Somewhere along the line Weezer got goofy. Well, that’s not entirely true: The group was always a little goofy. Even the group’s lionized first two albums were peppered with fumbled jokes and dopey hip-hop appropriations. But by 2005’s Make Believe, that geek humor had given way to just plain bad humor, and it began to eclipse the earnestness that had been the band’s charm. For fans who watched in dismay as Rivers Cuomo embraced his inner Carrot Top on 2008’s indulgent Red Album and its pop culture-addled follow-up Raditude, Cuomo wants you to know he’s sorry. “Back To The Shack,” the lead single from Weezer’s ninth album Everything Will Be Alright In The End, opens with an overt apology to the audience he alienated with those pop experiments, and follows with a pledge to return the band to its mid-’90s form. To underscore his commitment, the record even re-enlists Blue and Green Album producer Ric Ocasek, whose talent can be found not just behind the boards but also in his gift for keeping Cuomo’s shtickier impulses in check.
If that all sounds like fan service, it is, but at least it’s damn effective fan service. From the monster-riffed opener “Ain’t Got Nobody” to the Pinkerton-worthy infatuation ode “Da Vinci,” the band hasn’t sounded this sharp in over a decade. And while the record is first and foremost concerned with winning back the faithful, in its most abandon-free moments Everything forgets it’s a return-to-roots album and takes some exciting leaps. A sweetly scrappy duet with Weezer disciple Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, “Go Away” feels like a first take gone right, while the album’s closing stretch, a three-song run dubbed “The Futurescope Trilogy,” recalls Songs From The Black Hole, the power-pop rock opera Cuomo abandoned in favor of Pinkerton. The last time Cuomo attempted something as grand as the “Futurescope” suite was “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived,” a manic multi-genre parody from the Red Album, but here he doesn’t disguise his ambition with a wink or a nudge. After a prolific era lost to dreadful larks like “We Are All On Drugs,” “Where’s My Sex,” and “The Girl Got Hot,” Cuomo is finally playing it straight again.