The band trades their classic rock guitars for a 38-piece orchestra on their 14th album
It is clear from the first notes of Weezer’s fourteenth album, OK Human (a nod to Radiohead’s 1997 classic OK Computer), that it is not typical Weezer fare. This obvious difference is due to the fact that the record includes a 38-piece orchestra and was recorded entirely with analogue equipment. The album was produced by Jake Sinclair (most known for his work with Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, New Politics and 5 Second of Summer), who also produced their 2016 self-titled album, and the orchestra arrangements were done by Rob Mathes (also most known for his work with Panic! at the Disco), hinting at Weezer’s aim toward creating an agreeable synthesis of orchestral pop rock.
Much of what we have come to expect from Weezer still remains in hummable melodies and ironic lyrics. This time, the lyrics feature pop culture references, like “slime or BLACKPINK” in “Screens.” And the lyrics describe quarantine living, with the perfectly catchy “Grapes of Wrath” detailing Rivers Cuomo rocking to his “Audible headphones Grapes of Wrath” along with other books and “Playing my Piano” dramatically detailing Cuomo not washing his hair and avoiding Zoom interviews.
While the orchestra arrangements are attention-grabbing in their own right, they often fall short of enhancing or complementing the songs, as the band often relies on them to provide the emotional depth that their lyrics do not. On “Dead Roses,” a track where the orchestra particularly shines, the song is brought down by overwrought lyrics that describe “dead roses at the bottom of an oubliette” and “a winged beast with horns upon his cranium.”
The pre-released single from the album, “All My Favorite Songs,” contains a memorable refrain, as long as you can overlook the fact that Cuomo rhymes “sad” with “mad” and then “bad” in the first three lines. “Bird with a Broken Wing” features an almost hypnotic chorus that is shattered by the delivery of the lyric, “the stupid cat, always sneakin’ up on me” in the opening of the second verse. The lyrics may lack subtlety, but they are nonetheless personal accounts of life in 2020 that are constructed into consumable melodies. OK Human is certainly an easy listen, with lyrics that capture our cultural moment and melodies you can sway to if you don’t listen too hard, but the added layer of the orchestra – though a new and interesting addition for Weezer – does not do enough to create a deep or innovative listening experience. It’s the same Weezer that we have come to know over the past 27 years, but caught within the anxiety of a global pandemic and with an orchestra instead of electric guitars.
Sydney Joyce is a fourth year Writing for Film, TV and Emerging Media major whose name isn’t Jonas. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art by Art Editor Adam Dee.