Home Music Weezer: Van Weezer

Weezer: Van Weezer

Van Weezer was inevitable. Given both Rivers Cuomo’s formative years as a devotee of hair metal and his increasing willingness to try any idea that comes to him no matter how embarrassing it may be, we should have seen this coming. Honestly, as far as some of the left-field ideas that Weezer has thrown at us since 2000, a full-blown hair metal would actually be a welcome respite from years of unnecessary cover albums and awkward attempts to interface with modern Top 40 radio pop. Still, Weezer has a habit of making simple pleasures too complicated to really enjoy, and for all of its glorious cheese, Van Weezer is no different in that regard.

Let’s open with a controversial statement here: Rivers Cuomo is still a pretty good songwriter. He no longer writes with the consistency that he did in a brief period in the mid-90’s, but he’s still a capable pop songwriter when he wants to be. More often, though, his insistence on writing from an adolescent perspective and the left-field ideas that he commits to have lowered his overall batting average in terms of quality songwriting over the years. In this regard, Van Weezer has more hits than misses despite the conceit of the album. While Weezer don’t completely commit to going full hair metal on Van Weezer, the band clearly sounds more comfortable writing and performing more straightforward rock songs than some of the glossier pop that Cuomo has tried his hand at in recent times. From the guitar heroics of “The End of the Game” through the surprisingly infectious melodies of “I Need Some of That” and “She Needs Me,” this is the most fun that Weezer has sounded in years. For those still willing to give the band a shot, Van Weezer at least offers listeners the good time they were promised.

However, that is not to say that Van Weezer is some mythical return to form. Not that anyone was asking for that; most people begging for a return to the halcyon days of The Blue Album and Pinkerton have long since moved on. Still, even their best latter-day work isn’t completely devoid of Rivers Cuomo’s bullshit, and Van Weezer has its fair share of Rivers Cuomo’s bullshit. His perpetually adolescent songwriting perspective continues to be his Achilles’ Heel as a songwriter, most exemplified on the otherwise-good “All the Good Ones.” Here, a great melody is squandered on too-clever lyrical references to Nietzsche and a chorus that, like so many Cuomo missteps, turns its protagonist’s sexual desire into some weird, incel-adjacent treatment of women as pure objects, which doesn’t even fit in to the hedonistic perspective of the music that inspired the song in the first place. Worse still is the self-pitying “Hero,” whose references to comic book superpowers feel like a half-hearted attempt to connect to the kids, and “1 More Hit” is yet another entry in Cuomo’s catalog of terrible anti-drug songs. And while the album wears its love of classic hard rock on its sleeve, that still doesn’t explain or justify “Blue Dream” being a near note-for-note rewrite of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”

Even so, Cuomo’s more egregious songwriting mistakes don’t torpedo Van Weezer. Indeed, even the worst moments of the album fit in with the deliberately silly tone of the project, which is a welcome relief given how often the band treated their corniest material with a heavy-handed earnestness. Indeed, the lightweight nature of Van Weezer may very well be its saving grace; it’s hard to get quite as mad at Rivers Cuomo when he writes songs like these, silly tributes to the larger-than-life rock gods that made him want to pick up a guitar. Just please never write a song about drugs again, dude.

It’s hard to get quite as mad at Rivers Cuomo when he writes songs like these, silly tributes to the larger-than-life rock gods that made him want to pick up a guitar. Just please never write a song about drugs again, dude.
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Face-melting Silliness
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