Of all the rock stars to emerge in 1994, the goofily nerdy Rivers Cuomo didn’t seem like a rebel. But when two roads diverged in an alt-rock wood, he took the one that led to years of risky moves. Some paid off, like 1996’s classic Pinkerton – an album of tortured sex songs named after a character in Madame Butterfly – or the MTV-conquering video for 2005’s ”Beverly Hills,” filmed at the Playboy Mansion. Other gambles didn’t work out quite as well, like the Wyatt Earp mustache Cuomo rocked in 2008, or the band’s last two albums, where he brought in song doctors like Dr. Luke and Jermaine Dupri.
Now Cuomo is ready to make amends – sort of. ”I thought I’d get a new audience/I forgot that disco sucks,” he sings, tongue grazing his cheek, on ”Back to the Shack,” a crispy, major-minor thrasher about reclaiming his glory days that’s ironically one of five collaborations on the band’s ninth album. (Its co-writer is Jacob Kasher, whose credits include Kesha’s ”We R Who We R.”)
But the spirit of reconciliation is strong on Everything Will Be Alright in the End. For the first time since 2001, Weezer reunite with the Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who produced the beloved Blue and Green albums, and who helps land Everything on the same loud, bright power-pop-metal planet. And Cuomo writes effusively about his dad, a Pentecostal preacher who re-entered his life after several absent decades. Cuomo has named the batch of songs about fatherhood ”Patriarchia”; the track list also includes a series of girl songs he’s called ”Belladonna” and a set of tunes about his troublesome audience, dubbed ”The Panopticon Artist.” (Foucault never had to deal with nosy Facebookers.)
All three subsets contain songs that are profoundly odd and reliably catchy. The girl tunes range from ”Go Away,” a lovely surfside duet with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, to the quirky ”Da Vinci,” featuring the cutesy chorus, ”Stephen Hawking can’t explain you/Rosetta Stone could not translate you.” The dad tracks peak with ”Foolish Father,” a plea for paternal forgiveness that crests with a small choir singing like it’s in the final act of an offbeat off-Broadway musical.
The tracks devoted to Weezer’s bond with their listeners are the most tormented and theatrical, as if Cuomo and Co. stitched together their own American Idiot. (Green Day’s rock opera similarly arrived after a four-year break between albums and a serious sales slide.) Cuomo bitches about unappreciative masses on ”I’ve Had It Up to Here,” an über-dramatic opus co-written with the Darkness’ Justin Hawkins that brims with Queen-ly choral flourishes and skyscraping high notes. He imagines himself as Paul Revere standing up to ”bogus Redcoats . . . telling me what to do” on ”The British Are Coming.” The album wraps with a three-part suite filled with guitar gymnastics, angrily spat lyrics and gang vocals that feels particularly ripe for a Michael Mayer stage adaptation. It’s an absurdly over-the-top finale only Cuomo could have come up with – the perfect ending for an album-length ”sorry not sorry.”