What the fuck, Weezer? I’ve loved you since I was cognisant enough to become aware of the fact that you were brilliant and, years later, find that you were the musical equivalent to the first sip of a crisp craft beer. I stood by you when Raditude came out, enduring the mocking tones elicited by friends who were too critical to see that you were everything, who could not recognise the cosmic significance of the fact that you had released it at the end of my first year of being a teenager. You were making music before I was born and hopefully you’ll still be making music well after the world has fallen victim to the apocalypse – but not if it’s anything like the abomination that is Feels Like Summer.
First of all, it doesn’t feel like summer. I saw a headline about California’s weather that literally said, ‘storms to resume in California with drenching rain, heavy mountain snow next week’. If it feels like summer right now, that’s because climate change is upon us – and just like the amount of synth and (contrived) animation in this song, it’s terrifying. Unlike the forgivable vibrancy of Island in the Sun, this is a strange and abrupt foray into unexpected mass-consumerist territory.
Following the warm and almost faultless Everything Will Be Alright In the End of 2014, Weezer’s last album was released in 2016, aptly titled White Album. Like most things that happened in 2016, the reception was pretty grim – but also like most horrible things in 2016, I will admit that I quite enjoyed it. My favourite track on the album is, by far, the very sweet and benign Wind In Our Sail (a surprise to no one who knows me), which also adequately sums up how I feel about the band and their musical future. While it wasn’t a lyrical masterpiece, the predominant idea was this:
We got the wind in our sail / and we can do so many great things together.
Not great, but harmless enough. The very first time I heard Weezer was in the early 2000s, when I heard the opening riff to My Name is Jonas from 1994’s Blue Album. Before this, my only association with ‘good music’ had been shaped by bands that had formed in the 60s. It was around this time that I was introduced to the ‘new indie era’ of music, spearheaded by the likes of The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and the beloved Vampire Weekend. Since my brother had this treasure trove of angst in his iTunes library, they were bands and albums that I associated with being cool and brooding and cool (and brooding).
Anyway, Blue Album is the all-encompassing album that you would recommend to someone who wanted to hear the essence of Weezer. It contains legendary tracks like Say It Ain’t So (a song I jammed to on the 2007 game, Rock Band, with my older brother), Buddy Holly, The World Has Turned and Left Me Here and an uncommon favourite – Undone (Sweater Song). Blue Album was a celebration of bratty, unapologetic talent, and moody, I-can’t-wait-to-ditch-this-town vibes. These songs were, for my infant ears, some of the first representations of a band that was in perfect harmony; a band that inspired many wannabe punk boys (and myself) to hunt for second-hand electric guitars and grow out dirty hair, seeking out other punk boys to start a band with.
Blue Album made me wish I was cool enough to be a part of the garage rock era, and it’s a bittersweet thing to still be talking about it, almost 10 years (!) on. There’s no nostalgia like the nostalgia for the early-to-late 2000s – and regardless of how your music taste has evolved in this time, you never stop appreciating the early genius of bands that represent a very specific part of adolescent angst (like Modest Mouse, or the short but feisty life of Franz Ferdinand).
Like the clever, loveable bastards they are, Weezer have snuck shit songs into their collection while overall having very few terrible albums (Make Believe possibly the worst), but they have spent the past 20 years proving that they know what they’re doing. While I miss the garage punk vibes, it’s inevitable that over such a vast and explosive career they will miss the mark on occasion. Aside from its overwhelming rhythm that screams ‘sell-out’, I’ve pinpointed why I am so disappointed with this track, and it’s because up until the release of Feels Like Summer – aka the musical equivalent of jamming a letter-opener into my eyeballs – Weezer have always been sincere. Even the absurdity of Hurley was somewhat endearing (Smart Girls had me swooning); and Everything Will Be Alright In The End is possibly my favourite album, with a neat balance of original punky tracks and more whimsical ones like Da Vinci or Cleopatra. One of the best tracks off the album is I’ve Had It Up To Here, which contains their frustration with mass consumerism, and ironically seemed to foretell their future (and ours):
Don’t want to find myself homogenized / don’t want to become the very thing that I despised / don’t need my mommy feedin’ me culture with a spoon
I tried to give my best to you / but you plugged up your ears / and now I just can’t take no more / I’ve had it up to here.
As an avid conspiracy theorist, I sometimes wonder if long-living bands like Weezer just do shit like this to mess with us and see if we’ll stick by them. When they’ve witnessed people grow up in their world, and come to love them so unconditionally, it’s only fair that they might, after so many years, check in with the loyalty and musical integrity of their fans. As painful as it is, I believe in holding your favourite artists to account, no matter how much you love them. And that is why Feels Like Summer is indefensible. However, like most Weezer fans, I am willing to wait patiently to see if their new album contains any redemption. But if it doesn’t, then I’m going to have to throw in the towel and learn to accept the farcical idea that all music is valuable (I’m kidding. All music is important. Except EDM. Sorry).
It is dismaying to think that Weezer might fall into the trap of feeling pressure to ‘keep up with the changing times’ and completely abandon their history. There are bands much smaller than Weezer who have stayed true to their style since the beginning, taking with them a small but happy gang of niche groupies in Christmas sweaters (looking at you, Twin Peaks, The Drums and any band signed with Jagjaguwar, probably). By changing everything that made them outliers – notably, embodying a special brand of endearing but dorky punks and being the original sadbois (apart from the blessed Julian Casablancas), Weezer might lose out on more than just record sales.
Music is one of the last pure, truly good things left in this world. Unlike the patron Saint Obama did, we need our favourite bands to stick around to see us through these troubled times – and stay far, far away from the oddly polarising subject of tropical weather.