When Rivers Cuomo sat down to pen some new tracks for Weezer’s eleventh record, his intention was to create a direct contrast to the band’s previous effort, 2016’s ‘White’ album – “less summer day and more winter night,” as he put it. What he came up with instead was a collection of songs reminiscent of a Grease-like summer love in an alternate universe. So that’s what was to come next. The ‘Black’ album was temporarily shelved and ‘Pacific Daydream’ was born.
The lead single – Feels Like Summer – was teased to the loyal Weezer fanbase a full seven months before the album was released into the world, bringing with it an electro-pop feel that caught some off-guard. This by no means was an ill-fated move, though, as it provided an unassuming yet catchy backdrop to the downcast story of summer love lost and the fading memories left behind. That’s the thing about Cuomo – he has a knack for making sad songs sound like sunshine. This is evident in opening track ‘Mexican Fender’, a song seemingly about spending the day with somebody else’s girlfriend, and the ensuing hope that he can win her favour. The signature guitar work on this one is 100% Weezer, making it a perfect way to kick off the record. This is, however, where the guitar-driven alt-rock familiarity of past albums temporarily wanes.
The second track is an unashamed homage to ‘60s surf-rock band, The Beach Boys, a notable influence on Cuomo and the Weezer sound as a whole. This track serves as the soundtrack for a tumultuous night, interjected by spoken lines from a producer trying in vain to shift the direction of the band – apparently a reference to Murry Wilson, father of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.
The electronic influence makes a return in ‘Happy Hour’, reminding me somewhat of Childish Gambino’s most recent release. This could partly be due to the influence of co-writers Seann Bowe & Chris Sernel, whose fingers are more often found in electro than rock. Thankfully, though, the story of instant infatuation in ‘Weekend Woman’ brings back the Weezer vibe, as easily the strongest track on the record.
‘QB Blitz’ is a lament of loneliness and isolation, slipping in a subtle Star Wars reference that I missed on first listen. It begins a softer side to the record, leading into ‘Sweet Mary’, which has me wondering if it’s a reference to cannabis keeping his anxiety at bay while he’s alone at night. ‘Get Right’ doesn’t quite get it right for me. It seems out of place, even on an album as diverse in sound as this one. I feel the same about ‘La Mancha Screwjob’, a track I consider more suited to a pop artist than a rock band. ‘Any Friend Of Diane’s’ ends the record inoffensively. It isn’t a bad song, but it lacks the punch that the first half of the album had.
Overall, I feel like the record reached out to be unique, but fell short of majesty; it took a running start and ran out of breath at the last turn. The record has its strengths, but the production is overdone at times and that hurts the album as a whole. I like it, though – unlike its predecessor – I don’t love it.