A few weeks ago I achieved an adolescent dream: I saw Weezer live. It has been 12 years since my parents decided, in their infinite squareness, that I couldn’t get into a car with a bunch of kids they hadn’t met and drive to Lincoln, NE no matter how I presented the facts. Johnny Cochran couldn’t have gotten me to that show.

To my delight this year at Riot Fest Weezer decided to cash in on the growing trend of your formerly favorite band abandoning hope that you’ll like their new stuff and just give you the damn record that made you a fan in the first place by playing the Blue Album in it’s entirety. And then they didn’t. Weezer opened their set with their newest song, “Back to the Shack.” Afterward Rivers Cuomo greeted the crowd and said we were all hopping into the time machine, “All the way back to 1994… Wait, no. 2008.” Then they went into “Pork and Beans.” This left a number of the audience members, who were chomping at the bit to fulfill a teen fantasy, restless. By the third song that wasn’t off the Blue Album a number of guys yelled, “This is bullshit!” To Weezer’s credit, the song selection included some of the more promising singles off of bad albums, until they played “Beverly Hills.” “Is this some cruel prank?” I thought to myself. “Are they going to work their way back through their catalogue then give us ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and call it a night?” Thankfully, after they finished “El Scorcho” Rivers announced they were going to take a set break and come back in a few to hop into the time machine once again. When they returned a few minutes later the backdrop had changed from the EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END’s album artwork to all blue with “WEEZER” written in the top right corner. It was not a ruse. Finally, everything was actually going to be alright. The next 45 minutes was magic and made the guy’s yelling bullshit forget all about hearing Death to False Metal. It felt like a reunion show and in a lot of ways it was.

Over the past decade-plus, Rivers Cuomo seemed to be making vanity records. He wanted to shred: Maladroit. He wanted to make a pop hit: Raditude. He got super into Lost: Hurley. That night it was like Rivers got the band back together, because for the first time in years they sounded like the band all the guy’s that looked like Buddy Holly loved.

Return to form. Getting back to their roots. Whatever cliché you want to use, recapturing those days 20 years ago is a major theme in EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END, and pretty much everything Weezer has done this year. After recently going full Thelma & Louise with producer Rick Rubin, Rivers brought Ric Ocasek back in to man the knobs hoping that they could recreate the magic of the Blue Album.

The record starts off on a promising note with “Ain’t Got Nobody,” a fuzzy hand-clapper with riffs that fall somewhere between Queen and KISS, which is followed by “Back to the Shack.” The first single off the album, “Back to the Shack” includes the lyric, “Rockin’ out like it’s ‘94.” Unfortunately, this song is closer to “Beverly Hills” than anything they rocked in ‘94. Right as it seems like the record is about to go off the rails, “Lonely Girl” pulls you back in. The song is a cross between “No One Else” and “Knock Down Drag Out” that shows Rivers can still make a really solid power pop song. Whatever goodwill this song builds is immediately squandered by “I’ve Had it Up to Here,” which sounds like it was rejected from a terrible rom-com soundtrack. “Da Vinci” is a sort of low-key “Pork and Beans” and it’s fine, but by this point it feels like we are getting Weezer methadone. “Go Away” and “Foolish Father” both sound like they would fit in nicely on the Green Album, and I’m one of the few people who doesn’t mean that as an insult. Sandwiched in between those two songs is “Cleopatra,” a song and subject that would have been cringe worthy on previous albums, is groan worthy on this redemption record. EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END concludes with three songs that bleed into each other, creating a mini rock opera to close things out.

By the end, the ups and downs of this record left me feeling disoriented. Like most recent Weezer albums, EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END is all over the place. At times the Weezer of old comes through and gives us a nice guitar driven pop-rock song that will stay stuck in your head. The lows, however, are especially low considering this was supposed to be more in the vein of their early stuff. It’s like Weezer hit middle age and dug around in the basement to find their favorite old t-shirt and when it didn’t fit like it used to they cut it up and turned it into a quilt. Sure, it’s sort of the same and reminds you of the old days, but only lame people will think it’s actually cool. That is the unfortunately reality of aging, going back to the shack will never be the same as being in the garage.

If you can’t get enough Weezer, check out our episode, Weezer w/ Adam Cayton-Holland

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