The Weezer cult will always rest on the band’s 1996 overshare masterpiece, Pinkerton, where Rivers Cuomo bared his soul about his fears and fantasies, sniffing a teenage Japanese girl’s fan letters and drooling over cello players. Latter-day Weezer fans understandably cherish the myth that Pinkerton was reviled by the adult world, but in truth, nobody even noticed it; there were loads of major-label sophomore flops in 1996 (Weezer’s sold slightly better than Sponge’s, slightly worse than the Gin Blossoms’). Yet Cuomo took it hard. Like a Scarlett O’Hara wandering the burned-out ruins of the grunge- plantation, he shook a fist at the heavens and vowed, as God was his witness, nobody would ever catch him having a feeling again.
Cuomo has been aggressively trolling fans of his youthful-sincerity phase for the past 15 years – which is five times longer than his youthful-sincerity- phase actually lasted. Weezer’s fourth self-titled album is a sustained Beach Boys parody, with tunes like “Wind in Our Sail,” “L.A. Girlz” and “Endless Bummer.” Cuomo begins the opening track, “California Kids,” with the sound of ocean waves and sea gulls, while a guitar and a tinkling kiddie xylophone recall both Brian Wilson’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and Weezer’s “Pink Triangle,” two classic songs about clueless Southern California boys yearning for a happily-ever-after that can’t come true. The punchlines keep coming fast and furious, right down to the way he’d like you to call it the “White Album.” (Rumor has it there’s already one of those.)
Cuomo says he set out to revive the spirit of the band’s early days. He grew back the beard he had while writing Pinkerton and worked with 5 Seconds of Summer producer Jake Sinclair, who once played in a tribute band called Wannabeezer. As on his last album, 2014’s acclaimed Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Cuomo plays around with his Nineties tropes. “Do You Wanna Get High?” sounds exactly like Pinkerton‘s “The Good Life,” while the lyrics evoke snorting pills, closing the drapes and listening to Burt Bacharach records in the dark (a very late-Nineties thing to do). “Wind in Our Sail” is clearly the work of a dad who’s been watching educational TV: “We got the wind in our sails like Darwin on the Beagle/Mendel experimenting with the pea.”
It all ends with the superb “Endless Bummer,” an acoustic ballad with one of Cuomo’s most poignant melodies. “Sometimes I feel like I’m a ghost,” he sings, capturing a Brian Wilson–worthy pathos. Even when he’s straining to purge any trace of emotion, the exuberant yearning of the music means it sneaks in anyway.