Weezer returns to familiar yet unexpected sound on their self-titled “White” album

SAY IT IS SO – Weezer and Panic! At The Disco are currently co-headling a tour and are scheduled to play at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater on July 13.

For a while now, Rivers Cuomo and co. have felt as if they’re playing darts – throwing familiar ideas at the board and just sticking with something that has always worked. Describing Weezer’s output since the critically acclaimed (and rightfully so) Pinkerton has been fairly mixed. Their last album, “Everything Will Be Alright in the End,” was seen by many as a return to form. It was, but there were some ideas on the album that needed to be fleshed out in order to work. Still the album had highlights in tracks like “Back To The Shack.” Weezer haven’t been able to find a sound that works for them for a hot minute, but their latest release, “Weezer,” is the fourth in a series of color-based albums dating back to their debut, commonly dubbed “The Blue Album.”

The latest in the series is considered “The White Album:” the cover is almost blindingly white, save for the band, which is standing amid a sandy beach with a couple other visitors mulling around. Weezer returns to this familiar color-coded theme not just for the fan reaction – this album is supposed to invoke a clean, fun feeling. Cuomo himself states this is a “beach album,” which is a deceptively acceptable and understandable idea to wrap around the songs.

The album is quick, even by Weezer standards. Each song is over fairly quickly but the band has reworked their songwriting to make shorter tunes have more impact. This is a very clean album with very little filler; there is almost no time wasted as each song flows to the next. The opener, “California Kids,” is both a summer anthem and a reassuring pop song in which Cuomo claims that if one’s drowning, “California kids will throw you a lifeline.” Seeing as the album is partly inspired by Cuomo’s time hanging around California, the song itself kicks off in a very energetic fashion. Almost instantly there are feelings of sun and summer, a no-frills message, which contrasts deeply with Weezer’s earlier work.

There isn’t a lack of darkness on the record, though, with the track “Do You Wanna Get High?” presenting a form of storytelling that has been absent from Weezer’s writing for a long time. It’s quite a sad song backed by the same instrumentation stringing the album together. The song details Cuomo’s experience of being addicted to prescription drugs and relationship problems present earlier in life. Perhaps it’s symbolic leaving this song at the middle of the album, as it comes out of nowhere after a string of songs about girls, sun, and hopefulness. In this way the album continues to be a summation of themes from the band’s earlier years, and in this way, it slowly turns into a memorable, impactful Weezer album.

“L.A. Girlz” and “Jacked Up” lead the album to its end, and in turn, present some of the most enjoyable music on the album. “Jacked Up” is ostensibly a tragic love song, complete with aching falsetto from Cuomo backed by a jangly piano. In terms of pure writing, it’s a successful diversion of the other tracks on “The White Album.” However, the same anthemic sensibility stretches to the third song and first single from the album, “Thanks God For Girls.” It becomes clear, much like the album cover and overarching theme that these songs work best as contrasts: Cuomo praises girls on that third track, while lamenting how dreary love can be on “Jacked Up.” The album is about fun, but it’s also not.

“The White Album” ends on a folk song that builds to a return to a classic Weezer sound with “Endless Bummer.” The song is a play on words and emotions, subverting what we should naturally want to hear as the album closer. The song starts out sad, but ends feeling sonically cheerful, all while Cuomo sings “I just want the summer to end,” adding to the shift in mood. If one thing is clear by the end of the album, it’s that Weezer has found a new groove and a winning route with “The White Album.” The inversion of sounds and mood signify not only a band that has reclaimed its sound, but also a new mood that only Weezer could have created.