Ever since they released their first album in 1994, Weezer has been unique from other bands. They have their own sound and their own voice which fans have grown to love. The moment I heard that Weezer would be sharing a new album with the world, I was excited. Their 14th album, “OK Human,” was released on Jan. 29, 2021 and was recorded partially during the pandemic, so I figured it could provide solace to listeners during this time.
I may be biased because Weezer has been one of my favorite bands since I was seven years old. It is strange, though, because they are so different from all the other bands I listen to, but it is important to remember that something different can certainly be something great.
“OK Human” is different. It is a new sound for Weezer. Of course, every Weezer album is different from the one next to it, but at the same time, they generally have a very specific sound and feel: acoustic and metal-esque guitars, loud drums, heavy kick-ins, “cry for me” lyrics. This album does have most of that, all to different degrees. In fact, reviewing it track-by-track would be impractical; it would make more sense to review it categorically.
If you, too, are a fan of classic Weezer, the first thing you will notice about “OK Human” is the 38-piece orchestra on each track. Yes, this seems strange, and it is strange, but it works. The concept is not very “Weezer,” but it is unique and riveting. The orchestra stood out to me on several tracks and for different reasons, but it was particularly noteworthy in the 12th and final song, “La Brea Tar Pits.” This piqued my interest because it reminded me very much of Electric Light Orchestra’s (ELO) sound. It was accompanied by a strong beat and sounded like something out of the ’70s (which is certainly a compliment, coming from me). The seventh track, “Screens,” is similar in that sense, although instead of sounding like ELO, it sounds like Weezer. The orchestra works with that style fantastically, especially in the second verse when Rivers Cuomo’s signature acoustic guitar gets added to the mix.
One thing that I miss on this album is the heavy kick that Weezer songs tend to have, whether it comes in late in the song or starts right off the bat. Track three, “Grapes of Wrath,” leaves me disappointed in that regard. It starts off as a moderately gentle song, then right before the first chorus there is a little break in the instrumentation, leaving a brief moment of Cuomo’s solo vocals. In most rock songs, Weezer or not, this would signal the chorus to kick in, but “Grapes of Wrath” leaves this out. The next song, “Numbers,” actually does kick in, but it is very slight considering how gentle the song is overall. It would be incredibly unfair, however, to discount these songs for that one reason. “Grapes of Wrath” is a fantastic piece of music with a wonderfully catchy chorus and a dazzlingly gorgeous bridge. Although I will admit that “Numbers” is a tad bland in its verses, Cuomo’s vocals absolutely shine as they bend uniquely in the bridge before the final chorus.
If your favorite thing about Weezer is their emotional lyrics, this album is likely to strike you. I personally do not tend to be drawn to this, but it is certainly not something that can be missed. The first track, “All My Favorite Songs,” has lyrics for a very emotional introvert, expressing a distaste for social gatherings and an adoration of silence. The ninth track, “Dead Roses,” has lyrics that are more abstract, but they are obviously dark and quite fascinating poetically.
Many of the songs have very personal lyrics, which is par for the course for Cuomo, and they tend to add to the “emo” feel. “Playing My Piano,” the fifth track, refers directly to his own wife and children and his quarantine-related obstacles that keep him from entertaining himself with his piano. Track eight, “Bird with a Broken Wing,” is essentially an extended metaphor about birds, referring to vaguely described problems that he has faced and the happiness that they have led him to. Of course my interpretations of the less-than-concrete lyrics are solely my own, but nevertheless, they scarcely leave something to be desired.
Upon my first couple of listens, my favorite track on the album is a tie between the first two: “All My Favorite Songs” and “Aloo Gobi.” What really strikes me about “All My Favorite Songs” is its exquisite vocals. Cuomo is one of my all-time favorite singers, and his bandmates provide superb backing vocals without fail. Their voices and harmonies are immaculate. From that description it seems that the first track would definitely be my favorite song on the album, but “Aloo Gobi” is also a close contender. It has all those same elements that I love, with the addition of a gorgeous final chorus. The vocals overlap each other in a phenomenal harmony that left me deeply emotional upon my first listen. To top it all off, across the entire album these two tracks have the absolute best melodies in their choruses. They both sound like Weezer songs with the added magic of the orchestra. I find them to be a perfect balance between “classic” and “not-so-classic” Weezer.
On that note, I would recommend this album to Weezer-lovers and non-Weezer-lovers alike. It sounds like Weezer, but at the same time, it does not. Either way, “OK Human” is a gorgeous work of art, and I welcome more unique sounds to this beloved band’s future.
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