“I am the greatest man that ever lived/I was born to give.” These were the words of Rivers Cuomo, sung over his favorite “Simple Gifts” melody, from Weezer’s The Red Album. And while Cuomo always had a faux-jocularity to his sentiment, he never strayed too far from himself, making one think he was the man in question. Sure, in his eyes, “greatest man that ever lived” probably serves as more of a burden than marked distinction, but there’s no doubt Cuomo was meant to give.
And give he did. Weezer’s first two albums serve as pillars of genre-defining perfection. The Blue Album gave us all the awkward garage-rock glory of the guys with 12-sided die who never got the girl. Pinkerton launched an emo wave that comes when these garage-dwellers finally do get the girl, but are met with love’s never-ending frustration and disappointment. Personally, I played these albums (or my burned CD-RW copies to be exact) ad infinitum on car trips and lonely school nights. I may have been late to the party (this was circa early-00s), but I was enraptured.
Which is what made what came next so disappointing. The Green Album was the first Weezer album I experienced in real time and all I can remember is how empty I felt after listening. Maladroit served up more emptiness, only with distortion this time. By the time Make Believe rolled around I had to wonder how it was possible this band that had helped spawn my love of contemporary music could have turned into this. My relationship with Weezer was being permanently affected.
But there was always hope, which is why I stuck with them. And some of this hope comes through on Everything Will Be Alright In The End, Weezer’s latest album. Perfection it isn’t, but it does work as a sort of atonement. Many of the tracks sound like upgraded versions of the duds from past albums. “Ain’t Got Nobody” mixes Pinkerton sentiment with the heavy distortion-tinged guitars of Maladroit. “Back To The Shack” may be fan servicing of epic proportions, but it’s an enjoyable Red Album-style romp. “Lonely Girl” and “Go Away” demonstrate the Cuomo can still write clearly and cleanly about love just like “No One Else” or “No Other One.”
Many of the reviews of Everything have focused on honesty. The AV Club has called this album a return to sincerity for Weezer. Pitchfork claims that of all the things Cuomo can be called, dishonest is not among them. Even Grantland’s Steven Hyden was honest enough to say he thinks Make Believe is underrated (WAIT, WHAT?!). Indeed, Rivers Cuomo has been giving us the honest version of himself, with varying degrees of success, for twenty years now. The latest iteration, Everything, is an improvement on many of the post-Pinkerton albums even if it doesn’t match the heights of Weezer’s past. So, yes, Cuomo may be sincere in telling us everything will be alright in the end. But maybe it will be just alright.