Pacific Daydream isn’t the worst thing that Weezer has ever done.
As time has passed, it’s become clearer that Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo was an aspiring pop songwriter working under the guise of an alt-rock front man rather than some weird indie kid who was swept up in the signing spree of the ‘90s. Since Weezer reconvened in 2000, Cuomo’s work seems more aimed at interfacing with modern pop trends than with sticking to what worked for him before. Sometimes this worked; The Green Album and Maladroit have their moments, and even the band’s worst albums have had one or two redeemable singles. But more often than not, Cuomo’s attempts at mainstream pop glory are cringe-inducing for fans that started following him way back when and still cherish those early classics. Such fans will probably hate Pacific Daydream, and Cuomo probably knows that. However, even as a mainstream pop album, Weezer’s latest effort comes up short.
For all of his missteps, Cuomo still has an undeniable knack for pop hooks, and that is still quite the case on his latest. Those looking for the personal touch that lay at the core of Cuomo’s best work won’t find any of that here, but such tracks as “Weekend Woman” and “Mexican Fender” demonstrate that he hasn’t lost his touch. No, the problems with Pacific Daydream lie with its production. Butch Walker–who previously helmed one of the band’s career lowlights in Raditude–returns in this capacity, and the result is something so glossed and buffed for radio play that it feels utterly lifeless.
Let’s not place all of the blame squarely on the producer, though. Cuomo and a collection of hired guns wrote these songs, and in attempting to be all things to all people, they made a flaccid mess of a record. Cuomo’s plaintive ode to the Beach Boys (creatively titled “Beach Boys”) may be sincere, but it just aimlessly grooves along. An actual Beach Boys tribute, “Sweet Mary,” fares better, but sounds completely out of place on an album trying aggressively hard to be modern. There are overtures throughout to surf rock and traditional Mexican music, yet each is written with the sort of soaring chorus one would expect from any number of stadium-rock wannabes populating the playlist at your local mall. Granted, that’s the sort of ubiquity that Cuomo is perpetually striving for, but Pacific Daydream goes about that in all of the worst ways.
At his worst, Rivers Cuomo used to be memorably bad. His unique mix of sincerity and silliness could lead to some of the most grating music of all time, but it still felt specific to him. Only someone with Cuomo’s gifts and ambition could write something as bone-dumb as “We Are All on Drugs” or something as syrupy as “Love Is The Answer.” Pacific Daydream isn’t the worst thing that Weezer has ever done, but it commits a far greater sin than just being flat-out bad: it’s completely forgettable.