Teal is fine. It’s the representative color of Bed, Bath & Beyond; Essential Oil Cults; and Inspirational Instagram Self-Help Gurus who like to spout platitudes about being your best self. It’s digestible and calm. It’s comfortable and inoffensive. At best, it’s good for an enjoyable moment, to take your mind off your troubles, and little else. It’s pleasant and inconsequential. It’s fine.
Really, it’s fine.
Just like this record.
If I didn’t know that The Black Album is just around the corner, this album would be a lot more frustrating. Rivers Cuomo has been indulging in distraction for the last three years, since the release of the excellent White Album, which saw the band continue their upward ascent following the release of Everything Will Be Alright in the End, which is one of my favorite records by the band, and a legitimate comeback. Instead of amping up the tension, and putting all his energy in the Black Album, Cuomo has been indulging himself by releasing the fun, but empty, Pacific Daydream, and indulging the transient whims of the twitterverse, by way of Dan Ozzi resulting in a profoundly straightforward cover of Africa, by Toto, even though Hold the Line is clearly the more meme-worthy cut, and the better song overall.
Yes, Rivers Cuomo and his merry crew have been putting out records despite their own recognition that the Black Album is the work they’ve wanted to release for years. But that has not stopped them from releasing another album’s worth of materials without any notice. This time, a cover album, shaded Teal.
“It’s fine” – Lindsey Ellis
I get it, we live in a cultural diaspora that requires surprise releases; a culture that requires click-baity titles about how a band is catering to their fanbase in adorable, inoffensive ways, to deflect from the crueler, more offensive ways people currently act and the uglier facts of modern reality. We need some breather moments between all the miasmatic terrible with a cutesy meme and twitter campaigns to get shit off the ground. You want to be relevant, even as you get older. I get it.
But really, I want the Black Album, and this feels like a deflection.
I should note that I do actually enjoy this record. It’s fun to listen to and single along to and walk to and put on repeat. It is not a thought heavy album, and it’s all good earworms. Despite my distaste for releasing a million unintentional records on what amounts to a whim, I won’t deny Cuomo’s talent for a slick, well produced pop. He has the magic ear, and the money to make records. So he does. Good for him. Fine.
From the very first note of the now infamous cover of Africa, however, you know exactly what you are going to get. Covers that go over a wide array of pop-culture from the last 6 decades, with enough prima facia compelling song choices and structural decisions that belie the fact that this album sounds like someone’s carefully curated playlist meant to show that they have an eclectic taste, but are still approachable and cool. Y’know what I mean.
This album is aggressively intentional. Every moment is clinical. Sterile, but not transcendant. The 10 cuts on this record are all excellent songs in their own right, and Weezer acquit themselves well in covering them. I personally find the sandwich of the happy-go-lucky summer of love classic “Happy Together” by the Turtles, infamous metal meltdown “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, and then the even more ebullient “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO a particularly inspired combination of covers in sequence. One can look at how the album goes from 80’s, then 70’s, then 90’s/00’s and see a conscious effort at putting forward some compelling structural conceit.
And it’s even better because these covers are slavishly devoted to sounding exactly like the original. I honestly have to wonder how many times Cuomo listened to Paranoid to be able to sufficiently mimic Ozzy Osbourne’s psychotic rambling iambic dictums about going insane. I feel like Jeff Lynne is lowkey pissed that Cuomo did almost nothing to Mr. Blue Sky, excepting a few moments of skank in the chorus. Cuomo even pulls out some genuinely odd choices with “No Scrubs” and “Billie Jean” before ending on a pretty conventional, if uplifting cover of “Stand By me”
But that sense of simulacrum at all levels is almost Greta Van Fleet levels of fucking obnoxious. Each second feels algorithmic, intentional, and machine learned. The covers are all so perfect that they lack any real character. It feels like a boardroom put this record together, with the exact percentage of demographic appeal considered; the diversity of song choice measured; put into a blender to make some brand name Kale Smoothie that’s all the rage, and just tasty enough to overlook the nihilistic void of it all.
It’s an album to enjoy, and nothing more. Fine.
Weezer has never been a band that knows the meaning of restraint, when it comes to releasing records. The similarly empty Pacific Daydream were a series of songs that didn’t even make the cut on the Black Album. They were songs that had been written, but were deemed too…meh, to be put on the record that is designed to court controversy. The results feel like that. A bunch of unnecessary bonus tracks gussied up as an album and sold because why the fuck not.
And the same goes for this record. This record is a lot more enjoyable than Pacific Daydream because I get the sense that Cuomo cares about these covers. There is a lot of effort devoted to each track. You can’t make such surgically precise cuts without effort.
But this is also probably the reason why the Black Album got delayed in the first place. I see it as inevitable that Cuomo got so sucked up in the proceedings of making a meme for a fan that he got enthused about making a cover albums, and not caring whether anyone wanted that.
And on that front, I can’t blame the impulse. All creators are subject to Shiny New Idea Syndrome; most don’t go out and do it, however. And whether I can fully blame Cuomo remains to be seen. The twitterverse can be aggressive and frustrating on the best of days, so this may just be an effort to keep sane. And on some level, I respect the sheer output level Cuomo has to be able to release records one after the other like that.
But there is something to be said for the concept of restraint.
If there is anything genuinely troubling about this record, however, it is the similarity of this record to Ninja Sex Party’s Under the Covers II. While that record is straight 80’s, there are a number of distressing similarities that make me weary, including track listing and a cover of “Africa”. These are covers, so you can’t really call it plagiarism; but there is just enough cross-over between these two albums that it feels really, really weird to hear the same covers over again.
So, at the end of the day. Teal is a pleasant color. You can enjoy it while taking a walk. You can chill with it and you can just be there with it. But it doesn’t amount to much; it doesn’t mean much; and it’s pretty disposable.
Just like this album.
Until I’m waiting there for you,
599,972 out 1,000,000