Weezer’s 2014 release, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, was hailed as their return to form. After a string of albums that vacillated between underwhelming and depressing (looking at you, Raditude), EWBAITE was really, really good. So good that fans and critics alike wondered if the band had really turned a corner or if it was a merely a flash in the pan. Their fourth self-titled album, dubbed “The White Album” for obvious reasons, capitalizes on the momentum and good will of EWBAITE and shows that, after almost 20 years, good Weezer is truly back.
If EWBAITE contained three mini, somewhat disjointed concepts, The White Album has one loose, overarching concept: summer. Rivers Cuomo set out to create a beach album—the album cover depicts the band on a beach—and he largely succeeds; most of the songs wouldn’t be out of place on the beach. The songs are some of the most up-tempo, loose and fun of Weezer’s career, and many contain beach imagery in the lyrics. The summer fun rages on throughout the album until the closer: the acoustic, heartfelt “Endless Bummer,” when he aches for the summer to end.
Rivers has often cited Brian Wilson, the genius of the Beach Boys, as one of his primary inspirations, and some aspects of this album would doubtless make Wilson proud. The backing vocal harmonies on the album sound particularly Beach Boys-esque, and the opening riff of “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” sounds as though it came straight off of Pet Sounds.
Rivers similarly draws inspiration from some of Weezer’s earliest, most well-received works. “Do You Wanna Get High?” has the same song structure—and feedback—from many a song on Pinkerton. The opening notes of “California Kids” are similar triangle notes to the ones used on Pinkerton’s “Pink Triangle,” and “L.A. Girlz” is in the same time signature as “Suzanne,” a B-side off of “The Blue Album."
That inspiration translates to an album that feels by turns both familiar and different. The standouts on the album, “L.A. Girlz,” “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori,” and “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” all have the same energy and sense of urgency as their earliest works, but with a certain twist. They’re all catchy, fun, and most importantly, they’re adept at conveying emotion.
The emotional aspect of the album is probably the biggest relief to Weezer fans. Looking at the track list, song names like “Endless Bummer” and “L.A. Girlz” seem to show a band that has reverted to their worst ironic, goofball tendencies. Mercifully, that prediction is completely unfounded. “King of the World” is an ode to Rivers’ wife, dedicated to helping her overcome some of her rational and irrational fears. “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” is the emotional joyride of one who can’t wait to spend the summer with his new girlfriend. “Endless Bummer” is the song of that same person whose heart was just broken, who now only yearns for the summer to end.
After two decades of wildly inconsistent output, Weezer has at long last found their footing. The album isn’t perfect—“Thank God for Girls” seems out of place and closer to Ratitude than Pinkerton—but it’s able to draw inspiration from Blue and Pinkerton without sounding derivative. Weezer is at their best when they combine the catchiness of their songs with emotional resonance, and The White Album is a resounding success in this way.
In the album’s opener, “California Kids,” Rivers sings that “California kids will throw you a lifeline.” After Rivers’ widely-publicized use of Tinder to meet people in the Santa Monica area for song inspiration, and the success of returning to the California beach-rock sound, it appears that’s exactly what happened.