Weezer – Van Weezer
The Hella Mega Tour may have been cancelled again, but Van Weezer has been released anyway. As on their last four albums, Weezer have experimented with their sound and, unsurprisingly, as the name implies, Van Weezer is unashamedly influenced by 80s rock. To help, the band have enlisted Suzy Shinn to beef up the tracks so they are primed and ready for the stadiums they were made for. The overriding sound, though, makes the record seem more like a hair metal pastiche than an homage to classic 80s rock.
The flurry of finger-tapping that opens the 2019-released The End of the Game and the thunderous power chords of latest single I Need Some of That, for example, may sound slick, but come across as kitsch. Even when the band showcases heavier metal influences, for example in the Metallica-inspired opening to One More Hit, the result feels derivative. At least, like many songs here, it does have a catchy chorus.
One song on the track list, Blue Dream, foregoes influences and, instead, opts for directly lifting the introduction, verses and guitar riff from Ozzy Osbourne’s classic Crazy Train, adding different vocal melodies and banal lyrics about conversing with sea life. A cover of the classic would surely have been far more successful (particularly as the Teal album proves Weezer create fantastic covers).
The only track that feels comfortable being given the 80s rock treatment is opener Hero, which perfectly marries geek-inspired lyrics with pomp-rock verses and a proudly anthemic chorus. Otherwise, the standout tracks are those at the end of the record, which do not partake in the glam metal dress-up. Closer Precious Metal Girl is an acoustic-rock, pseudo ballad that wisely steers clear of the rock shtick. Then there’s Sheila Can Do It and She Needs Me, which hint more at being influenced by The Cars than Van Halen. The effect is so much greater, it makes the listener hope that one future Weezer album opts for being influenced by 1970s American new wave.
Despite these highlights, though, this release does not match up to its predecessor, and falls victim to the criticism levied at most of Weezer’s latter-day output: the songs have undeniably catchy choruses, but they are not matched by equally memorable verses.
Van Weezer is released on 7th May 2021. For further information or to order the album visit Weezer’s website here.
Watch the video for the single I Need Some of That here: