Weezer. A name that inspires debate every time that it is uttered, with responses ranging from nostalgic adoration to vitriolic ridicule. Any respectable alt/indie rock fan on the planet has heard of Weezer and no doubt has strong opinions about the group, be they negative or positive. But regardless of their reputation, anyone familiar with the band's career can agree on is that even at their lowest, Weezer is never boring.
2021 might have been Weezer's most prolific year to date. The band released two albums in the span of six months, one being the baroque pop-influenced “Ok Human” and the other an 80s hard rocker called “Van Weezer." Unsurprisingly, these two albums couldn’t possibly sound more different from one another. This year seems to be off to an equally ambitious start for the group. Frontman Rivers Cuomo has announced that he intends to produce four EPs in 2022, each inspired by one of the seasons. The first of these four, “SZNZ: Spring,” was released March 20. But does the ambition of the project match its quality?
No. No, it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, “SZNZ: Spring” starts off on the wrong foot. The opener, aptly titled “Opening Night,” begins innocuously enough with a warm and flowery guitar line; but then, Cuomo comes in, and... oh lord. With no warning whatsoever, Rivers sings the line “Shakespeare makes me Happy! So happy!” to the melody of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” This melodic appropriation from a popular piece of classical music is a move so corny that not even Bright Eyes got away with it 17 years ago with “Road to Joy” (which takes, of course, from “Ode to Joy”). Now, I am aware that Cuomo has often cited his love for classical music, and that Weezer is known for being tongue in cheek, but this is too much, even for a band that already enjoys “meme” status. Thankfully, the chorus plays to Weezer’s strengths with fuzzy distorted guitars, pounding drums and catchy vocal hooks reminiscent of their first albums.
Throughout most of the record, this is the formula that the band tries to follow. Cuomo's songwriting contrasts Renaissance-inspired verses featuring bright acoustic guitars, flutes and even organs with the classic pop-punk choruses that first made them famous. The problem here is that it is all too formulaic and predictable. By the third song, I felt that I had already listened pretty much to all the ideas the group had to offer in this record, as the song structure of every song follows the tired quiet/loud dynamics of Weezer’s early albums.
Similarly, the classical, spring-inspired aesthetics of the verses and openings often meshed poorly with the rock sections and made some of the songs feel jumbled and all over the place. And even with this (arguably failed) experimentation, many of the instrumental sections feel painfully generic and unimaginative.
But probably the greatest detriment to this EP is Cuomo himself, who tries to replicate the same innocent childish vibe that has characterized his singing since the 90s. Now, of course, he is 51 years old. Because of that, the vocals range from grating to insufferable, a fact only compounded by the fact that his voice is mixed in way too loudly for my ears’ sake.
Cuomo doesn't fare much better in the lyrics department. While I know that making fun of his lyrics is picking at low-hanging fruit, this record is corny even for Weezer’s standards, the Shakespeare line from earlier probably being the best example. Other notable lines include “Love is a drug, let’s medicate” and “Air I am, fire I am, water earth and spirit I am.” (Is spirit an element? I don't think so.)
While in more ways than one, “SZNS: Spring” feels like Weezer embracing their “meme” status, it is also an undeniable step backward for the band, especially considering the success of their last two albums. Thankfully, Weezer has infinitely more terrible releases in their discography (looking at you, “Raditude”), so “SZNS: Spring” hardly stands out as one of their worst.
Label: Atlantic Records
Favorite tracks: "Angels On Vacation," "A Little Bit Of Love"
If you like: Bright Eyes, Sunny Day Real Estate, Green Day, Vivaldi I guess?
Shamrocks: 2 out of 5