Pacific Daydream

Sun 10/29/2017

Weezer's 11th album, Pacific Daydream, was released on Friday. Or to be more specific, the second half of it was released, as the first five tracks had a staggered release over the last few weeks and months, as singles.

The first track to be released was Feels Like Summer. My initial reaction to it was the same as many other weezer fans: it felt like a betrayal.

Raditude and Hurley (weezer's 7th and 8th albums) are widely reviled, and although I still enjoy listening to them occasionally, it's easy to agree that they represent a low point for the band. When Everything Will Be Alright In The End (weezer's 9th album) was released four years later, it not only felt like a return to form musically, it felt like a record made specifically for us, the longtime fans.

In the lead single, Back to the Shack, Rivers sings:

"Sorry guys, I didn't realize I needed you so much / I thought I'd get an audience I forgot that 'disco sucks' / I ended up with nobody and I started feelin' dumb / maybe I should play the lead guitar and Pat should play the drums."

In my favorite song on EWBAITE, I've Had It Up To Here, Rivers sings:

"Don't wanna find myself homogenized / Don't wanna become the very thing that I despised / Don't need my mommy feedin' me culture with a spoon / Don't wanna end up with as much edge as a balloon / Don't want my ideas polluted by mediocrity / Don't want my sentiments diluted / This is important to me."

And then in the next verse:

"Don't wanna be another boy next door / Don't wanna pander to the masses any more / Don't need the whole wide world to love me, Don't wanna win the human race / Don't need my music to be less well known than my face / Don't wanna compromise my art for universal appeal / Don't wanna be mass-consumed / I'm not a Happy Meal."

The sentiments conveyed in these lyrics are exactly what we old weezer fans have wanted to hear for years. EWBAITE really felt like the band saying, "We don't care that record labels have a waning interest in full-length rock albums, we're going to double down and shred the hell out of this record." And they did just that.

"The White Album" (weezer's 10th album - self-titled) continued in this direction, and in my opinion, did an even better job recapturing their original sound. This was thanks mostly to their producer Jake Sinclair who actually used to play in weezer cover bands, so he knew how to get that perfect weezer sound. Old school weezer fans were on cloud 9 and the album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album - something that had never happened to weezer before.

So then Feels Like Summer drops, with all its overblown "disco" production, and it feels like weezer going back on everything they had just declared on their last two albums. It felt like all those great lyrics were just lies, or... who knows? Both of the songs excerpted above were co-written, so maybe it was just a collaborator saying, "wouldn't it be cool if you sang this, Rivers?" and it has no real meaning.

There were warning signs of what was to come in Pacific Daydream. The track Jacked Up on The White Album went more in a "pop" direction with no real guitars to speak of until the bridge drops halfway through. And the B-Side I Love the USA, which was released afterwards went even farther in that direction.

As more and more tracks were released from Pacific Daydream, I listened to them a few times, but they just bummed me out. Instead, I listened to EWBAITE and The White Album over and over again, kind of out of spite. It was then that I realized two important things:

1) Weezer doesn't owe me anything. Or any other fan, for that matter. They have consistently put out music that I love for 20+ years. EWBAITE and The White Album are both astounding collections of music, and I will cherish them, and listen to them over and over and over again for the rest of my life. Whether the lyrics of I've Had It Up To Here were true for Rivers or not, they were true to me, and I believed them in my heart, and they have helped me better understand the goals of my own creative career. L.A. Girlz off the White Album is one of my all-time favorite weezer songs. I wasn't sure if a piece of music could ever again make me feel the way I do when I listen to that song. I was so glad to find out that it could.

And they also made Pinkerton? AND THE BLUE ALBUM??? Weezer, thank you for all the wonderful music you have created - it has enriched my life more than I can possibly express here. (I did a better job, I think, in my 120-page book Weezer Fan).

2) To me, Pacific Daydream feels like a left turn from the direction weezer was heading after EWBAITE and The White Album. But then I realized that all weezer is, is left turns. Think of the bright crunchy sound of The Blue Album.... then their next album is Pinkerton??? I went back through all of their albums and had one of deepest insights about this band that I have ever had: they have never worked with the same producer (or team of producers) twice in a row.

  • The Blue Album - Ric Ocasek
  • Pinkerton - Weezer
  • The Green Album - Ric Ocasek
  • Maladroit - Weezer
  • Make Believe - Rick Rubin
  • The Red Album - Rick Rubin, Jacknife Lee, Weezer
  • Raditude - Dr. Luke, Jacknife Lee, Polow da Don, Butch Walker, Rivers Cuomo
  • Hurley - Rivers Cuomo, Shawn Everett
  • EWBAITE - Ric Ocasek
  • The White Album - Jake Sinclair
  • Pacific Daydream - Butch Walker, Jonny Coffer, J.R. Rotem, Toby Gad

You can take any two consecutive albums on that list and there is a bold departure from the album before in almost every case.

Think about it. Twenty years in, your band is on this great run - back to back critically acclaimed albums - you are nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album! In that moment, how many of us would say, "Let's try something different." I'd wager, not many. I think most of us would instead say, "We're so close! Let's continue down this path and see if we can get a bit farther with the next one."

This is one of the things that I admire and respect about weezer, though I'm not always thrilled with the results. There are so many bands I've listened to over the years where I pick up their first two or three records, but then everything just starts to sound the same. I'd check out the fourth record and go, "Ugh, this just sounds like the first three, I'm not getting this."

It must be a very difficult position, being in a band with millions of fans that range from teenagers all the way up to old farts like me. There must be some feeling of responsibility to "sound like weezer" to keep the fans you've gained over the years, but as artists I'm sure they want to try new things and to keep finding new fans. If they just always "sounded like weezer" and stuck with the same producer over and over again, I'm sure they would start to sound stale. Damned if you do; damned if you don't... I don't envy their position.

So Pacific Daydream is out. I like some of the songs very much. I don't like how many of the songs were produced (recording techniques, instrument choices, etc.). But it's still Rivers singing, and to me with my headphones on, that feels like home. I will listen to it over and over and over again in the next few weeks, and it will become a mnemonic device that I use to always remember this time in my life.

Supposedly, weezer's already hard at work on The Black Album. I can't wait to hear what it sounds like.

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