IF HISTORY punishes those who arrive too late, as Mikhail Gorbachev said, than music fans punish those acts who peak too early.
The reverence with which Weezer’s 1994 eponymous debut and its 1996 follow-up Pinkerton are held by those of us who heard them when they originally came out, and the shadow cast by both albums over alternative rock - continuing as they do to inspire young indie musicians - are so overwhelming, that everything Rivers Cuomo and Co have done since has been judged harshly, indeed unforgivingly, to the point where even before any new music is released it is dismissed.
Not for nothing did Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen perceptively remark: “Even though Weezer and Pinkerton were never embraced by critics in real time, they sure seem to have been embraced by a lot of people who grew up to be critics.”
Sometimes Weezer themselves have been to blame - witness the pop/big beat diversion of 2009’s Raditude - but few bands face such unforgiving scrutiny.
There was a freshness to Weezer, a youthful joy in the power of a melody and a loud guitar to sort out life’s problems, and the need among alternative rock fans for new champions following the demise of grunge (Weezer emerged just two months after Kurt Cobain’s suicide ). All this, plus some genius videos from Spike Jonez and Cuomo’s gift for melody and a big chorus, made it essential for right then (and why it still appeals to now ).
Cuomo is aware of all this, hence the key song on new abum Everything Will Be Alright In The End (Island Records ) - ‘Back To The Shack’, where he apologises for Raditude (“I forgot that disco sucks” ), apologises for taking the hardcore fans for granted (“I didn’t realise that I needed you so much” ), and pledging to get back basics (“kick in the door/more hardcore/rockin’ out like it’s ‘94” ) - even getting The Cars’ mainman Rick Ocasek (who produced ‘94’s Weezer ) to produce this album.
It works too - the riffs are big, meaty, quasi-metal, the chorus is brought in on a bus and demands to be sung along to with fist pumping in the air, and the whole thing is terribly catchy. Cuomo’s gift for smart, earworm melodies backed by heavy guitar has clearly not deserted him, as witnessed by ‘Eulogy For A Rock Band’; ‘I’ve Had It Up To Here’, with its funky stop-start riff; and particularly the brilliant, melancholy sweetness of ‘The British Are Coming’.
Cuomo has obviously dealt with some of his demons since 1994. The highlight of Weezer was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers/metal of ‘Say It Ain’t So’, where he excoriated his absent father. The two have since become close as ‘Back To Shack’ makes clear, and the album concludes (in a way ) with Cuomo appealing to his sister to do give their dad a chance (‘Foolish Father’ ).
Everything Will Be Alright is not Weezer or Pinkerton and no one should demand it be. Once that is accepted, warts and all, what emerges is an album of catchy, melodic, beefy alternative rock, with a fair amount of confessional, emotional, depth. Give it a chance, it ain’t bad at all.