"...'Pacific Daydream' is a formidable power-pop effort by one of alternative rock's biggest mainstays."
California's nerdiest rockers Weezer have been on a burning streak in recent memory. After a 4-year wait since 2010's 'Hurley', we've had 3 albums in 4 years, quite remarkable as last year's 'White Album' pushed their discography into double figures. And now the 11th installment to their 25+ year career, 'Pacific Daydream', has landed and, let's be honest, this is farrrrrr from the nostalgia-pumped 'White'. Is that a bad move? Well...
Album-opener 'Mexican Fender' was already my favourite single of the FIVE released, and it doesn't fail to lay the foundations. With one of the best bridges frontman Rivers Cuomo has written during the whole of Weezer's post-2000s discography and a punchy connection between the bass and drums, it's a knowing nod to its predecessor before trawling into a pop wilderness. The band rarely use guitars this much on the record, with notable additions of synths, keys and flashy production to rectify the absence of their signature crunch. But where guitars are used on the album, they're not out of place and work to the pop production. Lead single 'Feels Like Summer' isn't at all jarring in the album's environment as opposed to when it dropped earlier this year, much to the surprise of everyone expecting a gritty preview of the darker upcoming 'Black Album'. It thrives here, exhibiting Cuomo's pop chops at full force and proving Weezer could be a force to be reckoned with in the alternative pop scene.
Tracks such as 'Weekend Woman' and 'QB Blitz' are packed to the brim with impressive and catchy melodies and are the standout tracks on the album. The former's chorus is an instant throwback to the glory days of 80s pop groups like Wham and Duran Duran, going the right way about crafting their own pop sound. There are a few notable strands of influence from guitarist Brian Bell's side-project The Relationship with the use of Southern-sounding acoustic guitars used majorly throughout the b-side of 'Pacific Daydream', especially on the 80s acoustic pop-esque 'Sweet Mary'.
However, one also can't help but notice the strong scent of modern pop tropes and cliches rife on tracks on the album such as 'Beach Boys', 'Get Right' and 'La Mancha Screwjob'. A theory is that Weezer's US summer tour with alternative pop giants Panic! At the Disco triggered a massive pop-fuelled songwriting spree that overshadowed other projects the 4-piece had in production. These are the weaker tracks on the album and leave a taste of filler in the mouth, especially album closer 'Any Friend of Diane's'. This is the cream of the crop for album fillers by the band, with the only real notable effort put into an already half-hearted acoustic guitar solo. It sounds like Cuomo tried to emulate the stadium-filling capabilities of PATD's Brendon Urie in this slog of a track but it soon sours into over-produced drivel that doesn't do Cuomo's writing justice.
Another quarrel with this record is that the five tracks released before the 27th October album launch created a lot of prejudice and soured expectations, and this is an absolute shame as the tracks that were released work much better in the album environment. 'Beach Boys' and 'Happy Hour' were borderline repulsive as standalone tracks but are actually good when put into the album's flow. Bassist Scott Shriner and drummer Pat Wilson both shine on these tracks, with the basslines being some of Shriner's best work since he joined Weezer for 2002's 'Maladroit'. His funk and rhythm are solid yet fluid, and he works with Wilson as well as matches to a flame. Wilson's work on tracks like 'Mexican Fender' and 'Happy Hour' is slick and tight and never loses rhythm. Cuomo's lyrics are, for once, mostly comprehensible and carry narrative and gusto with them, for the most part, although at times it can feel slightly phoned in.
Overall, Weezer have surprised many with their second trip into the pop world (their 2009 effort 'Raditude' was an upsetting disaster and much more distasteful to the general public) and their experiments with modern pop can be met with both applause and confusion after the immaculate one-two nostalgia of 2014's 'Everything Will Be Alright in the End' and 2016's Grammy-nominated 'White'. The over-production on the album is disappointing and the balance of guitars and pop instrumentals could be heavily adjusted, but 'Pacific Daydream' is a formidable power-pop effort by one of alternative rock's biggest mainstays.