Weezer

Weezer (White Album)

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Taking the notion of self-titled albums standing as a statement of identity to an extreme, Weezer puts out a self-titled record whenever they're ready to enter a new phase of their career. Designed to be dubbed The White Album -- a nice cheeky nod to the classic 1968 double album from the Beatles -- the 2016 installment of Weezer isn't nearly as messy as the group's last color-coded eponymous record. With that 2008 Red Album, Weezer embarked on a confused and chaotic middle age, an era that the tight, focused White Album effectively brings to an end. Much of this precision is due to Jake Sinclair, a producer who revived Fall Out Boy's commercial prospects with his savvy work on 2015's American Beauty/American Psycho, who gives this Weezer a modern sheen that skillfully avoids desperation, but he not only understands what teens like, he understands why teens love this group. As a kid, he played in Wannabeezer, a Weezer cover band, and his knowledge of the group is fast; he isn't one to fetishize the emotional bloodletting of Pinkerton at the expense of the rest of the band's work, he likes the fun stuff just as much. Sinclair recognizes that one of Rivers Cuomo's strengths is his love of craft, so he gave the singer/songwriter a mission: to create a spiritual sequel to the California pop of the Blue Album. To that end, Cuomo set up a profile on the dating app Tinder, using his encounters as research to supplement the observations he had while whiling away afternoons in Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Such a conscious remove is crucial to the success of The White Album: like Chuck Berry singing about "Sweet Little Sixteen" when he was 32 years old, Cuomo isn't diving into the thick of things, he's merely reporting what he sees. Sometimes, Cuomo betrays his age -- the "listen to Bacharach" line on "Do You Wanna Get High" is a bigger '90s throwback than the very sound of the album -- but that's also part of his charm: his eccentricities slip out from the cracks in his carefully constructed songs. Sinclair wisely decides to accentuate all these quirks, whether they derive from Cuomo or the band's interplay, so The White Album crackles underneath its tight presentation. Drums and guitars thunder, harmonies cascade, and there are surprises that add color without being showy. Weezer flirt with past and present, happily taking cues from forefathers -- "(Girl We Got A) Good Thing" consciously evokes the Beach Boys, just like how "Wind in Our Sale" brings to mind Jack Antonoff -- but The White Album winds up existing in a fantasy world that's entirely the band's own creation. This is Weezer's version of Southern California, one where the girls aren't bedecked in bikinis and where alienation sometimes seems comforting, maybe because their "Endless Bummer" is consciously fleeting, a sweet, sad coda to an album devoted to all the good times that can be had under the sun.

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