Weezer’s career path has taken so many weird turns with so many ups & downs you could practically model a literal rollercoaster around it, especially given the last decade or so. After the group’s infamous attempt at annual album releases resulted in near-career suicide with Raditude and Hurley, the group finally took some time and redeemed themselves with 2014’s fantastic Everything Will Be Alright In The End. The group then dropped The White Album last year, which was solid enough in its own right and even earned Weezer their third Grammy nomination ever and first for “Best Rock Album.” And now, one year later, the band is back with yet another new record, Pacific Daydream…
…oh boy. We’re doing the annual release thing again? Well, alright then.
The album opens with “Mexican Fender,” getting off to an okay start with a chord progression that, despite being pretty basic, manages to feel anthemic and triumphant in its mood. The song moves along at a mid-tempo pace with a rather soothing pretty chorus and a surprisingly energetic bridge. The lyrics are typical Weezer fare about unrequited love as Rivers Cuomo falls in love with a woman whose interests include computer programming and music, and there’s the typical odd lyrical quirks (he met this woman in a guitar shop where the clerk tried to sell him on the titular guitar), but it helps get the job done. The following track, “Beach Boys,” feels like a direct continuation from where White Album left off, with some nice breezy guitar arrangements and vocal layering that does successfully call to mind the titular band, alongside some rather fanboyish lyrics to go with this. That being said, there’s some eyebrow-raisers mixed in there, such as “Hold ‘em up at gunpoint. Keep cranking them Beach Boys.” In addition, the line “Turn it up, it’s the beach boys…on a roll like a rolls Royce” is extraordinarily corny, even by Weezer standards.
“Feels Like Summer,” the first released track from the album, is easily the weakest song on the record just from a pure musical standpoint. The combination of vocal chants and whistling arrangements, programmed drums, and EDM accentuations create a vibe that’s basically a carbon copy of Twenty-One Pilots. Why Weezer would want to emulate that style, I have no earthly clue. The lyrics are also rather repetitive, but at the very least, they help get the listener accustomed to the main motif of the album, describing how the thought of a deceased loved one triggers seemingly ironic memories tied to the sunshiney nature of summer. This also becomes apparent in “Happy Hour,” which is arguably the strongest track on the record, lyrically speaking. The song describes the feeling of using drinking, bar-hopping, and imagined fictitious paradises to escape from the problems of reality, a feeling that most can likely relate to (“But then my boss calls and she’s crushin’ me with a 20-ton weight just like in Monty Python. Somebody left the sink on, it’s still running. My eyes are gonna overflow”). Imagine a version of “Can’t Stop Partying” that’s more upfront about the tragic subtext of someone going out drinking all the time… and isn’t a musical abomination. The composition helps set the stage surprisingly well, with a swinging tempo and jazzy piano that feels like a somber night out in a bar.
At that point though, the album just jogs in place for the rest of its run time, and there’s not really much more detail to go into here. Thinking back on it, I can see why the first 4-5 songs were releases as singles, because the back half of the record is more or less just sub-par b-sides from White Album. There’s plenty of Beach Boy-esque vocal dynamics here that sort of works here and there, and there’s occasionally a lyric or two that’s quirky enough to stand out even if it’s the typical Weezer brand of offbeat and absurd (“I can’t get anyone to do algebra with me”). Outside of this, the theme of somber tragedies attached to seemingly bright and happy memories/ideas gets rather repetitive as it doesn’t feel all that fleshed out, and the only time anything really stands out is on the album’s most anonymous track, “Get Right,” seeing as how it’s the only song where the drums don’t sound weak beyond belief.
Speaking of which, if there’s one big flaw that’s hard to glaze over on Pacific Daydream, it’s the drum work, and it comes down to two key problems. The most immediate issue I have is that the actual production work on the drums is just not up to par. Pretty much from the opening track throughout, whenever there isn’t an electronic beat at play, the drums just sound way too unpolished, especially with how each hit of the snare is just this low plodding thud that feels so out of place here. While I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering that Butch Walker is serving as executive producer here (his last work with the band being… Raditude), but it’s baffling that the rest of the band sounds fine while the drums are the only instrument lacking any polish. The other problem is with the performances themselves. It almost always seems like Pat Wilson is the biggest wild card in terms of what contributions he’ll turn in, but here the mediocre drum production is exacerbated by some of the most simplistic drum parts he’s ever written/recorded. This is already a letdown on its own, but it’s amplified further when you consider that White Album easily had some of the strongest and most distinct drum arrangements Pat’s ever laid down for the band. Pacific Daydream offers barely any drum highlights outside of a few unique fills on the last two tracks, “La Mancha Screwjob” and “Any Friend of Diane’s” (which also doubles as a rather underwhelming album closer).
Overall, Pacific Daydream feels like less of an album and more of an okay-ish EP of B-sides that awkwardly had 5 more songs grafted onto it. If there’s anything that the group’s previous two efforts taught us, it’s that Weezer are a group that absolutely need to take their time if they hope to produce any kind of solid quality work. Having fallen back into the annual release trope (evidently, they may already have another full-length in the works for May 2018), the group once again finds themselves in an unwanted rut, and I really hope they find a way to delay entering the studio again so early. Let your ideas sit in the oven for a while so they can come out fully formed, instead of leaving us with… whatever this was.
Final Verdict: Skip it. Unless you’re the most die-hard of Weezer fans, this is far from the most essential release in their catalog. You’re better off just re-listening to the White Album.
Pacific Daydream is available from Atlantic Records on CD, digital download (iTunes, Amazon Music, etc.), and streaming services. Check out Weezer online on Facebook, Twitter, and their official website.