Weezer gets existential on ‘OK Human’


At this point in their career, Weezer feels more like a force of nature than they do a band that released a couple of classic rock records in the ’90s. Sometimes they’re a breath of fresh air, sometimes a treacherous trek from one cornball of a track to another.

On their newest installment, “OK Human,” Rivers Cuomo and company make full use of a 38-piece string orchestra for one of their most extravagant releases to date. Despite this departure from usual instrumentation, their socially awkward writing style is just as prominent as ever.

Upon first hearing the album title, it might sound like nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek reference to Radiohead’s “OK Computer.” Afterall, Weezer has embraced their goofier side in the past few years. But, “OK Human” has something to offer below the surface, even if it still isn’t taking itself too seriously.

The themes explored on Radiohead’s magnum opus arrive at their next logical step, but instead of Thom Yorke’s dreary writing and delivery, we have Rivers Cuomo: an awkward 50-year old still singing as if he’s an awkward 20-something. 

So, how do they make it work so well?

The instrumental backing has Weezer breaking into the baroque pop scene, and they pull it off. It’s grandiose, but at the same time the songs cover topics along the lines of watching French films and complaining about the uncomfortable seating in the theater. For how much each song tends to stick with the same instruments, they make up for it with being melodically diverse.

 But the themes on the album are legitimately grave when thought about for too long. Being consumed by the idea of being a social outcast for something as simple as, say, being too short to play sports is worth exploring. Cuomo’s writing is a double-edged sword in cases such as these. These are pop songs at the end of the day. They’re approachable, and they’re fun. Sometimes it feels as if they could have dug just a little deeper, though.

“Grapes Of Wrath” is a prime example of this. A song about escaping from the real world into audiobooks has some potential for introspection about media overconsumption, but ends up being a shallow exercise in fitting as many literary references into a verse as possible.

Despite the surface-level writing, this song’s — as well as every other song here — saving grace is the strong melody blended with the powerful string section. Cuomo’s endearing lead vocals drive the album forward, heading straight from one track to the next without any room to breathe. 

This works in their favor, and with the album barely breaking the 30-minute mark, it makes the decision of whether I should listen through one more time that much easier.

“OK Human” attempts to be a largely uplifting project, sometimes taking this mission to absurd levels. “Here Comes the Rain” borders on showtune levels of theatricality, with Cuomo sounding aggressively happy about future prospects and “washing his troubles away.”

“La Brea Tar Pits” is a fittingly sappy closer, with its themes of feeling trapped and slowly being consumed by life. But Cuomo keeps fighting, knowing there is still so much to live for. This is a central theme on “OK Human.” Finding what gives you purpose in life, cutting through the BS to discover what fulfills you, even if only for the moment. It is a fitting yin to Radiohead’s yang.

Placed shoulder-to-shoulder with Weezer’s gargantuan discography, “OK Human” is one of their best. It’s their best project in years, at least since the “White Album.” Sticky choruses backed by quirky songwriting is enough for me to see myself coming back to it throughout the rest of the year. In many ways, it feels like a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

Recommended Listening Setting: A short drive on an overcast day.

Score: 7/10

Thomas Stremfel can be reached at [email protected] or @tomstremfel on Twitter