"Take me back," singer Rivers Cuomo intones in the chorus of Weezer's latest hit single, "Back to the Shack." It's a familiar sentiment from him, going all the way back to the early portion of his career when he sang "I've got to get back" in Pinkerton classic "The Good Life."
Is "Back to the Shack" the return to form he's pining for in its own self-referential lyrics? Not quite. It's maybe the worst of the recently released singles from their new record, Everything Will Be Alright in the End (in stores this week), yet it does a pretty damn good job of sounding like the old Weezer, something the band has consistently failed at for the last decade.
Can Weezer ever replicate their first two records, the iconic self-titled with the blue cover and the retroactively beloved Pinkerton? The answer is an obvious no. Cuomo is never going to be 24 years old again either. Anyone listening to a new album from any band and expecting that sort of thing is obviously deluded.
As Jay Z once said, "want my old shit, buy my old albums." On the other hand, while Hova was "on to the next one" in that song, Weezer is self-consciously on a mission to go back in time. It isn't possible, but for the first time in ages, they're actually succeeding in sounding like themselves.
This is something that almost every aging band these days seems to go through. Remember when Metallica decided to go back to their roots and released Death Magnetic in 2008? It wasn't Master of Puppets, but it was a good imitation of that style.
Much the same, Weezer's latest series of releases from Everything Will Be Alright in the End sound like Weezer returning to their roots. Cuomo can't approach the lyrical depth that made Pinkerton so easy to relate to, since his life hasn't been one anyone but other rock stars could relate to in almost 20 years, but musically they're on point.
Take "The British Are Coming." Don't ask me what the fuck Cuomo is on about in the lyrics, especially the odd spoken intro. Maybe he got really into the Revolutionary War in the band's time off since 2010's awful, retch-inducing, piss-take of an album Hurley.
But musically, this is a catchy power-pop single like Weezer has seemed incapable of writing in recent years. There's not a single hint of bullshit midlife-crisis pop-star aspiration like was heard on the Lil Wayne-featuring album Raditude from 2009. There's no bullshit at all in fact. Just a solid Weezer song that actually seems like Weezer figured out what people like about their band.
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"Lonely Girl" is much the same, taking things back to the bouncy alt-rock for which the band first achieved fame. This song is so '90s that it should show up in a listicle about shit '90s kids like. With a band like Weezer, that's a damn good thing to hear.
Like I said, "Back to the Shack," which is the latest Weezer song to get itself injected in the alt-rock radio lineup, is probably the weakest of the set. However, despite its dumb-guy rock chorus and its obnoxiously flat tone, it worms its way into your head like the best Rivers Cuomo hooks. You'll find yourself singing it and digging it despite yourself. Even when the guy writes a bad hit, he still writes a hit.
Finally, there's the stomping Decemberists riff "Cleopatra," the song which is the furthest outside of the '90s Weezer playbook. I couldn't hear it on Pinkerton, but it shows Weezer's renewed ability to consciously integrate modern-rock trends into their music without completely sucking. That's something I haven't been able to say about Weezer in some time.
Then there's the metal bridge, which suddenly makes Cuomo seem sort of like a badass. It's the most experimental track released thus far, and also maybe the best. Score one for the guy in the Buddy Holly glasses.
Will the full record live up? It's streaming on iTunes Radio, so it's easy enough to find out now. But in the meantime, the previews show a renewed sense of self for a band many of us had written off after their string of increasingly wacky, attention-grabbing ploys. Weezer sound comfortable in their own skin again after all these years, and it's great to hear it. This could just be the second life Cuomo's been asking for since 1994.