Weezer – “Everything Will Be Alright in the End”

Grade: B

Key Tracks: “Ain’t Got Nobody” “Foolish Father”

Baby steps, people. Baby steps. It’s been a longtime since we’ve seen a Weezer we can trust, but we’re getting closer.

It’s no secret that Weezer fans, and fans of basic alternative radio, have suffered over the past decade. Since the excruciating “Make Believe” in 2005, Weezer has released a string of five largely terible albums. And most of them roped us in with great singles – 2005’s “Perfect Situation,” 2008’s “Pork and Beans,” 2009’s “If You’re Wondering If I Want You, I Want You To,” 2010’s “Memories.” But after a four year break (no, not some more undergrad studies), Weezer are back with an album that comes closer to revisiting their roots than they’ve seen in 12 years.

You may have heard leadoff single “Back to the Shack.” It’s honestly a pretty terrible song. Something about the weird hip-hop influence over the fuzz guitar doesn’t work, like something is just off. But the sentiment is there – an apology to fans and bandmates, from Rivers Cuomo, for years of music that didn’t sound like “My Name is Jonas” or “El Scorcho.” Indeed, Weezer go back to the basics on this album. It’s the closest thing to 90’s fuzz-rock we’ve gotten since 2002’s underappreciated “Maladroit.” And while it’s inconsistent and largely less than exciting, it’s still a nice refresh on a legacy that had become more asterisks than not.

The album deals with relationships – Cuomo’s relationships with others, women, and his father. They might be tried topics, but not for a band that’s trying to reclaim a lost sound. The last of those – Cuomo’s relationship with his father – comes through the strongest. The album’s last four tracks deal with it. “Foolish Father” is direct, but the last three songs – a trilogy – are not. “I. The Waste Land,” “II. Anonymous,” and “III. Return to Ithaka” close out the album on a big note, a booming finale of tracks that’s reminiscent of bands bigger than Weezer. Parts I and III are instrumental, but it doesn’t matter, because they hit a sound they’ve never really hit before.

Weezer also smartly give a nod to bands they’ve influenced. Bethany Cosentino, of Best Coast fame, sings on “Go Away.” And Patrick Stickles, frontman for (the best current American band) Titus Andronicus, contributes guitar on “Foolish Father.”

The 90’s garage-nerd fuzz comes back, finally, though it isn’t as strong as it used to be. This album is about on par with the Green Album – the kind of Weezer we like to hear, even if it isn’t their best work. Most of the songs aren’t that memorable, but it still makes for a good listen. Cars frontman and early Weezer producer Ric Ocasek seems to have roped the band back in, too, with his production sounding similar to the band in their heyday. It seems like we can finally say, “gone are the days of mediocre, scattershot Weezer.” “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” doesn’t have the standout songs that “Ratitude” or “the Red Album” have, but it instead offers more than just two good songs. Nearly every track on “Everything” is 90’s era garage-rock, and the only ones that aren’t are the mid-album slow jams. “Everything” isn’t going to go down among “the Blue Album” and “Pinkerton,” but it’s a serious step in the right direction, and it’s the album that we, or at least I, never thought I would hear Weezer put out anymore.

-By Andrew McNally

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Some Quick Reviews – “Other Albums”

Sometimes, I’ll listen to a new release and definitely feel ways about it, but I just can’t quite put them into words. So here’s some quick blast reviews because there’s been a number lately that have been worthy of praise but that I haven’t been able to come up with reviews of:

Swearin’ – “Surfing Strange” – B+:  It’s tough to call this album ‘punk,’ even in an era where the definition of the word differs person to person. It’s pretty, often soft and incredibly different from song to song. What it is, really, is great songwriting. The Crutchfield sisters (Allison, in this band, and Katie, the sole member of Waxahatachee) have yet to put out a remotely subpar album between them. Swearin’ is one of the best bands around today, so take note.

Haim – “Days Are Gone” – B+: As a whole, the album seems really repetitive. Every song sounds pretty similar. But when you listen to it track-by-track, you’ll realize that each song has a lot of time and effort on it, and that this trio of sisters are very talented songwriters and musicians. It almost sounds like music your parents like – and it probably is. But it’s catchy and original, give them your time.

The Naked and Famous – “In Rolling Waves” – B-:  “In Rolling Waves” isn’t a unique album, and it doesn’t try to be. It’s just a collection of largely good, dance songs. The album isn’t very memorable, but it’s easy to enjoy. “Hearts Like Ours” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

CHVRCHES – “The Bones Of What You Believe” – A-:  Much in the vain of the Naked and Famous, every song on this album is synth-driven and it all kind of sounds the same, but it’s an incredibly energetic album for something so catchy. Very great debut.

Tancred – “Tancred” – B-:  “Tancred” is a pretty great blending of emo, punk and folk influences. Everything sounds great on the album – it’s just all over a little too soon.

Best Coast – “Fade Away” – B: Being someone that’s not a big fan of the band, and given that it’s an EP, I couldn’t accurately say why I really enjoyed this release. But it’s just an entertaining listen, a good step for the band. Their songwriting has improved consistently, and they’re feeling comfortable as a weird, garage-rock/dream-pop mix.

Parquet Courts – “Tally All the Things That You Broke” – B+: This follow-up EP to their debut (which also came out this year – one of the best albums of the year) slows things down a bit and gets more detective. Even though it’s unexpected, it all works. Parquet Courts, a throwback garage band out of NYC, are a band I consider to be one of the best in American music today. This EP only bolsters that.

Chumped – “Chumped” – A-: It’s tough to stand out in pop-punk, but Chumped’s energetic and smart music make for a release much better than most of the schlock in the genre. It’s another great debut in an already pretty full year. Also, they’re great people. That always helps.

AFI – “Burials” – B-: I started writing a review for “Burials” the day it came out. It’s a few weeks later, sorry guys. What I had said so far was that AFI, for the first time in their career, sound like they have no barriers to conquer. So they’ve combined their 90’s hardcore punk with their ’00’s emo into what’s a largely entertaining album. It’s arena-rock ambitions are on an awful level similar to Muse and the Killers, but the band doesn’t always go there. When they’re just being themselves, it feels comfortable and zeitgeist-less, and it feels right. They stray away from that comfort zone too frequently, but it’s got all the gloom you expect from an AFI album, with a renewed energy.

Surfer Blood – “Pythons”

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

Grade: B-

Key Tracks: “I Was Wrong,” “Slow Six”

Surfer Blood’s John Paul Pitts sure is sorry. The band’s second full-length, “Pythons” acts as one long apology. The line ‘apology, meet apology’ shows up on a track that is not “I Was Wrong.” The whole album is pretty much apologies or Pitts singing about putting himself in uncomfortable situations because he feels like he deserves it. Why? Domestic abuse charges from August 2012. So Pitts has every right to be apologizing in his music.

The music of the album presents a challenge, because Surfer Blood’s sound has not really ever been one to match up with the uncomfortable lyrics presented on “Pythons.” Many tracks just follow basic, poppy melodies with sometime group choruses. Occasionally, Pitts will fall into screams in the chorus, possibly trying to emphasize the internal pain he’s feeling. But they usually do not fit within the context of the song. The only song that really grabs is “Slow Six,” the penultimate track, one heavier than anything presented before it. The other songs all feel too easy, and although they are catchy, they do not work alongside the apologetic lyrics.

Taken for what it is without any knowledge of the album’s inspiration, “Pythons” is an enjoyable and catchy record. It isn’t great but it’s worth a listen for fans of general pop-punk and surf rock. The B- is a response to this listening. The album takes on a new reflection when the listener knows why Pitts is so apologetic. Pitts might really be feeling the internal pain he sings and screams about, but with poppy and largely uninspired music, there’s no way to believe it. Which, ultimately, gives us no reason to care. I try my hardest to separate albums from the personalities that make them, but when an album like “Pythons” is so reflective of it’s maker, and an unconvincing one, I can’t help but to discredit it.

If you like this, try: “Crazy For You,” Best Coast’s debut. Not a fan of the band, personally, but they’re a similar sound.

-By Andrew McNally