Weezer was supposed to release Van Weezer back in May of last year, but due to COVID-19 it got shifted a whole year and it may have been for the better. In January, they released OK Human, which was an amalgamation of baroque pop rock and thematic for a time where isolation was easing and normal habits started recurring like commutes and the easing of restrictions at food and beverage locations. However Van Weezer comes in as the complete opposite, in sound and tone, from OK Human. Rivers Cuomo writes these songs in the lyrical and thematic style of glam metal/hair metal from the 80s, taking cues from Van Halen, Whitesnake, and Night Ranger to name a few. It’s youthfully energetic and complete joy to listen to, even when it starts teetering at the end with songs that feel empty and forgettable.
We’ve had the opening track, ”The End of The Game,” available since 2019 and it proved to be an indication of what is to expect from Van Weezer. The band, and especially Rivers Cuomo, brings a youthful energy that was lacking from their cover album, The Teal Album. The electrifying guitar strings embolden the monstrous percussion and vocal performance from Rivers, who is just having a great time along with the rest of the band. And this is something that felt absent from their covers album.
Unlike their cover album, Van Weezer takes the plunge into being focused on the sonic textures and small details that separates the genre of glam metal from the others. It comes primarily from the instrumentation and vocal deliveries, which are embossed by the echoed melodic reverbs in the choruses. They keep this in the forefront, while in the background they deliver another standard Weezer album, lyrically. But thematically there are some similarities, the content of the storied lyrics are approached with relevance to the kind of music they have been delivering recently, so it’s refreshing to hear this new sonic approach.
This is slightly new territory for Weezer as they don’t always elevate their sound to mirror the power of metal and specifically glam metal/stadium rock. But they have been able to prove otherwise when they delivered an excellent piano rock album earlier this year. Though, Weezer’s slight backdrop in power pop initially took away some doubt before clicking play, but they really understand the undertow sounds of glam metal by properly incorporating the unique guitar riffs and powerful solos. The music is elevated to exponential levels that you’ll find yourself at odds with as you head bang to Weezer songs, but that is what they do here.
The sonic elevation is audacious throughout, with many high points like the unique interpolation of “Crazy Train” on “Blue Dream.” But Van Weezer reaches its peak too early and as we bend the corner to the last third, we start to see a decline in the quality. It starts to feel more of the same as the beginning, with similar and repetitive instrumental patterns that have you feeling like hitting skip till it starts at track one. However, throughout the first eight tracks there is so much visceral power that you forget Rivers Cuomo is singing some geeky fun and introspective lyrics.
The simple beauty behind the geeky and nerdy charm comes naturally inside the powerful rock anthems, as Rivers Cuomo brings it with his vocal performances, which try to come off as part of the era. As the year progressed he has been able to adapt to the content of the music, like how January’s OK Human was mostly filled with songs about what they would do in quarantine and sometimes in life. It was simpler than some of their more try hard projects, like The Black Album, which tried to replicate some of the sonic success of The White Album. And on Van Weezer Rivers channels that charm to elevate the music to amplify a stadium. A lot of the melodies and lyrics are fun and infectious that hardcore fans will find the enjoyment in listening to every word; however the balance in solos/instrumentations to vocal performances makes it an album that can bring crowds who want post-modern nostalgia.
The first two thirds of the album have their own beautiful execution of originality with smooth transitions, like the one between “Blue Dream” and “1 More Hit.” But the last two tracks deescalate the whole rock show vibe, which some shows do in elegant fashion, but the slower melodies of the piano rock “Precious Metal Girl,” and the retreading “She Needs Me,” don’t hit the landing. And even though these tracks don’t carry the weight all the way through to keep you attention for all the 33 minutes, Weezer at least brings their strongest component, the charm.
Van Weezer is a pure delight that will have you mirroring the fun Weezer has performing it. It isn’t their most profound work, lyrically, and brings enough to keep you engaged and yearning for stadiums to fill up like before. This is the kind of music that will make more of an impact live, but if not, your audio system will be enough to head bang and play it loud.