April 1, 2016. Weezer emerges from the beaches of Los Angeles to release their tenth studio album referred to as The White Album. 34 minutes and 5 seconds. 10 tracks total. Short and to the point. The White Album is predictably satisfying.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Weezer’s self-titled albums include 10 songs each. I wouldn’t call myself the a biggest Weezer fan, though I do enjoy their colorized albums the best. The Blue Album gave the world “My Name is Jonas,” “Buddy Holly,” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The Green Album showed the world their “Hash Pipe,” “Photograph,” and “Island in the Sun.” The Red Album connected with the world with “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” “Pork and Beans,” and “Heart Songs.”
Weezer is not known for recording long records. Their 10 albums averages roughly 37 minutes of music. Normally, I would be appalled by the limited amount of time on one album. However, I find Weezer’s approach refreshing. If an artist can make a solid album by minimizing the time, then I’m all in. With the constant music releases, shorter albums keep me interested for longer.
The White Album Effect
Cohesively, each self-titled album flows well and continues to top the charts. I like to call Weezer’s new album invigorating. This album is talking to their former selves that I grew to love and release material that resembles their past. I had no idea this album was dropping. Yet, happenstance is an intriguing stimulant.
My brain, most likely the dopamine, told me to randomly search for Weezer on YouTube. When I discovered their new singles and videos, my eyes, ears, and mind agreed that this was something special. This White Album Effect is infectious and proves how one band can emerge with a classic intent to their own music.
My first taste of Weezer’s latest album was “California Kids.” It was sometime in March of 2016 where I asked myself, “I wonder what Weezer was up to?” I’ve not heard any of their music since The Red Album that released in 2008. To my surprise, Weezer released newish music videos dating back to late 2015. I clicked on the thumbnail of Rivers Cuomo gorging himself with cannolis. Shockingly, I asked myself, “Did I just strike gold?” This started my fascination of Weezer’s white album.
“California Kids” is the first song on The White Album and third single after the album’s release. What made the music video stand out was its cinematography and my confusion. There are flashbacks to events that referenced past music videos. At the time, I was clueless about what was going on in each video. Once I discovered their backlog of new music videos, everything made sense.
Musically speaking, “California Kids” may be my favorite song off The White Album. It brings a modern tone to surf music; a throwback to the 1960s Beach Boys harmonies. The theme of the song inspires youth, craze, and remembering where you came from. I enjoy the subtle references to California life and how accepting it can be out there. Most impressive was the pre chorus that builds with a big musical hit. When the light-hearted harmonies sing in the background, it creates a push for the chorus without overbearing the lyrics. The guitar work is flawless during the chorus where the first two downbeats are boisterous while the last two downbeats in the measure are quiet, making the lyrics pop.
One last thing worth mentioning is how the chorus flows seamlessly. Weezer interchanges lyric ‘sunshine’ with ‘starlight.” This subtle change creates the mood in California. I interrupt it as, no matter day or night, California remains beautiful and makes me believe in the small paradise these “California Kids” speaks of.
After “California Kids,” I decided to dive deeper into these new music videos I’d never heard of. That’s when I found Weezer’s “L.A. Girlz.” Looking back, I wish I watched this video first since it gave me a better understanding of the scenes in “California Kids.” “L.A. Girlz” depicts a beautiful day at the beach in young Rivers Cuomo shoes. After dancing, taking selfies, and snapchatting, a bodybuilding woman shows up at the beach looking for him. The two attempt the Charleston, pose together, and share a meaningful connection at the beach. Once she leaves, Rivers falls over in exhaustion.
“L.A. Girlz” reminds me of a modern surf waltz. I can imagine this song being played at high school dances, and where adolescent youths are confused with the same/opposite sex. The lyrics themselves are probably a little mature for those kids, but who analyzes lyrics?
The bridge is my favorite part of “L.A. Girlz.” It creates these building blocks for an anthem, similar to many of Queen’s songs. The guitar solo starts simplistic and ends with a more technical sound. While some bands create solos with too much going on, Weezer found a particular balance that is far more creative that older surf music. It’s worth mentioning that this anthem to all of the “L.A. Girlz” is a plea for love, as said during the bridge: “Does anybody love anybody as much as I love you, baby?”
King of the World
Finally, “King of the World.” The last song I listened to from The White Album before its worldwide release. This song embodies predictability while strengthening my love for the album. The “King of the World” music video is spliced in “California Kids.” A self-proclaimed king is running rampant in black and white. The most amusing part from the video is the coy smile, then the sipping of god-knows-what from a chalice. After all the havoc ensues, the police were able to catch the king.
Musically speaking, this song is what I expect from Weezer. It had the guitar licks I always liked, the harmonies that resonated throughout the entire album, and simplistic drums that create a conversation with the bass guitar. Also, the backing guitar during the chorus complements Rivers lyrics. What blew my mind was the subtle time signature changes that occur. The drums may sound off kilter, but everything was intentional to throw more theory in this piece.
One thing I stress is how predictable this album is and this song proves it. “King of the World” is what I expect, and the chorus reflects it heavily. When Rivers breaks into the harmonies and ‘ooh ahh’, it is here where I knew the last long note would be a slight key change. For two beats, the step down in the vocals and instrumentation throws more music theory out the window. It seems to me that many bands do not approach music with key and time signature changes. When Weezer accomplishes this in “King of the World,” I knew it would happen based on previous releases.
It is hard for me to put into words, but I had an inkling that Weezer would create that key change. The bigger surprise was the subtle time signature changes, which made the song refreshing and new compared to modern day music. I don’t mind how predictable the song is, it only shows how my musical tastes line up with Weezer’s. This song brings me joy and is, cliche intended, music to my ears.
As I said before, I prefer Weezer’s self-titled color albums. I believe synesthesia may play a factor in this. Synesthesia is a neurological condition that can activate a sense and trigger another, unrelated sense. Let me give a couple examples relating to Weezer:
During 2001, the music video scene was quite large on MTV. I remember flipping to MTV multiple times and seeing Weezer’s “Hash Pipe.” It is an unforgettable piece of art that includes cuts of the band performing and sumo wrestlers. Its straightforwardness and combination of Rivers high-pitch vocals trigger senses that is reflected by its name.
When I hear ‘hash’ or ‘pipe,’ I can visualize the music video in my head. I get a sensation in my ears when remembering how Rivers vocals carry the song forward, and harmonies create a calmness over me.
Pork and Beans
By 2008, I stopped watching music videos as much as I used to. It’s odd how I listened to The Red Album in its entirety before seeing the spectacular YouTube-focused music video for “Pork and Beans.” At first, the only senses that evoked this song were when ‘pork and beans’ were said in succession with one another. However, after observing the music video, everything changed.
The multitude of YouTube celebrities shown now trigger memories from the first time observing those videos. I remember seeing Numa Numa for the first time thinking how stupid it was, but later accepting its greatness. Memories are triggered when I see Chocolate Rain performed thanks to Tay Zonday’s small cameo in “Pork and Beans.” All these viral videos trigger sensations of happiness, laughter, stupidity, or a sense of awe I felt when viewing them for the first time.
A more specific form of synesthesia is grapheme-color synesthesia. This is when the mind automatically connects colors to particular numbers, letters, and words. I believe this is what I experience when listening to Weezer. I associate their songs with their album colors. Instead of thinking about the particular number or letters, I incorporate the songs back to their color.
The genius of Weezer keeps me coming back for more. I will always give a new Weezer album a chance, though I will most likely enjoy their self-titled color albums the most. When The Red Album released, I was in college. I remember listening to “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” “Pork and Beans,” and “Troublemaker” on my old Dell laptop and iPod touch. I will forever relate Weezer to video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero where they featured songs from The Blue Album. Now, with The White Album, I’ll remember all this research, how it feels like a resurgence of surf rock and the rebirth of Weezer.
I’m looking forward to what Weezer will do next. I believe their music will expand into something new, and break the predictableness I had with The White Album. I’d like to close this with a quote from Rivers Cuomo about the innovations in his song writing from an iHeartRadio interview:
We tried a new thing this time out where we get these beats from totally random people, and I don’t even know who a lot of them are. It would just be some unusual rhythm, or chord progression or sound, and I’d use that as a starting point so that I’m in a very unfamiliar world. And it would pull some different things out of me, as a writer.