Release Date: May 7, 2021
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Weezer's hard rock and metal influences have long served as a cheeky counterpoint to their pop geekiness: they name-checked KISS on their first album, embraced heavy fuzz riffs on 2002's Maladroit, and titled their 2010 B-sides comp Death to False Metal. Van Weezer takes that heavy undercurrent and makes it the focus. The album is full of shredding solos, riffs cribbed from Ozzy Osbourne and lyrical allusions to metal. But don't be fooled: for the most part, this is just the same old Weezer with added two-hand tapping.
Turning 50 hasn't tempered Rivers Cuomo's inner child. The Weezer frontman still writes about romance in the language of a smitten teenager, and a quarter century after "El Scorcho," he's still biting rap lingo and chasing whatever the kids are into. His best and worst songs alike resound with the simplicity and shamelessness of youth. Cuomo's Peter Pan syndrome is why many mortified fans bailed on Weezer years ago, but it also accounts for why so many loyalists have stuck around, even as the band's discography has barely managed the dire hit-to-miss ratio of late-period Simpsons: Weezer is one of the last bands of their generation that still sounds young.
Weezer churns out another unremarkable release, once again proving that their focus is on quantity instead of quality. Is there a busier mainstream rock act in the world than Weezer? Recent champions of The Teal Album (a collection of vanilla classic rock covers), The Black Album (a record so bad that it made Pacific Daydream sound okay), a weirdly popular cover of Toto's 'Africa', and a pandemic album spoofing a Radiohead title (OK Human), they now bring us their ode to hair metal in Van Weezer. The temptation among longtime followers who remember The Blue Album and Pinkerton - hell, even Everything Will Be Alright In The End and The White Album - is to wish that Rivers Cuomo would just sink three solid years into a single album and come up with another classic Weezer LP.
It's finally here! The fabled 'Van Weezer' has finally arrived! Take your pandemic, your year-long delays, and your brilliant surprise releases, and stick 'em where the sun don't shine! We're hair metal stans now, baby. Seriously though, Weezer have been teasing this album for quite some time; with references to 'Van Weezer' dating back to before the band had even released their magnum anus - the self-titled 'black' album, for those not in the know - in March 2019. Rivers Cuomo, somewhat optimistically, has described the band's 15th (!) studio album as "Blue Album-ish, but a little more riffy" - which, shockingly, turns out to be kind of true! Let's get this out of the way first: does Van Weezer sound anything at all like Van Halen? Aside from a handful of guitar solos featuring shredding and finger tapping - techniques that the late Eddie Van Halen (whom this album was dedicated to after his passing in October 2020) helped popularise - nah, not really.