Listening to Weezer in 2021 is like listening to a time capsule holding classic pop and rock songs of the past generation. Since the days of their debut album and “Pinkerton,” Weezer have crafted quirky and ravishing tunes that have spoken to millions of fans.
On their latest album, “OK Human,” Weezer reinvents their sound for a new generation. Unlike previous Weezer albums, “OK Human” is a stripped-back take on singer Rivers Cuomo’s life with a sound similar to “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys.
Having a 38-piece orchestra be the foundation of an album demonstrates the musical versatility Weezer is known for. The piano and string sections add a mystical charm to the record, putting listeners in a dreamy atmosphere. This addition helps personify the mature direction Weezer helped cultivate.
Added to the atmosphere is the topicality of the album. The name “OK Human” is a play on Radiohead’s 1997 album “OK Computer,” which is fitting, considering the themes both albums explore. The messaging behind the seventh track, “Screens,” has good intentions and calls out people who are glued to their devices. With that being said, Cuomo comes off as a whiney curmudgeon complaining about today’s youth.
Thankfully, listeners have the opportunity to listen to another side of Cuomo, one that isn’t cynical or jaded. “Mirror Image” is a love song that conjures images of Cuomo and his wife enjoying each other while also fearing death.
Listening to “OK Human” brings out a vulnerable side of Weezer not seen since their earlier career. Lyrically, their album echoes the frustrations of being middle-aged and living in a time when hope is futile. The blatant contrast between a song like “Buddy Holly,” from their first album and a song like “Dead Roses” is stunning.
“Dead Roses,” is among the tracks representing a subdued departure from the bouncy sound Weezer is best known for. In some ways, I miss the Weezer of decades prior –they felt wholesome, while also inventive. Cuomo had other plans for “OK Human,” and it works well for 2021 given the global circumstances.
Weezer is a band that has managed to keep its identity while also reinventing its sound. “OK Computer” feels too short and weighed down by melancholic singing to be considered a great album. However, Cuomo’s wit and creativity save the album from being forgotten.
Instead of taking notes from The Beach Boys, Weezer should’ve based their album on Wilco’s 2002 classic “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Both albums are laid-back and reserved, but Wilco takes it a step further with the absence of interludes, something that was included on “OK Human.”
Unlike Weezer, Wilco crafted an album that is timeless. “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is the older, more successful brother to “OK Human.” It has better songwriting and vocals from lead singer Jeff Tweedy, and it takes its time creating a story.
What listeners are left with instead is a shortened collection of ideas that could have used more time in development. Not a bad album from Weezer, but it is a far cry from their earlier releases.