VAN WEEZER by Weezer

Well, here we are, five months into 2021, and we have two Weezer albums. The fifteenth (!) album from Weezer, VAN WEEZER, was supposed to be the fourteenth but was delayed by the pandemic. I heard about this album way back in the halcyon days of 2019 and thought, “gee, that sounds neat, Weezer with an ’80s hair metal filter.” Two years later, VAN WEEZER is here, and it’s the best Weezer album since 2016’s self-titled “White Album.” The four albums in between saw Weezer meander back into mediocrity chasing trends, embracing full-on pop, and releasing a semi-competent (but hugely forgettable) covers album. Like all good and true Weezer fans, I have given up on this band more times than I can count. And yet, every time they put a record out, I show up with my Buddy Holly glasses on, ready to party. Early this year, the band put out OK HUMAN, an electric guitar-free album of baroque pop songs that oscillated between thoughtfully introspective and patently navel-gazing. Everyone and their mother told me OK HUMAN was a good record, but I couldn’t be bothered to attempt a second listen.

Let me cut to the chase: VAN WEEZER was teased as a big guitars throwback record. The single “The End of the Game” left it a bit ambiguous if that’s what we would be getting. See, that track opened with squealing, Eddie Van Halen guitar noodling but quickly devolved into a classic Weezer track. Subsequent singles followed the same pattern. VAN WEEZER is chock full of throwbacks (more on that later), but mainly, it’s an album that has more in common with the ban’s Green Album than, say, VAN HALEN II. This return to the sound of the band’s classic run (1994-2002) is undoubtedly welcomed after four disappointing albums, though I must admit I wish there were more guitar heroism. I wish there were more Van Halen on VAN WEEZER. There’s more early British metal on VAN WEEZER than Eddie Van Halen, which I must stress is only an issue of branding. The album is good, nearly great even, but I wish they’d have called it something else.

The album opens with “Hero,” which is a classic Weezer loner/outcast track. Hearing Rivers sing about how he’s not a superhero and that he’s an outcast is pretty goofy at this point. This song’s ultimately fun but a bit embarrassing with its grown-man singing about Spiderman quality. “All the Good Ones” brings us the return of Rivers doing his awkward white dude half-singing/half-rapping thing that he does. The core idea of the song, “all the good ones are gone, where did you come from?” is cute, and the hook is catchy enough for me to overlook that this song is a re-write/ripoff of their 2005 single “Beverly Hills.”

“End of the Game” is the album’s thesis statement with its Eddie Van Halen intro and opening lyrics that directly reference the classic Green Album track “Island in the Sun.” The song ostensibly is about the end of a relationship but could be read as a metaphor for the band’s relationship with their hardcore fans. Hearing Rivers coo, “Am I your go-to or am I uncool? With all of these extremes that I go to, All I want is to be wanted by you” made me feel a tinge of guilt for only giving the last few Weezer albums a single spin. “End of the Game” definitely feels like a summer song, the kind you listen to with the windows down as you cruise around your neighborhood. And I bet it’s going to kill when the band plays it live.

VAN WEEZER then proceeds to get weird in the middle. The first time I listened to the album, my ears perked up when I heard the classic, unmistakable sounds of Black Sabbath’s “Crazy Train” melt into Weezer’s song “Blue Dream.” Repeated listens revealed other songs were naggingly familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place in what way. Unnerved by the blatant rip-off of “Crazy Train,” I went online to look at the album credits. Sure enough, the band gives co-writing credit to “Blue Dream” to Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads. And sure enough, I saw that other tracks gave co-writing credits to other bands–Blue Oyster Cult and Asia are both credited on “I Need Some of That” while Billy Joel (of all people) is credited on “Beginning of the End.” I find this very strange; Weezer doesn’t cover or sample these artists; they just…generously borrow from “Crazy Train” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” Some of these are distractingly obvious (“Crazy Train”) but others are so obscured I can’t believe they had to be credited (Joel’s “For The Longest Time”).

You’ll note that none of the bands Weezer borrows from is Van Halen. Van Halen and the intense hair metal all but vanishes from VAN WEEZER. Which is a bummer. I enjoy “Beginning of the End,” which is probably the album’s most deadly earworm (I sang it around the house all week). It’s a fun track about the end of the world (seriously). “I Need Some of That” opens exactly like Asia’s “Heat of the Moment,” which is kinda funny because it’s all about youth and never wanting to grow up. “Blue Dream” is a half-baked attempt at Weezer-infused metal with surreal Octopus infused lyrics. The only reason the song works is because the guitar hook is so damn good–thanks, Sabbath.

I really like “1 More Hit,” a brooding song about drugs and addiction that also reads as Rivers confessing just how desperate he/the band is for another “hit,” i.e., musical success. That said, the song has the incredibly awkward lyric “pump it up, into me, please daddy, please daddy.” The first time I heard it, I had to stop the song and start it over as I thought for sure I’d misheard the lyric…but no, this is what he sings. It’s hilariously unfortunate.

“Shelia Can Do It” is an almost Fountains of Wayne-Esque pop song that doesn’t fit with the VAN WEEZER-esthetic at all but is so sweet, fun, and infectious. It reminded me of the track Rivers wrote for The Monkees album GOOD TIMES! a few years ago. The album closes with the acoustic strummer, “Precious Metal Girl.” The song is an overly cutesy ballad that’s probably not as clever as it thinks it is, but like many good Weezer songs, it wins you over by the end.

VAN WEEZER is an enjoyable listen, but I think the album was hurt and helped by the delay in its release. On the one hand, it was smart to delay its release until the pandemic abated enough to (please God) let them tour. These songs are going to sound great live and will fit nicely between the band’s classic material. That said, the delay also hurt VAN WEEZER because it was hyped as this epic hair metal album that it simply is not. I would have liked less borrowing from classic rock, and more turned up to 11 guitar heroics. As I stated earlier, the album’s title probably shouldn’t have invoked the mighty Van Halen. Still, the album proves that one can never truly count the band out three decades into their career. Check out VAN WEEZER for the strange middle section, but keep listening for the hooky pop songs that bookend the gimmicky stuff.


I reached into my crates and pulled one of my uncle’s records out at random to revisit. Oddly enough, I pulled out Supertramp’s album EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS, which was recorded in Nederland, Colorado, a town that’s not far from my home. I really like the album artwork, a photograph of a snow-covered piano. According to my vigorous online research, the photo was taken at a ski lodge in Boulder County, again not far from my home. Even stranger, the album was released 44 years ago this month! I guess it’s kismet.

After admiring that album cover, I flipped the sleeve over and checked out the tracklisting. My heart kind of sank. The only track I recognized was the first one, “Give A Little Bit.” I guess I should talk a little bit about my relationship with Supertramp: I don’t really have one. Sure, I love all the singles I grew up hearing on classic rock radio, but I’ve never sat down and given one of the band’s albums a listen. My favorite Supertramp song is probably “Bloody Well Right” off of CRIME OF THE CENTURY. Looking into the band’s discography, it seems that 1979’s BREAKFAST IN AMERICA (the album they released right after EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS) is the band’s big album. I’ve heard over half of that album’s tracks on the radio over the years.

But I’m not here to talk about BREAKFAST IN AMERICA. I’m here to discuss EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS. The album opens as I said, with “Give A Little Bit.” Even though I’ve heard this song hundreds of times, I was surprised at how great those crisp opening guitar chords sound. This is a great way to open a record, though this song feels a decade older than it is. Rather than being a song from the year Star Wars came out, this feels like a 1960’s summer of love song. The core message of the song is very hippy-dippy and runs counter to the slightly snarkier tone of the majority of Supertramp’s songs I’ve heard over the years.

The second track, “Lover Boy,” is a piano ballad with some nice guitar tossed in for good measure. The whole track is drizzled with some syrupy strings that belie the song’s subject: the titular “lover boy.” Apparently this lover boy has read a book on seduction and uses deception to entrap women. I love the jaunty piano riff; it really grows on you and is a nice contrast to the song’s dark themes. A little over halfway through the runtime, the song has a fake out ending and when the song resumes, it’s much darker and more guitar-driven. Usually, I don’t care for tricks like that, but I thought it worked well here.

The third track, “Even in the Quietest Moments,” opens with chirping birds and a clarinet, which is strange but not unwelcome. Soon, however, the track devolves into a mystical-acoustic ballad that sounds like a parody of something off of LED ZEPPELIN III. The lyrics are addressed to God seem to be about the distance between God and man. It’s competent, but I still found myself feeling a little embarrassed to be listening to it. “Downstream” is another piano ballad, and here I should point out that EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS does not feature Supertramp’s trademark Wurlitzer electronic piano. The zany, high energy the Wurlitzer brings to many classic Supertramp singles (“Goodbye Stranger”) is entirely missing from this record. “Downstream” is a simple love song about…taking a boat ride on a Sunday? This straightforward song frankly feels like filler.

The next track,”Babaji”, reminds me very much of George Harrison’s solo track “My Sweet Lord.” The obvious reason is the references to Indian/Hindu spiritualism but also because both songs are about “being strangers” to God and yearning to be with a higher power. Apparently, yes, I had to look this up, “Babaji” is about Mahavatar Babaji, a religious figure Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson greatly admired. There’s probably a lot going on in this song that my ignorance on the subject matter obscures, but for the most part, I think this is a solid enough track. This was released as a b-side, and it feels like one.

EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS finishes up with two really strange tracks. The bizarre piano ballad “From Now On” and the lengthy prog track “Fool’s Overture.” The former has the strangest/laughable lyrics on the album:

“Sometimes I slowly drift away

From all the dull routine

That’s with me every day

A fantasy will come to me

Diamonds are what I really need

Think I’ll rob a store, escape the law

And live in Italy”

I like the lyrical hook and the saxophone paired with it, but this track is goofy. There’s a vocal choir that comes in near the end, too, that is like crazy icing on a batshit cat. “From Now On” is so ballsy that by the end, it convinces me that it’s not insane but actually rather awesome. Well played, Supertramp. “Fool’s Overture” clocks in at 10 minutes and 53 seconds–which, can I say: what the heck, Supertramp? Why not find an extra seven seconds and push this thing to eleven minutes? “Fool’s Overture” is a mishmash of songs/song ideas that also features sound clips of Winston Churchill. According to Wikipedia, it took five years to write, which checks out as this thing is sprawling and probably blows you away when you’re high…but honestly, it felt a bit too generic for me. Yes, a song featuring weird woodwinds, Winston Churchill, and William Blake is generic. Whenever I hear stuff like this, I think about how intricate and challenging it was to create and how eager I am for it to be over. Prog is not my favorite genre by any stretch, so maybe I’m biased, but compared to some of the prog I’ve liked over the years (Gabriel era-Genesis), this doesn’t stack up as anything other than a couple of long songs stitched together.

Overall, EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS reveals a more subdued version of Supertramp I was unfamiliar with. Clearly, the band’s non-singles output is worth checking out, though I get the impression from this album that it’s a bit spottier than I might have thought. Still, half of the songs work for me, and other than “Fool’s Overture,” even the misses on the record were interesting.