The legendary alternative rockers turn back the clock on their best album in decades.
The initial plan for Weezer's 2021 was the summer release of Van Weezer, a heavy metal inspired album in the making for the past two years that drew on influences such as Van Halen and KISS. The album would have coincided with the 'Hella Mega' stadium tour that also featured Green Day and Fall Out Boy, and has been marketed aggressively, including a tie in with The Simpsons this past year that saw the band guest star in the animated sitcom's 31st season.
All of this seemed pretty much par for the course with the band that Weezer have become since their 90s heyday - cheeseball rock for the masses delivered with a questionable level of sincerity is the order of the day, the legendary dorks who revolutionized popular guitar music with The Blue Album and Pinkerton now a faint memory, glimpsed through fleeting moments of grace in the band's wildly inconsistent 21st century output.
So it is with tremendous satisfaction that I declare OK Human to be one of the most pleasant surprises I've heard in quite a while, as Weezer turn back the clock and deliver potentially their best work since 2001 on an album that has all the hallmarks of an incidental quarantine gem. Within all of a half hour, the band lay down a signature set of irresistible earworms, pairing their gift for guitar pop melodies with a highly complimentary string section that lends their classic sound a refreshing injection almost three decades into their career.
The result is a blast - it's a true joy to hear Rivers Cuomo and co. back to something approaching their best, and the band's fourteenth album flows with a cohesion and spirit that has been lacking since even before the quartet entered double figures on their discography. Cuomo writes earnestly about home and family throughout, riding the band's glorious wave of indie pop while making some typically witty observations on isolation and lockdown, with the pandemic serving as a backdrop that never overpowers the 50 year old's genuine warmth and lust for life.
Admittedly, there are still some reliably odd Cuomo-isms encountered from a lyrical context on OK Human, as even in its catchiest moments the frontman drops a clanger or two. Second single 'Grapes of Wrath' essentially makes for an Audible advertisement jingle - a faintly bizarre endorsement that brags of Rivers' audiobook listening skills with an elitist edge that's offputting despite its undeniably sticky chorus. 'Screens' feels outdated with its technophobic take in 2021, sensationally shouting from the rooftops about the danger of smartphones (audiobooks aside presumably), though perhaps you can understand Cuomo's perspective to a certain extent as the father of a teenage girl. Also, let's just hope for the sake of his family that Rivers is joking about not washing his hair for three weeks on the otherwise lovely lockdown ballad 'Playing My Piano'.
These are minor quibbles to be fair - Rivers has never been the most tactful lyricist even when Weezer were at their zenith (see creepy incel anthem 'No One Else' on the bands debut for more there), and when their leader's weird takes are still so deliriously catchy they're easier to forgive.
The real highlights on OK Human are songs worthy of Weezer's greatest hits - lead single 'All My Favorite Songs' and late standout 'Here Comes The Rain' will no doubt go down as verifiable classics in the Weezer canon, with each boasting the very distinct, endlessly satisfying kind of hook that the band could effortlessly belt out circa 1994-1996, the kind of hook that every indie rock band worth their salt has been trying to steal ever since.
What a wonderful thing it is to once again hear Weezer deliver a record of this quality, this far into their existence. Next year the band will turn thirty - as always their trajectory is anyone's guess, but if Cuomo & co. can continue the form of OK Human we could be looking at a fairytale rock renaissance the like of whi- oh, Van Weezer is out in May? Okay then.
Let's just count our blessings for now...
8.0 / B+
Best Tracks: 'All My Favorite Songs'/'Numbers'/'Here Comes The Rain'
Like this? Try these:
Teens of Style - Car Seat Headrest
Good News For People Who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement