When it came time to produce their ninth studio album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Weezer recruited an old friend: the Cars‘ Ric Ocasek, the power-pop Midas who worked with the band on 1994′s beloved The Blue Album and 2001′s The Green Album. Ocasek certainly draws out the band’s poppier tendencies — that pair of records contains the killer singles “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “Photograph” and “Hash Pipe” — but more than that, he’s always helped Weezer’s music stay concise and focused. It’s these qualities that stand out on Everything Will Be Alright, a fantastic collection of fuzzed-out tunes that eschew the gimmickry and frivolity that marred 2009′s Raditude and 2010′s Hurley.
In fact, after those uneven pop forays, it’s a relief to hear Weezer re-embrace chugging power-pop, exuberant classic rock and grunge. Still, they do so in fresh ways. “I’ve Had It Up to Here” — a co-write with the Darkness’s Justin Hawkins — has a Queen vibe, with shrieking stacks of harmonies and syncopated rhythmic grooves, while “Go Away” is a lovely duet/co-write with Best Coast‘s Bethany Cosentino that merges ’50s rock innocence with distorted riffs. “Foolish Father” is another highlight; the spacey, synth-heavy song is heartbreaking and vulnerable, as it’s from the point of view of a dad trying to patch up a familial relationship: “Forgive your foolish father/ He did the best that he could do/ You are his daughter/ He’d do anything for you.”
Other parts of Everything Will Be Alright tackle familiar themes. The bashing pop-punk gem “Lonely Girl” features a quintessential self-pitying Weezer protagonist who projects his own neuroses onto a crush (“I know I’m scared/ I know I’m sad/ I needed your help to realize it’s not so bad”), while the Fall Out Boy-ish “Cleopatra” is a bitter song about a paramour who’s lost her power (“You’re older, you’re colder”). At least Weezer is equal-opportunity where it comes to acknowledging aging: “Back to the Shack” is both a career mea culpa and an expression of a desire to get back to their roots, while “Eulogy for a Rock Band” is a tongue-in-cheek ode to over-the-hill musical groups.
Yet for as serious as Weezer can be, the record never loses its whimsical undercurrent. “The Waste Land” and “Return to Ithaka” are majestic metal instrumentals, while “The British Are Coming” is a determined nod to the U.K. — from the Beatles-esque harmonies and acoustic guitars to the dainty, darting melody and a metallic guitar solo. But more important, Everything Will Be Alright in the End avoids the trap where its self-referential nods feel like retreads. Working again with Ocasek could’ve easily led to The Blue Album 2; instead, Weezer sound rejuvenated and creatively energized.