Californian rock band Weezer’s 11th studio album, Pacific Daydream, is a mix between the outlandish and the conventional. Many of the songs on the album sound generic and similar to those on their previous records, however, they have an otherworldly touch—electronic production and effects play a large role in giving Pacific Daydream a tinge of the unexpected. This is even displayed on the album cover, which depicts a young girl swinging—not over a bed of mulch on a playground, but over the entire planet Earth. This touch of familiarity with a twist sets the stage for the whole album. Whether it has exaggerated effects or bizarre lyrics, each song on Pacific Daydream further pushes the boundaries of what contemporary rock sounds like.
Even with all of its modern sounds, Pacific Daydream sheds a lot of light on some throwback-inspired themes as well. The album itself has a summertime feel to it—one of its most distinguished tracks is called “Beach Boys,” alongside other beachy tunes such as “Feels Like Summer,” “Mexican Fender,” and the lyrically-inexplicable “La Mancha Screwjob.” “Beach Boys,” however, deserves some recognition. Not only does it fit into the theme of summer, but it also pays homage to the legendary 1960s pop-rock group. Weezer almost sounds like the “gorgeous four-part harmonies” referenced by lead singer Rivers Cuomo in the opening verse of the song.
Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of Pacific Daydream is its fourth track, “Happy Hour.” The slightly monotonous song is laid-back, and is jam-packed with lyrical gems. Although just about all of the lyrics are nonsensical, it is representative of the entire album. “Happy Hour” contains allusions to all sorts of elements of pop culture that, for the most part, are completely random in relation to each other but all loosely combine to support the throwback, vintage theme that weaves the album together. Shoutouts to Stevie Ray Vaughan (iconic 80s musician) and Monty Python (70’s comedy group) are included, and albeit random, they contribute to the subtle tug between old and new that is omnipresent on Pacific Daydream.
The catchiest, most upbeat track on the record is definitely “Weekend Woman.” The guitar intro sets the scene for the happy love song. The lyrics are clear and actually make sense, in comparison to those of the other songs on the album. The song’s lead-in to the chorus, “We fell in love on a Sunday,” is reminiscent of the sentiment in “A Sunday Kind of Love,” a song recorded in 1946 by Claude Thornhill but made popular in 1960 by Etta James. Sundays are laid-back, they are lazy, they are carefree. In that respect, “Weekend Woman” is like a Sunday. It is a totally pure love song, complete with a happy beat and nothing too extreme in terms of lyrics or music. Just like a Sunday, it is pleasant to listen to and easy to follow.
On “QB Blitz,” the throwback references continue as Cuomo drops muted hints alluding to high school. He even makes a quirky Star Wars reference in the chorus, where he wants to escape “the ice fields of Hoth,” the cold, icy sixth planet in the Star Wars universe. The planet first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in 1980. This song also brings in the ever-present theme in alternative rock music of being an outsider. “I can’t get anyone to do algebra with me, hehe/It’s hard to make real friends,” sings Cuomo, in a rather cathartic first verse. The song is more emotional than the first five on the album—its painful reminiscence is easily felt by any listener, whether outsider or cool kid, old or young. In the midst of surfacing painful memories, the bridge of the song allows the listener to see the light at the end of the tunnel: “Sing for the moment,” repeats Cuomo. “QB Blitz” invites the reader to experience a deeper emotional connection than ever before. See? Not everyone is defined by their worst high school moments.
Although many of the songs have a vintage feel to them, a few are overproduced and break the album’s consistency. Although this sense of overproduction can overshadow some of the songs on the album (“La Mancha Screwjob,” “Feels Like Summer”), the catchy melodies of “Weekend Woman,” “Get it Right,” and “Sweet Mary” make up for it. Each song on Pacific Daydream is a simple part of a puzzle representing the intricate subtlety of past versus present. With references, allusions, and hints at the past and a sound grounded in the 21st century, Weezer’s Pacific Daydream is truly otherworldly.
“It’s a hip-hop world,” Cuomo sings in “Beach Boys.” But as long as Weezer continues to dominate the alternative rock scene, the world will be listening to much more than just hip-hop.
Featured Image By Atlantic Records