You never really know what you’re going to get when you press play on a new Weezer album.
The band’s initial plan for 2021 was to release an album full of guitar anthems (aptly titled “Van Weezer”) that called to mind the golden age of solos and big choruses prevalent in the radio rock of the 1980s. They were planning on going on tour with Green Day and Fall Out Boy, but COVID-19 more or less put a damper on that plan. Instead, the beloved power-pop band decided to release a long-gestating project entitled “OK Human” (no, it has absolutely nothing to do with “OK Computer,” not even stylistically), which is made up completely of orchestral pop songs that harken back to the 1970s. Now, the only real question is whether this is another pleasant surprise a la the White Album or, God forbid, a flabbergasting disaster like “Raditude.” Thankfully, it is nearly on par with the White Album, chock-full of ridiculously catchy hooks and some of Rivers Coumo’s most sincere, heartfelt lyrics in decades.
“OK Human” sees Coumo struggling with social isolation and a yearning for human connection. He laments the monotony of his life on “Aloo Gobi” and the problem of comparing oneself to others, mostly through social media, on “Numbers.” The latter is an unlikely gorgeous ballad that is truly one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever written.
“Beautiful” isn’t typically an adjective one would use to describe Weezer, but this whole album is exactly that. Coumo earnestly bares his soul on multiple tracks in ways that recall some of the band’s most classic tracks. “Grapes of Wrath” is a spiritual sequel to “In the Garage,” but instead of D&D and X-Men comics, Coumo gets lost in classic works of literature via Audible. On “Screens,” Coumo warns of a post-apocalyptic world in which everyone is too overly-attached to their phones, dramatically proclaiming in the absolutely killer chorus that “the real world is dying as everybody moves into the cloud.” “Bird with a Broken Wing” and “Here Comes the Rain” are also highlights that prove the band’s impeccable knack for songwriting hasn’t diminished in the slightest over the past 27 years.
Notably, the album is also completely devoid of the band’s signature crunchy guitar sound, and in its place are intricately-orchestrated strings. “OK Human” utilizes a 38-piece orchestra to great effect, and thankfully, none of the band’s personality gets lost as a result. However, what truly makes this a great Weezer album is that, just like the Blue Album, “Pinkerton,” “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” and the White Album, there is a clear theme that ties all of these songs together. Their past two albums have been scatter-brained and as a result have lacked a sliver of personality.
These are truly some of the best songs the band has ever written. It is incredibly focused and wears its big, nerdy heart on its sleeve. “OK Human” is the orchestral pop masterpiece from Weezer that you didn’t know you needed and proves the band is still full of (good) surprises. Let’s hope “Van Weezer” is an equally successful stylistic departure.