Think of the most on-brand thing that Weezer could do. Was your answer to surprise-drop a Beach-Boys-inspired album in the middle of a pandemic while everyone was still waiting a previously announced metal-inspired LP? If not, don’t feel bad. Even lifelong fans of the band couldn’t have seen this one coming. OK Human is a neatly packaged, 12-track ode to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, complete with a 38-member orchestra and some of the most vulnerable songs written by Rivers Cuomo in many years.
While the album is still distinctly Weezer, there are enough diversions from the band’s traditional formula that it feels fresh, interesting and catchy. For starters, it wouldn’t be a Weezer album without a radio single. While many of us aren’t stuck in traffic listening to the radio these days, “All My Favorite Songs” is still a worthy candidate for your morning commute from the bedroom to the living room.
A slow string-based instrumental build-up accompanies the notion that life is full of contradictions. “All my favorite songs are slow and sad/ Everything that feels so good is bad, bad, bad,” Cuomo sings, as bright violin playing and a piano melody come together for yet another sing-along. “Here Comes the Rain,” which one can only imagine is a retort to the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun,” is another song that’s textbook Weezer. It’s a quick-paced, cheerful tune that focuses on rain washing away yesterday’s troubles. And it sticks with the Beach Boys theme in that the Brits, too, were fans of the SoCal group. The feel-good anthem comes complete with horns, prominent drumming and optimistic messages about the dream of a better tomorrow.
“Play My Piano” is like looking directly through the front window of the Cuomo household, as the frontman sings intimately about the dynamics of his family when he’s writing music. The details are uniquely fleshed-out, from the cup of coffee on the keys to the dimly lit room. The scene is so perfectly serene that Rivers Cuomo believes, “Kim Jong Un could blow up my city and I’d never know.” It provides introspection into what it must have been like crafting an album at home during a pandemic.
At barely a minute long, “Mirror Image” is another extremely personal song about the reflective nature of love. The last 20 seconds is a rough cut of Cuomo singing alone about heaven shutting him out against some barely there piano chords.
It isn’t like Weezer hasn’t created an experimental album during its past. But even without announcing that this was a pandemic album, that would have been clear to all listeners. That’s despite Rivers Cuomo revealing all the way back in 2019 that Weezer was working on this album and had already recording the string parts at Abbey Road Studios.
The songs are generally on the shorter end and act as sketches of life. Even though only four songs on OK Human top the three-minute mark, each one has a message that imbues every second with meaning. The introduction of the orchestra was also something that fit well into Weezer’s sound. In fact, it was easy to forget that the band had never tried it before. While a lot of Weezer’s past music is alt-rock or pop-based, the orchestral additions mix in a layer of depth and fullness to the music, making the songs more sonically interesting.
While this wasn’t the Weezer album that listeners were expecting, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Rivers Cuomo and company have made some bold choices in the past, The Beach Boys vibes are less “weird” and more “weirdly right on-brand.” Now prepare for some whiplash when the metal-inspired Van Weezer gets dropped.
Follow writer Piper Westrom at Twitter.com/plwestrom.