Full Disclosure: I love Weezer. When the book is written on my life, Weezer will rest comfortably on my own Mount Rushmore of rock. Their first two albums alone are undeniably one of the best one-two punches a band ever took coming out of the gate. Over the course of the last two decades or so, I’ve jumped out of the plane with Weezer each time a new album came out, hoping that each one would have the parachute to save me, and more importantly Weezer from mediocrity and half-baked self-imitation. Pacific Daydream is not the life-saving, feel good Weezer album you’d prefer. If you loved their last two albums, 2014’s return to glory, Everything Will Be Alright in the End and last years, The White Album, you might find yourself scratching your head. I know I am.
I’m not necessarily at odds with the music here. In fact, it’s really the opposite. Pacific Daydream goes into overload with sweeping vocal harmonies and insatiable, sing-along choruses. My issue lies more in the presentation. Weezer built a career on simple yet catchy power-pop/alternative rock anthems. Here though, the alternative rock takes a back seat. Really, it’s not even in the same car. You can’t deny Rivers Cuomo knows how to write songs and great melodies. His lyrics though, when not deeply personal and introspective can be more hit and miss. They miss the mark throughout Pacific Daydream’s ten songs.
“Beach Boys”, the second track on the album starts this trend. What should be an homage to over of the band’s most blatant inspirations is wildly uninspired. The lyric, “It’s a hip-hop world; and we’re the furniture” lacks the intended punch. It sounds forced with the rest of the lyrics but trite along with the 2017-esque Twenty-One Pilots and Panic! At The Disco type production. Weezer displayed their ultimate Beach Boys homage better on tracks like “Susanne” and “Holiday” from The Blue Album era.
Speaking of the production. I totally get Weezer wanting to branch out and do something different. But different doesn’t necessarily equate to success (I’m looking at you Rattitude and Hurley). “Happy Hour” plays like a deliberate attempt at a big single. The lushness of the chorus helps implant the hook into your subconscious. But the ability to create a hook isn’t the issue. Weezer know hooks. They could write a catchy, hooky song with a plunger and a clogged toilet. But just because they can doesn’t mean they should! The band’s reach for pop-star glory in 2017 is frustrating. Especially when you look at their classic albums.
In name, “Mexican Fender” sounds like a sex act you want no part of, but musically, it’s the closest we get to the classic Weezer crunch. The lack of big, crunching guitars is sorely missed throughout. Honestly, even one or two “California Kids” would have elevated this album from the backend of their catalogue to at least middle of the pack. “Thank God For Girls” and “Jacked Up” from The White Album kind of set us up for this. With Pacific Dream, you can hear how those songs without doubt planted the seeds of this album’s direction.
The back-to-back revelation of “QB Blitz” and “Sweet Mary” round out the trio of the strongest cuts along with “Mexican Fender”. Surprisingly, “Feels Like Summer”, in the context of the album really stands out as well; albeit to a lesser degree than these three. For a band’s eleventh album, they could have done worse. Not every band can release Sticky Fingers this many albums into their career.
Pacific Daydream can’t be considered a bad album. Like mentioned, it’s loaded with lots of fun melodies that will leave you humming. But there’s a feeling that if this was Rivers Cuomo solo album, it’d work better. At times, he comes off like a brilliant brain surgeon who chooses to do nose-jobs instead. I understand wanting to grow and expand. But why not go metal? Why not just make great rock? You belong in the rock world! You told us that on “Back to the Shack”. Everyone agrees. Give us that good, fun, self-deprecating Weezer with distortion and sustain for days and everything would really be alright in the end.
Ultimately, Weezer have the excellent problem that with each new album, they need to face down their classic albums. And those albums, they cast giant shadows. Bassist Scott Shriner dominates every aspect of this album. One positive aspect of the pop-dominated, R&B-ish production here is the bass gets to groove and shine at every turn and Shriner deserves much love for carrying these tracks with his low-end domination.
Weezer love taking left turns and doing the unexpected. Pacific Daydream if nothing else is a testament to their desire to push the boundaries, their comfort zones and the expectations of their fans. I wouldn’t doubt that Weezer take it in a different direction on their next album. If Pacific Daydream is a one-time adventure down the rabbit hole of pop, it may be looked upon more positively that it comes off right now. I think most would agree no one does it better than Weezer when they are firing on all rock- cylinders. Here’s hoping, they get back to the shack next time around.