By DAN MACINTOSH
Weezer — a band so endlessly debated, discussion of the act’s unusual career trajectory was even a recent skit on Saturday Night Live — has now given us a covers album. Although this is mainly a collection of ‘80s rocks hits, the 10-song set also includes a few songs that predate the musical memories for most of Weezer’s fans.
Unlike most other vanity projects, however, this album includes a bona fide hit, the (seemingly) unironic cover of Toto’s “Africa.” This song’s success is the best recent thing to happen to both Toto and Weezer. Just why the gentle, internationally-set song has caught on with today’s music listeners is anybody’s guess, though. It’s a little like a David Lean film put to music, albeit without any of that director’s artistic depth and drama. Also, much like the rest of these Weezer-izations of other people’s songs, the group doesn’t do much that is different from the original version.
Lead singer Rivers Cuomo sounds like a yearning schoolboy when singing Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” for a take that lacks Annie Lennox’s natural sexiness or Marilyn Manson’s evil twist. Everybody’s looking for something, it’s true, but it’s impossible to decipher exactly what Cuomo is seeking when he sings these memorable words.
Weezer reaches back to the ‘60s to revisit The Turtles’ sunshine rock classic “Happy Together,” and mines the early ‘70s while revising Black Sabbath’s influential “Paranoid.” With its crunchy guitar groove, the latter is one of the album’s most energetic inclusions.
The group’s cover of TLC’s “Scrubs” is the album’s weakest track. With this new recording’s light touch, Weezer just drains all the blood from it. The inclusion of done-to-death “Stand By Me” is also a waste of MP3 space. A-ha (“Take On Me”) and Electric Light Orchestra (“Mr. Blue Sky”), two acts now proving to be relatively timeless, also get Weezer-ed. Surprisingly, though, this album’s retake on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is effective. Whereas Weezer’s grasp on black music seems nearly non-existent for “Scrubs,” the quartet’s electric guitar-infused re-do the famous Jackson hit is funky fun.
The Teal Album is by no means essential Weezer music. (Just what is essential Weezer, in fact, is always up for debate, anyhow). Like the new TV program, The Masked Singer, this project is no more and no less than good, lighthearted fun. And can’t we all use a little escapism right about now?