exist between OK Human and Van Weezer, it's really just splitting hairs--it all ends up being inevitably and unmistakably Weezer.
You will never, ever know what you're getting with a new Weezer album. It's a cliché at this point but it bears repeating, as the recent output of the famed 90s power pop band has fluctuated quickly from excellent (Everything Will Be Alright In The End, The White Album) to groan-worthy (Pacific Daydream, Raditude). When lead singer Rivers Cuomo announced weeks into 2021 that Weezer would release a baroque-pop album backed by an orchestra, any number of reactions from tentative curiosity to disgust could be warranted.
The Lowdown: We knew we were getting Weezer's 14th studio album in 2021, and until a couple of weeks ago, we had a pretty good idea of what that meant. First announced in 2019, the hard-rock-inspired Van Weezer would join that year's Weezer records (Twitter-joke-turned-'80s-cover-record The Teal Album and electropop footnote The Black Album) as the latest novelty in the band's famously erratic catalog. Then, COVID-19 hit, and the album got pushed back, along with Weezer's regrettably named Hella Mega Tour with Green Day and Fall Out Boy.