OK Human by Weezer, album review by Adam Williams. The full-length is out January 29th via Crush Music/Atlantic Recordings

Crush Music/Atlantic Recordings

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Weezer

OK Human

Weezer’s fourteenth LP was supposed to be a homage to the group’s love of metal bands, with a nod back to their formative years, a big ass riff-fest that’s to go by the name of Van Weezer. However, Covid-19 had other plans, meaning the devil horn inducing shred-a-rama has been pushed back to May 2021, and an entirely different LP has materialised ahead of it.

Having found himself in self-isolation with his family throughout 2020 (much like the rest of the world, and unless you’re living in New Zealand, 2021 so far looks to be 2020 v2.0), frontman Rivers Cuomo busied himself at his piano, having taken inspiration from another touchstone of his youth, and the polar opposite to heavy metal, The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’. What began to take shape was the green shoots of what would become ‘OK Human’; a swooning, orchestral pop record that’s elegant, yet intimate and has become a document of Cuomo’s life during Covid times; the anxiety, the isolation, but also a sense of calm.

The album’s moniker is a cheeky nod to Radiohead’s masterpiece ‘OK Computer’ but sounds nothing like the Oxford troop’s record. It might as well have been called ‘No Computer’ because the latest Weezer LP has a 38 piece orchestra on it, there were no click tracks to play to, no electric guitars and, you guessed it, not a PC or Mac in sight. It was a truly organic experience, while reflecting on a time that has involved us using technology more so than ever to communicate and stay in touch, whether with our loved ones or at work. This notion is captured on ‘Play My Piano’ and ‘Screens’, which admittedly are a little trite in their narratives but they’re a true representation of how we’re seeking out connection, entertainment, and distraction through the pandemic. The former has a touch of opera about it, veering close to Queen at their most over the top, as the band’s vocalist muses “my wife is upstairs/my kids are upstairs/I’ve not washed my hair in 3 weeks/I should get back to these Zoom interviews/I just can’t let go when I’m playing my piano”. Clearly Cuomo has found solace in tickling the ol’ ivories during quarantine. The latter is powered by firm, stead fast drums and taut strings, that give the song a staccato bounce. Again, The Weezer-man channels his anxiety towards our tech- focused lives “now the real world is dying/as everybody moves into the cloud/can anyone tell me where we’re going/where we’ll be 21 years from now”.

When not ruminating over online habits, ‘OK Human’ traverses Cuomo’s infamous social awkwardness, self-deprecation but underpinned by a touching humility. Album opener and lead single ‘All My Favourite Songs’ takes on a latter day Beatles-esque stance, as a sea of voices coalesce over a lavish symphony. The band’s mouthpiece states, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me” which suffixes a chorus of “all my favourite songs are slow and sad/all my favourite people make me mad”. ‘Dead Roses’ takes on a darker, more sorrowful direction, as the singer bleakly coos “turn the key and step into the blackness”, in a song that sounds like it could soundtrack the demise of James Bond. Following a similar cinematic bent ‘Grapes of Wrath’ judders and convulses through blunted strings and textured flourishes while Cuomo proclaims, “let me stay here forever in this state of classical denial”. When not enveloped by self-criticism ‘OK Human’ brandishes an exposed, vulnerable underbelly; ‘Mirror Image’ is a bombastic sub two minute love letter to Cuomo’s wife “she’s my mirror image/showing me who I am/until the day that we shatter/I will know where I stand”. Taking a step away from the sometimes mournful, contemplative tones ‘Here Comes The Rain’ gallops with joyful, upbeat
bounce. It’s a song packed with colour and optimism, exemplified by the song’s chorus “here comes the rain/it’s going to wash all my troubles away”.

Through a time of great uncertainty and sadness, Weezer have been able to channel their energy into something entirely different from a band that started off as an alt-rock group in the 90s. It not only documents a significant period for humanity but also shows how positive a creative outlet can be when the world is falling apart around you.