Weezer’s eleventh studio record Pacific Daydream is an album of offshoots and outtakes. Here, the band trades powerchords for pop harmonies to create a series of late-night party jams.
The album was born out of early recordings for Weezer’s upcoming release next year, the long anticipated Black Album, and according to the band’s frontman Rivers Cuomo, features reworked demos and b-sides from the hidden corners of the band’s discography. In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Cuomo addresses this, and revealed that the bombastic beach anthem and album opener “Mexican Fender” was an outtake from last year’s fantastic Weezer (2016), known as the White Album. However, calling Pacific Daydream a record of leftovers would be unfair—the album has a personality of its own, though long-time fans might not love that personality.
Pacific Daydream noticeably leans towards a pop-friendly audience. Cuomo and bandmates eschewed power chords in favour of slick production, softer acoustic instrumentation, and electronic samples and effects. No more than two band members met at a single time during recording sessions. Weezer is a group known for their reactionary directions, and Pacific Daydream is a rejection of White in a lot of ways.
The first half of Pacific Daydream is loaded with hit after hit—from the energy of “Mexican Fender” to the summery sounds on “Beach Boys” to the melancholy late-afternoon jam “Happy Hour,” Weezer’s flirtation with radio-friendly pop works resoundingly well.
Weezer doesn’t always delve into unfamiliar territory on Pacific Daydream. “QB Blitz” sounds like a modern take on the Weezer classic “Island In the Sun,” and “Any Friend of Diane’s” could have been found on any Weezer record post-Pinkerton.
But the Pacific Daydream experiment isn’t a total success. In classic Weezer style, littered among some good songs are some objective duds. “Weekend Woman” and “Sweet Mary” sound like poorly written holiday tracks, and they don’t distinguish themselves from one another. “Weekend Woman” also features the weakest hook on the record, with Cuomo crooning oddly over a chorus of bells, “Fell in love on a Sunday / By Monday morning I drifted away.”
Lead single “Feels Like Summer” provides an excellent example of the faults in Cuomo’s ‘spreadsheet’ song-writing formula, where Cuomo combines incoherent lyrics and chords. Despite success with the formula on White, the method fails repeatedly here. “La Macha Screwjob,” one of the better songs on the record musically, features weak lyrics such as “We’re getting stronger, stronger, going faster, faster.”
Pacific Daydream provides a bizarre world parallel to some of their other albums. On an album like 1996’s Pinkerton, Cuomo cried out in search of belonging, trying to find his place within the world and music industry as a young man; on Pacific Daydream, Cuomo is trying to reconcile a youthfulness which has begun to leave him behind in his older age with nostalgic attachments to another time.
Pacific Daydream is caught in between two worlds: on one hand, the record is a superb pop record full of windows-down summer anthems; on the other hand, it’s a subpar Weezer record which does little to satiate fans longing for the 90s-style riffs and structures that marked the so-called ‘return of Weezer’ between 2014 and 2016. It’s a record which needs to be taken on its own, and it deserves a fair listen—but if you’re looking for riffs, maybe they’ll be on next year’s Black Album.