The success of “Africa” has brought us a Weezer teal album.
It’s hard to talk about Weezer.
As that widely passed-around Saturday Night Live sketch dramatizes, Weezer fandom tends to divide people these days more than it brings them together. For a large portion of the population (i.e., people my age), the band died in the ’90s and was replaced by pod people for all of their 21st Century output.
I try to take Weezer on a case-by-case basis (I liked Everything Will Be Alright in the End, but didn’t even bother with the two albums that followed after hearing the singles). And so, I was vaguely intrigued by the idea of a surprise covers album, inspired by the unexpected juggernaut that was Weezer’s social media-mandated cover of “Africa,” the soft-rock staple from ’80s hitmakers Toto.
Weezer, the band’s fifth (!) self-titled album, is nicknamed “The Teal Album” based on the eye-searing color choice for the album cover. The choice of teal and the cut-rate Miami Vice wardrobe the band wears on the cover makes it clear that this whole thing is supposed to be a lark. Alright, guys, I won’t judge you too harshly.
So how is the Weezer teal album? Fine. Too often the band tries to just copy the original recordings, as they did with “Africa.” As such, listeners’ preferences are bound to vary (I prefer to hear lead singer Rivers Cuomo do karaoke to a-ha’s “Take on Me” and ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” than to hear his vocals disconcertingly replace Annie Lennox on Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”).
The band’s forays into true oldies territory, with covers of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” and The Turtles’ “Happy Together” work a little better, if only because the band feels comfortable enough to put a “stamp” on their versions, rather than just aping the originals. The Black Sabbath cover is a whiff, though.
The album’s best moments will tickle the fancy of those who remember ironically or unironically belting out the lyrics “What’s with these homies dissing my girl?” in their best nasal Rivers voice as a youngster. These are the R&B covers: TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Here the disconnect between Rivers hipster nerd persona and the “urban” vernacular of the lyrics feels silly in an organic, satisfying way. It’s a Dad joke, to be sure, but inevitably one or two Dad jokes are gonna deliver if you make enough of them.
Of course, Weezer has a “real” album waiting in the wings, due out in March. Also self-titled, this will be the “Black Album.” Time will tell if it will be linger longer in the public’s memory than this goofy publicity stunt.
Weezer (The Teal Album) is now available from all download and streaming services.
And speaking of cover songs…
Please allow me to plug for a moment.
Today also sees a new release from me, Justin Remer, under my Duck the Piano Wire performing moniker. It’s a cover of Courtney Barnett’s “Nameless, Faceless” from her album Tell Me How You Really Feel, which was one of my favorites from last year.
The original “Nameless, Faceless” is an open letter to a misogynistic internet troll that is alternately wry and angry. My version keeps most of the lyrics intact, but has the troll saying these things about himself. Is the troll penitent or petulant? I tried to make it a little ambiguous.
I changed the style of music too. It’s a bit more ‘90s Big Beat electro pop, with a heaping side order of mid-career Devo. (But lo-fi.) I wanted to make something thoughtful, but mostly I wanted to make something that’s pretty darn fun.
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Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.