If you’ve never seen the 2007 Jason Lee-starring children’s film Alvin and the Chipmunks, I implore you to watch it before listening to the latest Weezer record, The Black Album. Of course, it was only a matter of time before Weezer entered this Spinal Tap realm that was mostly occupied by Metallica and Jay-Z, but it was developed with loathing diehard fans. While Weezer is a cultural touchstone, and their Teal Album was the subject of ire from many critics, The Black Album is like Alvin and the Chipmunks in that it’s really enjoyable in a mind-numbing way.
If you haven’t watched Alvin and the Chipmunks, please take the 90 minutes to watch it. It’s not good. In fact, it’s pretty bad, but it’s the most inoffensive reboot of a nostalgic cartoon I can think of. It’s just sort of pleasant, and not something that makes your blood boil. That’s what listening to The Black Album is like. It’s not good enough to hold a candle to Pinkerton, but it also doesn’t make me want to go on an angry Twitter rant about how Weezer will never be good again.
The worst part about The Black Album is that most of the songs are just boring. “High as a Kite” reaches to the sky, but there’s nothing really memorable about it. “Zombie Bastards” is silly and sounds like Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song,” but I don’t want to hear Rivers Cuomo sing, “Music saved my life.” The more interesting moments on the record are held back, like the Laura Jane Grace co-written, “Byzantine.” The lyrics Grace wrote are somewhat interesting, but Cuomo’s faux-60’s pop instrumental and delivery are tedious.
The most compelling moments are also some of the most cringe-worthy. While Cuomo’s interpolation of hip hop is nothing new, the funky opener “Can’t Knock the Hustle” is drenched in unearned confidence. It’s something of a metacommentary when he sings, “Leave a five star review, and I’ll leave you one too” on the chorus, but it sounds more like the desperate confidence of someone who needs the validation rather than a cheeky request. The best song on the album though is the post-punk parodic-diss song, “I’m Just Being Honest.” While it’s mostly an excuse to hear Cuomo just casually drop insults to an unknown recipient, it’s entirely worth it to hear him sing, “Your band sounds like shit.” It’s like the one good in-joke that a kids movie will throw to parents.
In good faith, I can’t tell anyone to listen to The Black Album. Weezer hasn’t released an essential release since the early 2000’s. Even the good, recent Weezer albums aren’t really worth listening to, but if you love Weezer or music or art that doesn’t make you want to go on angry tweet storm, then The Black Album is pretty okay. It’s just as good as a kids movie made for parents to keep a child occupied for 90 minutes.