A fun and catchy album of fan service...

It’s finally here! The fabled ‘Van Weezer’ has finally arrived! Take your pandemic, your year-long delays, and your brilliant surprise releases, and stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine! We’re hair metal stans now, baby.

Seriously though, Weezer have been teasing this album for quite some time; with references to ‘Van Weezer’ dating back to before the band had even released their magnum anus – the self-titled ‘black’ album, for those not in the know – in March 2019. Rivers Cuomo, somewhat optimistically, has described the band’s 15th (!) studio album as “Blue Album-ish, but a little more riffy” – which, shockingly, turns out to be kind of true!

Let’s get this out of the way first: does Van Weezer sound anything at all like Van Halen? Aside from a handful of guitar solos featuring shredding and finger tapping – techniques that the late Eddie Van Halen (whom this album was dedicated to after his passing in October 2020) helped popularise – nah, not really. That’s okay though! After all, the band’s last effort ‘OK Human’ didn’t really sound like Radiohead and ended up being Weezer’s best album in years!

‘Van Weezer’ succeeds in its goal of being a fun homage to the eras that inspired them – it’s fun to hear Rivers Cuomo let loose on the ole’ six-string again, the dude is an incredibly adept guitar player but you wouldn’t really know it from the band’s last few albums. The album is incredibly self-indulgent in a way that’s mostly inoffensive and almost wholly enjoyable. Weezer jump from influence to influence across ‘Van Weezer’ and it rarely feels incohesive.

The most jarring moment on 'Van Weezer' comes when ‘Beginning Of The End’ (which features different and superior mixes and arrangements from the version released last year for Bill & Ted 3!) transitions to ‘Blue Dream’. Fairly standard Weezer-brand alt-rock into a distracting use of the riff from Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’? No thanks.

On that note, ‘Blue Dream’ is the only true stinker on the album – from its distracting interpolation of ‘Crazy Train’ to its middling, inconsequential lyrics. Should’ve just done a cover, lads.

Diehard fans will appreciate the inclusion of ‘Sheila Can Do It’ – a rework of a tune Rivers Cuomo’s had sitting in the bank since the 90s when he used to play it with his side project Homie. ‘Sheila Can Do It’ along with the next track ‘She Needs Me’ is another instance of Weezer wearing their influences on their sleeves in that they sound like The Cars on steroids – Ric Ocasek of The Cars famously produced three Weezer albums (blue, green and ‘Everything Will Be Alright In The End') before his untimely passing in September 2019.

The album closes out with a pseudo-ballad in acoustic track ‘Precious Metal Girl’. The only thing wrong with this song is that ultimately, it suffers from Weezer’s mission to make albums that are only about half an hour long – it feels like its building to a magnificent ending à la ‘Endless Bummer’ from the band’s self-titled white album, but it just ends instead. Ah well, at least it’s cute.

So, is ‘Van Weezer’ a hella mega bore? Not at all! It’s an imperfect album that still manages to shine with catchy singles and gratifying deep cuts, even if never quite reaches the height of its predecessor, ‘OK Human’. It’s a fun and catchy album of fan service with a short enough runtime (31:06) as to not feel like a waste of time if you don’t like it.

At least they’ll be able to play these songs live when they set off on the Hella Mega Tour with Green Day and Fall Out Boy, eh?

7/10

Words: R.A. Hagan

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