Curiously, when Weezer – the geek rock group responsible making awkward cool decades before anyone had ever heard of Jesse Eisenberg – announce a new record, their fans tend to experience existential terror. In their 25 years as a band, their results have always been an anxiety-producing unknown. Such is the case with their eleventh LP, Pacific Daydream.
Will the record be iconic and influential like their first two albums, the Blue Album and Pinkerton, whose songs about rejection by girls, struggles with alcoholic stepfathers, and all things nerd inspired a generation of socially awkward boys to feel more and a generation of pop-punk bands to memorialize their failed attempts at getting laid? Or will it be utterly scorned, like 2010’s Hurley, which was so abhorrent that one fan attempted to raise $10 million to pay the band to quit entirely? (He was unsuccessful.)
For his part, front man Rivers Cuomo, now 47, isn’t worried about fan reactions. At least not anymore. “It only bothered me in the early days,” he says before a show in Toronto. “I just know that’s part of the whole process of being Weezer.” He notes the band’s resiliency to criticism is one of the reasons they’ve lasted so long. “I feel one way when I’m making a record. Then it comes out, and people are going to have their reaction to it. Then I react to their reaction. It’s just a process that goes around.”
The issue is while certain elements of Weezer’s sound have remained consistent — angst-ridden yet endearing lyrics – the band is also relentlessly, almost restlessly, experimental. Cuomo uses his life as a lab for different ways to invent pop music. Over the years, he’s signed up for Freudian analysis, joined Tinder (despite being married), and co-written songs with fans through YouTube, all to hone new techniques for writing lyrics and melodies.
Fittingly, Pacific Daydream is another departure. “We didn’t want to do the same power chord thing that we’ve done for ten albums before,” says Cuomo. Instead, according to him, the album is “very much in the old Beach Boys style that I love: melancholy, but uplifting.” Case in point: the first single, “Feels Like Summer.” It’s all ’60s pop sweetness, contrasted with sad, lovelorn lyrics (“I cried for you, you were the song in my life / Let me see the smile, stay with me a while”).
Another experiment on the album? Cuomo is simply giving less fucks. Instead of being so calculating in his writing, he’s now “less intentional.” After all, the cult of Weezer has never been about trying to be cool; it’s always been about identifying with the band in all their awkward, weird corniness, and embracing it. “It’s more like I’m mixing together different ingredients, without an idea of what is supposed to happen,” says Cuomo. “And if at the end of that experiment people say it makes them feel happy, I don’t feel that I have an authority to tell them otherwise.” And that’s for all time.