In 2014, a surprising thing happened: Weezer released a good album. Let’s be honest—ever since The Red Album, every new Weezer record has been briefly hailed as a return to form, often by frontman Rivers Cuomo himself. And then, after a few days, fans would realize it didn’t have nearly the staying power of past efforts. Everything Will Be Alright In The End was the exception. It was self-deprecating without becoming self-parodic, and featured some of Cuomo’s most cathartic songs in years. Fans were left to wonder if it was a fluke, or if, at long last, Weezer had gone back to making vital music again. With the group’s 10th album, known somewhat audaciously as The White Album, Weezer’s return to form is real.
The band’s fourth self-titled record—following Blue, Green, and Red—is something of a concept album, based not around a story but more of a theme: summertime fun. Pretty much every song here relates to the season. The result is a fun, poppy album with several moments that would make Brian Wilson proud.
After a cursory glance at some of the song titles, you’d be forgiven for thinking this album had a case of Ratitude syndrome. Track names like “Thank God For Girls,” “L.A. Girlz,” and “Jacked Up” don’t inspire much confidence when you’re talking about a band that often lets banal silliness get the better of it. But of all those songs, “Thank God For Girls” is the only regrettable one. “Jacked Up” is about being simultaneously excited and scared in a blossoming relationship, while “L.A. Girlz” is an anthem that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the Pinkerton era.
The best track here is “Summer Elaine And Drunk Dori,” a power-pop tune that showcases Weezer at its best and sounds a tad like a Blue Album B-side. Nearly as strong, though, are album opener “California Kids” and “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing,” each of which is blessed with just a bit of Beach Boys magic. The latter song in particular has a Pet Sounds feel to it.
The party winds down on “Endless Bummer,” the acoustic closing track where the summer fun finally dies out and the narrator laments living in a touristy beach town. As far as Weezer album closers go, it’s no “Butterfly,” but it nonetheless does a nice job of wrapping things up and turning the theme on its head. Weezer spends the first nine tracks celebrating summer joy and then closes on a somber note, lamenting the emptiness of it all.
Despite the occasional misstep, this is an enjoyable album, one that you can expect to hear blasting from car radios from now to September. The summer theme worked well for Cuomo, inspiring him to write some ridiculously fun, optimistic tunes. Perhaps more importantly, this is Weezer’s second straight strong album. After enduring low points like Make Believe and Hurley, Weezer fans finally have their favorite band back making music that’s both catchy and emotionally resonant. As Weezer becomes old enough to hit the classic-rock circuit, it’s a relief to know that many of its newer songs will sound as strong as the well-worn classics.