The Beach Boys. The Doors. The Smiths. Steve Ray Vaughan. Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.
Whether these references, liberally scattered throughout the album, are simply intended to cushion the inevitable scorn of Weezer’s fanbase towards the work billed as the band’s foray into pure pop, or whether they betray a deeper sense of nostalgia and loss, is the central intrigue of “Pacific Daydream”. For all its breezy hooks and Pro Tools sheen, a wistfulness and melancholy slinks beneath the surface of the album. With its members well into their late 40s and early 50s, Weezer is an ageing band, and one that seems acutely aware that this may be its last comically futile gasp at pop viability, even if it is little more than an asthmatic wheeze. To be absolutely clear, “Pacific Daydream” is not going to produce hit singles, regardless of its tracks’ commerciality or lack of it. Just as Linkin Park’s “Heavy” didn’t catapult them into the hit parade, “Feels Like Summer” or, heaven forbid, “Beach Boys”, will not beckon Rhianna guest features and VMA glitz. It’s just not going to happen. But I digress.
Given that chart hits seem out of reach, “Pacific Daydream” is worryingly only readable as part of the Weezer canon. Though far from the band’s first venture into squeaky-clean pop—there’s the scrubbed-from-the-record “Raditude”, the not-as-bad-but-still-embarrassing “Hurley” and arguably even “The Green Album”—it’s their most overt and fully-realised. However, despite the cosmetic stylistic revamp, Rivers Cuomo’s old lyrical themes quickly resurface: loneliness and confusion, societal otherness, a childishly absolute faith in the wonders of love. Potentially jarring references to romantic longing and summer at the beach are somehow acceptable from Weezer. At this point, midlife crisis has become their house style.
Although they have dabbled in electronic pop—2009’s nightmarish “Can’t Stop Partying” looms ominously into view—“Pacific Daydream” is far more Train than Avicii. Surprisingly, the album often gets away with its glib, blustery commercialism thanks to the sturdiness of its tracks: “Weekend Woman” is as good a pop song as the band have ever recorded, and “Sweet Mary” is a lush evocation of both vintage Weezer and the ‘60s Californian harmonies they incessantly fetishize. Even “Feels Like Summer”, once the antiseptic cleanliness of the album has been acclimatised to, is a punchy, effectively constructed track.
However, what is most pervasive is a sense of dislocation from modern musical trends, and society generally. Allusions to this abound, from “It’s a hip-hop world” on “Beach Boys” to “You gotta choose between the internet and me” on the finger-picked “QB Blitz”. However, despite risking down-with-the-kids desperation, Weezer’s submersion in earnest poptimism feels far less incongruous than it should; the band have always written pop hooks, and their lovelorn sincerity slots right into the pop vernacular. “Pacific Daydream” therefore treads an uneasy line, somehow both not Weezer at all and the logical conclusion of the band. Not nearly as bad as you might think. CO
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGod7Xnqr20