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Weezer extends hot streak with ‘White Album’

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By Matt Maielli / Staff Writer

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What Bob Dylan is to protest songs, Rivers Cuomo is to lovesick ballads.

Weezer’s fourth self-titled album, nicknamed “The White Album,” is just as inspired as their first comeback, 2015’s “Everything Will Be Alright in the End,” which followed 2010’s forgettable “Hurley.” But where “Everything” explored frontman Cuomo’s various relationships — with his bandmates, father and women — “The White Album” is a focused, wistful letter to the California beach scene.

The success of “The White Album” shouldn’t be too surprising. The band slowly dropped half of the album months before its official release with videos for “Thank God for Girls,” “Do You Wanna Get High?,” “King of the World,” “L.A. Girlz” and “California Kids.” All received generally positive reviews from fans and critics alike.

The full product is a 10-track return to the band’s peak 1990s form, circa the “Blue Album” and “Pinkerton,” that retains the fresh approach of “Everything.”

The opening track, “California Kids,” is a simple surf anthem — clearly recalling 1994’s “Surf Wax America” — complete with a beating chorus and lyrics painting California as heaven on Earth: “If you’re up all night/ Thinking about some thing you did/ The California Kids/ Will show you the sunshine.”

“Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” follows with a dream narrative about two mermaids, whose  ending bleeds into the reality of romantic relationships in the beginning of “L.A. Girlz.”  “L.A. girls, please act your age,” sings the 45-year-old Cuomo directly after a track about mermaid dreams.

This song, as well as the droning, immature “Do You Wanna Get High?,” is why a lot of people think it’s weird that Weezer still hasn’t outgrown teen angst — the album’s Japan release even included a bonus track titled “Prom Night.”  Rivers is a father, and while he isn’t plagued by seemingly anything but his own enduring angst, he’s just now starting to remember how to translate it into songs that aren’t eye-rollers — unfortunately this can’t erase ’00s duds like “Raditude” and “Hurley.”   

The album moves quickly between beach-scene appreciation and relationships, with contemplations on both’s place in the world today.

“Wind in Our Sail” describes the exciting potential of a new relationship — “Like Darwin on the Beagle / Or Mendel experimenting with a pea” — while the “uh-huh” filled “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” states the satisfaction of a lasting relationship, with lyrics like, “You scare me like an open window,” still leaving room for doubt.

Weezer isn’t afraid to look at the sadder side of relationships either. “Jacked Up” is a sweet little song about the consequences of a one-night stand in which Cuomo takes on a light falsetto over a plucky piano, creating a sound that recalls a Cold War Kids track that you can’t quite place.

And while the result is the polar opposite of “Pinkerton’s” “Falling for You,” which revels in the possibilities of a relationship post-hookup, “Thank God for Girls” is a passive ode to current forms of online dating.

It’s well known that Cuomo surfed Tinder for inspiration for “The White Album” — finding it in the unrealistic ideals men place on women who are wholly unknown to them: “She’s so big / She’s so strong / She’s so energetic in her sweaty overalls.”

The album contains several classical references, from Greek myth to Lewis Carroll, as well as ridiculous lyrics, such as this gem from “Thank God for Girls”: “I’m like an Indian Fakir tryna’ meditate on a bed of nails with my pants pulled down.”

But the album’s most subtle and gently beautiful lyric resides in the chorus of “King of the World.” The track is a sadder, more realistic “Holiday” from 1994’s “Blue Album.”

Cuomo sings, “We could ride a Greyhound all the way to the Galapagos / And stay for the rest of our lives.” Sounds like alliterative nonsense, but Kyoko Cuomo, Rivers’ wife, said just as much when she annotated the song on Genius, writing about her fear of airplanes stemming from reading about crashes during her childhood.

Even the word “Galapagos” is significant. Being where Charles Darwin first developed his theory of evolution, Cuomo extends the Darwin metaphor used in “Wind in Our Sails” to paint the islands as an eventual destination on his and his wife’s Greyhound journey — “Oh, Galapagos. [S]ounds like a peaceful place,” Kyoko wrote.

“The White Album” closes with “Endless Bummer,” capping a record that is anything but, featuring a stripped-down Weezer with just an acoustic guitar. While Weezer fans have wished for a ’90s era revival album, Cuomo wishes for summer to end and for a California beach scene of days gone past.

As the guitar fuzz fades into beach noises — seagulls, waves and far-off voices — it’s clear both have gotten what they want.

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Weezer extends hot streak with ‘White Album’