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'Weezer' review: Veteran rockers experiment, with mixed results

Weezer's "Weezer / The Black Album"

Weezer's "Weezer / The Black Album"  Photo Credit: Crush/Atlantic Records

WHAT "Weezer / The Black Album"

BOTTOM LINE The “Pork and Beans” rockers experiment, but with mixed results

The reason why the now-beloved “Saturday Night Live” skit where old-school Weezer purist Leslie Jones and recent Weezer defender Matt Damon have a knockdown, drag-out fight works is because it rings so true.

Sure, that kind of intense fandom debate could work for any number of things in pop culture. But it works exceedingly well for Weezer, exactly because of their albums like their latest “Weezer” (Crush/Atlantic) album, dubbed “The Black Album” because of its cover photo.

“The Black Album” is sure to spawn countless debates on its own because Weezer tries numerous styles without always succeeding. The opener “Can’t Knock the Hustle” (not a remake of the Jay-Z song though singer Rivers Cuomo should probably put that on his spreadsheet of potential covers) finds Weezer putting its own twist on a hip-hop groove by injecting it with Latin samples, Spanish phrases and Cuomo’s near-rapping. The closer “California Snow” has Cuomo offering Kanye-like rhymes on the verses over Yeezus-like synthesizer riffs to show how effective hip-hop Weezer can really be.

For years now, it’s been hard to tell how seriously we should take Weezer’s lyrics and how truthful Cuomo is being when he sings them. So, on “I’m Just Being Honest,” when he takes the most straightforward rock arrangement and uses it to wonder about why he gave his opinion on a fan’s band’s music, is Weezer just trolling us as fans? The song “Too Many Thoughts in My Head,” which finds Cuomo “overwhelmed by Netflix options,” seems like it may also be referring to all the eclectic influences on “The Black Album,” from the Beach Boys-ish “High as a Kite” and “Piece of Cake” to the Brazilian-tinged “Byzantine” and the ill-advised reggae-lite of “Zombie Bastards.” 

“The Black Album” shows that Weezer is happy to experiment, but it may be even happier to fuel the “SNL” debate.

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