Our Take: 5 Stars
Over twenty-six years and fourteen albums after their legendary eponymous debut, Weezer has returned with “OK Human,” an album unlike anything they have ever produced. This time around, the band trades in their guitars for minimalist piano backings supplemented by melodramatic orchestral arrangements.
Such an unfamiliar sound may shock casual listeners primarily familiar with the post grunge hits such as “Say It Ain’t So”, which catapulted the group to stardom in the mid-nineties.
More avid fans, however, should be familiar with drastic changes from album to album which front man Rivers Cuomo describes as a massage.
“If somebody is massaging your right foot and they’re doing a great job, your left foot is just like, ‘Wait a minute, what about me?’” Cuomo said in an interview with NPR.
Cuomo’s creative instincts do not always land, but his vulnerability and relatability, along with his knack for quirky pop culture references make “OK Human” one of Weezer’s best efforts to date.
At 50 years old, Cuomo shows signs of experiencing a midlife crisis throughout the album. On “Aloo Gobi” Cuomo expresses his boredom with the “same old dull routine” while on “Bird with a Broken Wing” he conveys feelings of irrelevancy.
Similar feelings are conveyed metaphorically as Cuomo sinks into the tar along with other long extinct animals in “La Brea Tar Pits.”
While Cuomo may feel irrelevant, these songs never feel like a distant rock star complaining unconvincingly about his Beverly Hills lifestyle. Instead, Cuomo’s emotional delivery invites sympathy for the singer as well as an empathetic understanding, regardless of age. Each of these songs find the Weezer front-man sharing personal struggles, which gives the album an emotional weight not found on a Weezer album since 1996’s “Pinkerton.”
A significant thematic detour occurs on “Numbers” and “Screens” as Cuomo highlights some of the issues caused by a social media and device centric world. Rather than get completely bogged down in the seriousness of the subject matter, Cuomo sprinkles the songs with characteristic nerdy references to K-Pop bands and Fibonacci numbers.
When he is not infusing weighty subjects with infectious melodies, Cuomo reminds us he is a normal, albeit nerdy, guy.
On “Grapes of Wrath” he joyously listens to his audiobooks on Audible, and wittily references a myriad of classic novels. At other points, Cuomo shares the familiar decline in personal hygiene that can occur during stay-at-home orders.
Even the cringiest references, such as the one to Kim Jong-Un in “Playing My Piano,” make the aging rock star’s experiences relatable. Cuomo describes the same world his listeners exist in, rather than a ritzy world of pomp and circumstance that other artists inhabit.
“OK Human” walks the tightrope between serious and silly without ever losing its balance. The backing strings recorded at Abbey Road studios provide some beautiful moments and smooth transitions between songs while Patrick Wilson’s drumming reminds us Weezer is still a rock band.
In the end, Cuomo’s vulnerability and nerdiness provide classic Weezer charm to the album. “OK Human” is far better than okay; it is wonderfully eccentric and a real treat for listeners.