Weezer Showcases Baroque Likings On OK Human

I remember a time when a friend would visit weekly, and we’d gather around a laptop and sing songs. While our musical tastes were usually in synch, there would always be a tune or two that made one of us frown. Consequently, I ended up learning a lot about his musical tastes, as I’m sure he did of mine. One night, after singing “All My Loving” for the umpteenth time (this is when my Beatles obsession began), he queued a song from Weezer— a band I had never before heard of. I can’t recall the name of the song, but I politely smiled through it, readying my dismissal of the group.

“Well”, you might say, “this is a terrible way to start a positive review.” If so, I disagree. For nearly a decade, I’ve pinned Weezer as indistinct, awkward, and unenjoyable. In retrospect, I’ve been a damned fool this whole time!

Whilst recently scrolling through a list of new albums, my finger stopped on OK Human, Weezer’s latest album (the title no doubt a “play” on Radiohead’s OK Computer_ed.). Before carrying forward, my eyes lingered on the album’s description: “During the summer of COVID-19 we grabbed our masks, hit the studio and began to chip away at what is now known as OK Human: an album that was made by a handful of humans using only analogue technologies for all of you humans to consume.” If an analogue recording process wasn’t enough to convince me this was special (it was), the album also features a 38 piece orchestra. After wetting my beak with the single “All My Favourite Songs,” I made my order, knowing this to be a wonderful album to cover.

First and foremost, this is an electric guitar-free album. For a rock band this is both unusual and compelling. OK Human ’s structure is also different; rather than a mere collection of songs, the album is divided into two movements, one per side (how fitting). Pair the layout with Rivers Cuomo’s superb writing, and I’d say this is Weezer’s Pet Sounds.

“All My Favorite Songs” makes clear, right from the start, that Weezer’s emo-essence is intact. Its concerning energy and feelings of self-pitying are oddly comforting and extend further into both “Aloo Gobi” and “Grapes Of Wrath.”

Cuomo wrote “Numbers” and “Playing My Piano” to explain the three previous songs’ emotional content. The former discusses the dangers of comparison, while the latter describes the last good thing one has when feeling down.

Lastly, to close what I consider the first movement, “Mirror Image” triumphantly details the rediscovery of your identity through the wonders of romance.

OK Human’s second and final movement opens with “Screens.” Like the song that follows it, “Bird With A Broken Wing,” the two describe a lonely scenario. “Screens” labels the cause of the scenario as society’s overdependence on technology, meanwhile “Bird With A Broken Wing” chooses to skip the specifications and further dives into the feeling of being a wounded nurturer.

On “Dead Roses,” all the haunting realities shown thus far meet and react, making this the moment where all that is loved is lost. It’s the album’s emotional rock bottom.

“Everything Happens For A Reason,” is the calm after the storm interlude that replenishes the listener with the necessary emotional gear required to weather the remainder of the album. The brief song leads directly into “Here Comes The Rain”—an anthem of rebirth after great sorrow.

The two-movement masterpiece closes with “La Brea Tar Pits” a metaphor for “that sinking feeling” in which the singer having endured a series of bad experiences finally asks for much needed help— “could you give me a lift?” He wants to escape but doesn’t “know where to begin”. Weezer leaves the story’s outcome tastefully unresolved and up to the listener’s imagination.

Though the music will be timeless, the sound is only decent. The soothingly arranged strings sound life-like, but they don’t possess sufficient presence to evoke the required strong response. Cuomo’s lyrics and vocals are impactful, though a more intimate recording would better compliment the scars. You won’t be disappointed with how it sounds, nor will you be overjoyed.

Everything about the package is fine except for the actual disc, both sides of which are strangely cloudy and perhaps the cause of the higher than normal and borderline irritating noise floor (looks and sounds like a ‘burnt biscuit’_ed. To make matters worse, a lock out groove infects the overly large lead-in area. If you don’t lower the stylus beyond it, the music never plays. I’ve never before experience this and hope never to again!

Manufacturing mishaps aside, I’m in awe. Weezer has not only created a cohesive album, but they have made a piece of art. After what has been a musically disappointing decade for the band, OK Human shows a future with great promise.

(Nathan Zeller is a Beatles fanatic and budding audiophile found in frosty Western Canada. Currently, he’s comparing Rainbo and Optimal pressings of the 2012 stereo Beatles remasters… nine years late)

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Glotz's picture

I like how you conveyed the emotional narrative here. I am also intrigued by the lack of electric instruments as well.

Very surprising they did not use higher quality sound processes, given it's acoustic nature. I seriously wonder how bands can't/won't take a closer desire to become more intimate with the SQ of the products they produce. I would think that these guys being of a certain age and largely financially free would have a way to personally assess this!

While I fell out of the Weezer fan base many years ago, this review will definitely have me streaming.

Thanks! Keep on keepin' on... Don't let lazy purists ruin your day!

Nathan Zeller's picture

It’s a great day when I wake up to thoughtful comment like this!

Even though you fell out of love with Weezer, I’d give this a serious few listens. I know a few people who felt the same way as you, but this album brought them back.