Weezer goes full California on 'Pacific Daydream'

Legendary band shows off Beach Boys influence with mixed results

ae-Weezer-CourtesyAtlanticRecords

Weezer leaves behind its hard rock tendencies in exchange for an album of softer pop tunes. 

Courtesy Atlantic Records

Weezer’s career has taken a fascinating trajectory. The band’s first two records are cemented as classics in the alternative rock canon. Those albums — 1994’s “Weezer” and 1996’s “Pinkerton” — were partially responsible for moving rock out of the moody grunge arena to the suburbs where nerdy kids were playing music in their garages. 

Weezer’s frontman, Rivers Cuomo, wrote songs about comic books, his infatuation with Japan, problems talking to girls and generally made it okay to be a dork in a world where everyone was obsessed with looking cool. However, ever since “Pinkerton” — an album Cuomo poured his heart and soul into — was received very negatively upon its release, Cuomo made it a point to change his style. Over the course of their next eight albums, Weezer continued to churn out one mindless pop-rock track after another to mostly disappointing results.

The band’s eleventh album, “Pacific Daydream,” is no exception to this rule. On the album, Weezer leaves behind its hard rock tendencies in exchange for an album of softer pop tunes. The production and composition of the record reflects this inspiration with the guitars sounding brighter and sunnier than what is usually expected from a Weezer album, as well as an added emphasis on harmony on the choruses. The results of this new direction are simply not good. The production has squeezed every ounce of grit and edge out of the instrumentation, making the album feel dull and lifeless. “Pacific Daydream” is so sonically vapid and devoid of personality it is practically begging the listener not to listen to it.

There are a few good moments on this album. The opening track, “Mexican Fender,” is a very enjoyable pop-rock track. The song’s crunchy guitar riff and explosive chorus are a lot of fun and make the song incredibly catchy. “Weekend Woman” is another highlight in the track listing. The track is a foray into old-school rhythm and blues, complete with a bouncy bassline and a cute glockenspiel which adds a playful vibe. “Happy Hour” is another decent track with a pleasant vocal harmony on the chorus which nails the retro feel Weezer seems to be going for on the album. 

However, when this album misses, it really misses. “Beach Boys” — the second track on the record — may be the worst song Weezer has released since “Beverly Hills.” On the track, Cuomo sounds like a dad who just found his favorite song from his youth on the radio and then goes off on a tangent to his kids about how music was so much better when he was young. The worst part is that this sentiment is exactly what Cuomo is going for, except he exchanges the kids for some girl he is trying to woo with his musical knowledge. 

The lead single, “Feels Like Summer,” is Weezer’s attempt to write an Imagine Dragons song, and boy, is it bad. The track is driven by a lifeless 808 drum until it opens up to an overblown EDM style bass drop chorus which sounds absolutely terrible. It is clear this song is an attempt to copy the formula of bands like Imagine Dragons in order to earn some radio play. To Weezer’s credit, the track was successful and reached number two on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. There is nothing inherently wrong with writing a commercial single, but when the attempt is so blatantly ripping off what is currently doing well on the charts, it can look like selling out your artistic integrity. 

The other tracks on “Pacific Daydream” are just simply forgettable. A lot of the tracks on the back half of the album — like “Sweet Mary” and “Any Friend of Diane’s” — have choruses with sweet and inviting melodies which sound pleasant in the moment but are forgotten as soon as the track is over. The move to a strictly pop-oriented direction in terms of sound and song structure makes “Pacific Daydream” sound so uniform and predictable that by the end of the relatively short album, everything just sounds stale. 

No one can claim Weezer did not try to experiment with their sound on “Pacific Daydream,” despite how disappointing the album turned out. The band stuck with the poppy sound for the entirety of the album and did their best to try and own it. Regardless of the result, Weezer was admittedly trying to do something relatively new. However, simply trying will likely never be enough for Weezer’s fan base. They have seen the magic the band is capable of creating on albums like their debut and “Pinkerton,” and have faith the band can do it again. For the rest of Weezer’s career, fans will be waiting for a spiritual successor to those albums which will most likely never arrive. In the meantime, all fans can do is continue sitting through disappointing album after disappointing album hoping for the next classic. 

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