These days, being a Weezer fan is a tough gig. While many are loyal to the bands early works, specifically the self-titled ‘Blue Album’ (1994) and it’s edgier sequel, Pinkerton (1996). It would be easier to say goodbye to this golden era of Weezer were the band not to give hopes of rekindling that flame every few years, especially with recent releases Everything Will Be Alright in the End (2014) and ‘The White Album’ (2016), both of which had Weezer in top form, albeit a form that was defined twenty years before. With the release of their thirteenth album, another self-titled record dubbed ‘The Black Album’, due early March, it was a surprise when Weezer suddenly dropped this project, ‘The Teal Album’ with zero warning on January 23 rd . The lack of fanfare was generally met with a lack of interest when it was revealed The Teal Album is made up of ten covers. So while many were vying for Weezer to become a cover band of their old selves, they became a cover band of karaoke hits of the 80s. Teal’s tracklist is unpredictable for just for how unimaginative it is.
Tracks like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” or Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” are universally recognized and so are immediately accessible, but while one cover like this is a quaint treat at a concert, ramming ten into an album feels cheap. Many of the tracks here a good covers yet overly faithful to the originals, and often in the wrong ways. Listening to the iconic loop of “Billie Jean” reduced to MIDI-sounding strings, all while singer Rivers Cuomo awkwardly mimics Michael Jackson’s soulful squeals is just discomforting. Seriously, not an “Ooh!” or a “hee hee!” is missed. That’s not to say a few songs don’t fit in well with the Weezer sound, and a few are quite fun with the heavy distortion-guitar choruses, such as Tear for Fears’
“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” (which has great guitar work from Rivers Cuomo) or, more surprisingly, The Turtles’ “Happy Together”. Cuomo’s performances are great on most tracks, and feel so painfully earnest—perhaps unawares of the meme status of Toto’s “Africa” that launched their cover of it into fame last August. And the inclusion of a-ha’s “Take On Me” (another meme favorite) might seem like a knowing wink on paper, but none of the album feels self-aware in any way. Again, it’s very earnest, which can be charming at times, (I hate to say) cringe-inducing at others, especially in the second half of the album.
The Teal Album is an amusing surprise for Weezer to drop, but it also feels like a misuse of their charm packaged into a cash-grab. The covers never stray from their iconic originals at all, much less enough to warrant the cover’s existence, and the only changes are in tinny or downright annoying transposing/altering of well-known instrumentals, making the album feel immediately enjoyable and just-as-immediately disposable. Still, tracks like “Africa”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, and “Happy Together” are fun when rendered in the Weezer formula and even benefit in a few ways.
review by Matthew Wardell