Rivers Cuomo is nothing if not a rock and roll true believer, a point he makes most movingly on “Eulogy for a Rock Band,” from the new Weezer album Everything Will Be Alright in the End. It’s an oddly affecting song, not just for its trembling earnestness but perhaps also for the nagging suspicion that this eulogy could almost have been delivered, at various points, for Weezer, a band that’s been deep in the shit, effectively broken up, and reformed only to endure a decade-plus of middling reviews, polarized fans, and tentative creativity. The actual band Cuomo celebrates in “Eulogy” remains nameless, but is remembered fondly nevertheless: They may have died in obscurity, the song suggests, but their song goes on. And it matters.
On another song, “Back to the Shack,” Cuomo explicitly wonders whether Weezer might meet the same fate—but almost doesn’t mind: “If we died in obscurity, oh well/ At least we raised some hell.” And yes. That’s exactly it. One thinks of Orson Welles in the film F for Fake, paying homage to the great artists of yesteryear whose names are now lost to us but whose work resonates still: “A fact of life: we’re going to die. ‘Be of good heart,’ cry the dead artists out of the living past. ‘Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.’ Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.”
Everything Will Be Alright in the End is an album about raising hell, or more specifically about Weezer kicking up a ruckus on its own terms. “This is what I was meant to do,” Cuomo offers on “Back to the Shack,” and that’s as good an explanation as any as to why this album exists—good and satisfying. Everything sounds like an epiphany, at once modest and paradigm-shifting: For years Weezer and their fans have all gone on as though this was a band lost in the tall weeds, but with this new one Cuomo and the gang seem revitalized and refocused by the idea that big hooks and bigger guitars are all they’ve ever needed—all they were ever meant to do.
You can hear the album as sort of a repudiation of the group’s waywardness, weird experiments, and poorly-received albums of the last few years—especially the hip-hop and pop flirtations of Raditude, perhaps—and you can take references to “rockin’ out like it’s ’94,” combined with the rehiring of Ric Ocasek, who produced the Blue and Green albums, as pure back-to-basics moods, or even as apologies to the group’s long-suffering fans. The thing is, all of that’s undermined by the fact that Everything doesn’t sound all that much like the Blue Album; it’s got hair metal guitars and pure pop hooks, geeky lyrics and a new wave sheen—but what Weezer album doesn’t, really?
For as hard as they rock on “Back to the Shack,” for as driving as “Eulogy” is, for all the static and fuzz and frayed nerves in “Lonely Girl,” this is still the same Rivers Cuomo who has become, over time, a gifted and eccentric pop craftsman; where he expressed himself through raw emotion on Pinkerton, he now prefers to let hooks, guitars, and cheerfully sentimental or self-referential lyrics do the talking—and that’s no less valuable or no less rewarding, nor is it any less personal or any less authentic to Rivers, than the Pinkerton stuff. And so we have an album that ends with a miniature, mostly-instrumental prog rock suite; that builds from a cheery whistle and strummed acoustic guitar on “Da Vinci” and incorporates Beach Boy harmonies on “The British Are Coming,” both wonderfully low-key little pop songs that wouldn’t quite have fit in on the roaring Blue album. Even songs that sound at first like tried-and-true Weezer piledrivers reveal themselves to be slightly more complex in their construction, as on the jittery, halting “I’ve Had it Up to Here.” As if to show off what an effortless pop songwriter he’s become, Cuomo builds the album’s catchiest hook, on the song “Go Away,” from just two words.
Some of the spirit of ’94 is here, perhaps, yet the album never plays like a rehash or a retreat; it just sounds like Weezer being Weezer, and frankly doing a better job of it than they have since the Red album, if not Pinkerton. On paper, it doesn’t sound like it’s all that different from something like Hurley, but the perspective is new, and that, it turns out, makes all the difference in the world: It sounds like Cuomo’s belief in himself, and in Weezer, has been rekindled; like he no longer has to prove anything, to himself or to anybody—he just needs to raise some hell.