Release Date: Oct 27, 2017
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
There's an early run of three songs on this, Weezer's eleventh studio album, titled Beach Boys, Feels Like Summer and Happy Hour. That gives you some idea of the escapist power-pop rush this album is aiming for, and it is achieved thanks to soaring falsetto choruses and insistent, upbeat grooves, while references to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Monty Python add to the sense of a band shamelessly wallowing in nostalgia in the same irresistible way they did on their 2014 stomper Back To The Shack. The breeze-block FM rock riffs on Mexican Fender almost sound like a parody, but they work just as well now as they did for The Cars, Cheap Trick or any of Weezer's musical antecedents.
'Pacific Daydream' is not the album Weezer set out to make. Where most of us find ourselves distracted when undertaking creative endeavours (taking the bins out, doing the washing up, changing bedlinen), Weezer's 'Black' album - a night-time follow-up to last year's impeccable 'White' - quickly became less "Beach Boys gone bad" and more… well, something completely different. The level of expectation on the band's collective shoulders for the past twenty-odd years is, to most, unimaginable.
It's 23 years since Weezer gave geeks a voice with awkward anthems 'Buddy Holly', 'The Sweater Song' and 'Say It Ain't So'. With that in mind, they could easily have passed by the current generation of pop-punk fans. For them to still be at it, daft as ever, brings to mind the meme-friendly Steve Buscemi 30 Rock scene, where he crashes a high school in a backwards baseball cap and greets students with, 'How do you do, fellow kids?' In their heyday, Weezer managed to distill the spirit of adolescence, and 11th album 'Pacific Daydream' sees them achieving the same feat.
"Mexican Fender" opens Pacific Daydream with big, crunching arena rock guitars, but that's the only throwback thing about the album. A deliberate reaction to 2016's Weezer (White Album), a record where producer Jake Sinclair encouraged the band to act like it was 1994, Pacific Daydream is a thoroughly modern affair, complete with drum loops and electronic flourishes, all wrapped up in a shiny package. Despite all of this contemporary flair, Weezer aren't exactly pandering to a younger audience.
Pacific Daydream isn't that far removed from the White Album's foundation, but the way the band arrive there has morphed radically. Instead of the White Album's organic, band-in-a-room feel that surely delighted old-school Weezer fans, its companion piece feels more scientific, a true laboratory creation guided by hitmaker Butch Walker. It's a more experimental approach, allowing Rivers Cuomo and co.
For the life of me, I've never been able to tell if Rivers Cuomo grew up too soon or was some kind of late bloomer. It shouldn't matter, but Weezer have always been a band that necessitated a backstory, at least since the turn of the century. In fact, you all know the tale. To purists, the beloved sons of '90s alternative/geek rock put out two of the decade's most beloved albums -- one was love at first listen and the other eventually blossomed into feverish true love (and has since become a cornerstone of music critic apologies) -- and then they disappeared.
Weezer return with Pacific Daydream, an album which boasts of being abstract and on another level. For their 11th record, the Los Angeles band were inspired by a Chinese proverb that focuses on a theme of reality and real life becoming blurred. With a starting point such as that, the listener could be forgiven for expecting something experimental; possibly a little psychedelic or even a bit trance-like.
A fter two decades of underachievement, last year's self-titled "White Album" at least marked a partial return to form for Weezer. Its Beach Boys influences are revisited here, then given a modern R&B twist courtesy of Rivers Cuomo's co-writers, whose credits include Beyoncé, Rihanna and Jessie J songs. The crunching guitar of Mexican Fender, the harmonies of Weekend Woman and (the lazily titled) Beach Boys, and the pop smarts of Feels Like Summer all shine on a front-loaded collection.
Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo fancied himself a modern-day Burroughs while working on Pacific Daydream, using a computer program to arrange musical fragments into songs. Ultimately, it led to a pretty straightforward Weezer album. "Mexican Fender" kicks off with a riff ripped directly from J. Geils Band's "Love Stinks," retrofitted with a typically nerdy love story about falling for a guitar-slinging computer-programmer physicist ("That's pretty cool for a singer in a band," Cuomo opines).
Marked by its careful commitment to craft, Pacific Daydream is of a piece with every Weezer album this side of Pinkerton. That album's raw emotions and ragged sound made it a cult classic only in subsequent years, and since then the band has dared to adventure outside of their comfort zone only sporadically, instead focusing on honing their gifts for tight hooks and loud, metallic guitars. They've developed a rich catalogue of pop songs, so it's easy to overlook the fact that each Weezer album has its own distinct character and personality--a variation on a theme, perhaps, but a noticeable one.
With last year's Weezer (White Album), they found themselves on the right side of the critics and were initially supposed to follow it up with the aptly titled Black Album. Instead, they've reappeared with an album influenced by the idea of a "beach at the end of the world". Pacific Daydream, feels just like that; a day dream that, for some reason, doesn't quite sit right.
Long ago, Rivers Cuomo basically split Weezer into two different bands. One of them puts out experimental albums (Pinkerton, Maladroit, The Red Album, etc.), and the other puts out commercially-minded records (The Green Album, Make Believe, etc). At times (The Blue Album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End), Weezer straddle the fence. There's a bit of mad genius to this approach.
If you dared to believe that Weezer were starting to build something of a late-period streak, Pacific Daydream is here to jolt you awake. Coming hot on the heels of last year's crisp and delightful The White Album, this record marks a radical departure in both style and quality - a return to their unfocused, undercooked post-millenium work, with a new layer of vapidity to boot. Few of us have harboured high hopes for this record, based on the singles we've been drip-fed since spring.
Rivers has made an entire career around alienating his fans. Trickling out just enough of what they like and want, while his bottomless mind of hooks is slowly rounded out until all previous character and nuance is gone. But the narrative is not that easy or simple, because 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End and 2016’s White Album in many ways were his best two records since the ones they came twenty years after, respectively.
Imagine for a moment that you're Rivers Cuomo. After a two-album experiment producing shiny pop songs, which largely disproves the hypothesis "maybe Weezer should be an EDM band?" you've pivoted back to your band's core appeal: heavy distortion, lyrical disaffection, and a rough-around-the-edges sonic quality. Critics herald the sound as a "return to form," comparing songs written in 2016 to songs you wrote when you were 23.