Veteran alt-rock band Weezer is one of those acts that clearly does not rest easily on its laurels. Ever since the release of its debut self-titled album in 1996, the band has released one new album every two to three years (at the most – some of its albums are separated by no more than a year). Counting its latest album OK, Human, which was released Feb. 12, the band has released now, a grand total of 14 albums in less than 30 years. That is a lot of content to say the very least. What’s more, the band even has plans to release a second album this year in the form of Van Weezer. That album is a story for another time. Getting back to the band’s latest album, it is a presentation that will find the majority of its appeal among the band’s most devoted fans. That is proven in part through its lyrical content, which will be discussed shortly. While the record’s lyrical content is certain to appeal to a wide range of listeners, its musical content does limit its appeal. This will be discussed a little later. The record’s production is also of note. It is its own positive and will be discussed later, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of OK, Human. All things considered, the album in whole proves itself to be worth hearing at least occasionally.
OK, Human is an interesting new offering from Weezer. That is because while not necessarily a failure, it is also not what one might consider a groundbreaking presentation from the band. Again, even despite that, it does have some positives, one of which is its lyrical content. The record’s lyrical content does the most to ensure the record’s appeal. The album’s lyrical content covers a wide range of topics. ‘Bird With a Broken Wing’ for instance, presents an existentialist rumination of sorts. Front man Rivers Cuomo said during an interview that, “I think I was just feeling pretty irrelevant and passed over and past my prime, just feeling pretty sorry for myself.” Everyone has been at that point at least once in life if not more times. He compares himself here to that “bird with a broken wing” but reminding himself that “I still have a song to sing/Turning night to day…And this beautiful song to sing/Don’t feel sad for me/I’m right where I wanna be.” So while the song is sad, it is still uplifting. It does present its own message of hope. That is proven even more as Cuomo further states later in the song, “Nothin’ matters in the world/And everyone is free/But I’ll belong to you/If you believe in me.” Here again is that uplifting message that even though we get down, it is possible to feel better. It is just one way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so pivotal to the record’s presentation. ‘Playing My Piano’ is another great way in which the record’s lyrical content proves its importance to the album’s presentation.
According to Cuomo himself, ‘Playing My Piano’ is simply about the joy that he gets from playing his piano, and the positive mental and emotional effect that sitting in front of the piano and playing those keys has on him. He points it out right from the song’s outset in the lead verse and chorus, which states, “My wife is upstairs/My kids are upstairs/And I haven’t washed my hair in three weeks/I should get back to these Zoom interviews/But I get so absorbed and time flies/I just can’t let go when I’m playing my piano/Ooh, I’m playing my piano/I’m pounding out the bass/Singing out the tune/I never see the sun like I’m living in a womb/I’m playing my piano/Ooh, ooh, ooh.” The light, upbeat sense continues in the song’s second verse, which states, “A cup of java at the edge of the keys/Dripping down from major to mixolydian/Put on some white noise/Double-bolt the door/Kim Jong-un could blow up my city/I’d never know/I just can’t let go when I’m playin’ my piano.” On the surface, this is just a song about Cuomo getting lost in playing his piano. On a deeper level, this is a mind state to which so many listeners can relate. Music is that powerful, whether it be playing an instrument or just listening to a good song. So to that end, that accessibility and difference from the lyrical theme presented in ‘Bird With a Broken Wing’ and the rest of the album’s songs shows that much more, the importance of the album’s lyrical content. It is just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important. The lyrical content featured in ‘Mirror Image’ shows Cuomo’s adoration for his wife. Right from the song’s outset, Cuomo calls his wife “My mirror image/Showing me who I am/Until the day that we shatter,” adding “She helps me understand.” This not just another run-of-the-mill love song. This is a direct love song that he wrote for his wife, though it is a song that plenty of husbands and even boyfriends will find useful with their significant others. He adds that “Heaven can’t save this man/Heaven can’t help this man/heaven turned his back on this man/Heaven shuts the door on this man.” This heightens even more, the message of Cuomo’s appreciation for and devotion to his wife. It stands on its own merits, separate from the other lyrical themes noted here and those not addressed. All things considered, the album’s lyrical content is certain to reach a wide range of listeners. In turn, it creates a firm foundation for OK, Human. For all that the album’s lyrical content does for its presentation, its musical content limits its appeal.
The musical arrangements featured throughout the course of OK, Human’s 12 total songs are anything but unfamiliar. The arrangements in question take to heart the old adage that one should not fix what’s not broken. One could also argue that the band maybe takes that adage (and even Mark Twain’s timeless statement to “write what you know) a bit too much to heart. That is evidenced from start to end of this record because the arrangements in question take the same approach as those in the band’s existing catalog. It is that same “poppy” neo-Beatles-esque pop rock and separate alt-rock type of sound that the band has used for years in each of its existing albums. It is hardly anything ground breaking for the band, but again, it is a familiar approach and sound that the band’s most devoted fans will appreciate. Keeping this in mind, it does not make the album a failure by any means, but it is an approach that will appeal primarily to the band’s most devoted listeners. Together with the noted lyrical content, the two elements join together make the album slightly more appealing and worth hearing at least occasionally.
While the musical arrangements featured in OK, Human limit the impact of the record’s presentation, they do not make the album a failure. To that end, there is at least one more item to examine that makes the album work. That item is the album’s overall production. Some of the record’s featured songs are more active than others. Regardless of how much is going on in each of the songs, particular attention had to be paid to each work. That attention paid off in each case, too. Whether in the simple, instrumental ‘Everything Happens for a Reason,’ the more active album opener, ‘All My Favorite Songs,’ or the more contemplative ‘Bird With a Broken Wing,’ each song has its own specific focuses. ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’ for example is a slightly light, reserved song (and short at that, clocking in at only 23 seconds) but the simple use of what sounds like a flute against the keyboard still is strong with its less is more approach. The song’s keyboard line is just subtle enough against the flute line to make the song in whole work. ‘All My favorite Songs’ takes influence from Marcy Playground and The Beatles collectively here. That balance of influences and instrumentation had to have been a chore, but clearly, much attention and effort went into making sure they were, and it paid off. The gentle, flowing, arrangement featured in ‘Bird With a Broken Wing’ does so well to help illustrate and translate Cuomo’s mental state and emotions as he wrote the song’s lyrics. It shows once more, the time and thought that went into the album’s production. The strings here, while clearly synthetic, but play such a crucial part here. They never overpower any other instrument in this case. They give just the right accent to the song, working with the other instruments (and with Cuomo’s own vocal delivery) to make the song so hard hitting in their combined simplicity and complexity in one. It’s one more way in which the album’s production proves important to its presentation. When it and the other cases noted here are considered along with the rest of the album’s production, that aspect along with the album’s lyrical themes an musical arrangements ultimately prove that the album is deserving of being heard at least occasionally.
Weezer’s latest album OK, Human is a presentation that is worth hearing at least occasionally. That is due in large part to its lyrical themes. The record’s lyrical themes will reach a wide range of listeners, including casual fans of Weezer. The album’s musical arrangements will appeal more specifically to the band’s more devoted audiences. That is because more casual fans will note that the arrangements take much the same stylistic approach than that taken on the rest of the band’s catalog. It is not enough to make the album a failure, but does limit that appeal. The album’s production works with its overall content to bring everything together. The production shows that much time, thought, and effort was put into making each song the best possible. That work paid off, too. The result is a presentation that sounds impressive throughout. The vocals and instrumentations are expertly balanced in each song, and each work offers the most and effective impact on listeners. When it is considered with the album’s overall content, the whole of those items makes the album in whole worth hearing at least occasionally, and most appealing to Weezer’s most devoted fans. OK, Human is available. More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
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