OK Human, Weezer: an Album Review
Updated: May 4, 2021
Being a Weezer fan is hard.
You think things are improving, the band releases one great album in EWBAITE and one late career masterpiece with the White album. Then, they follow it up with two of their worst albums, Pacific Daydream and the Black album, alongside the bang average Teal album stuffed with at times questionable covers (Brian Bell’s “Paranoid” springs to mind).
Fortunately, OK Human rests firmly with the former. Connections to its Radiohead namesake remain mostly thematic, through feelings of technological anxiety and isolation. Although at times these do fall into old man yells at cloud territory such as on “Screens”, wherein Rivers bemoans “Everyone stares at their screens”. Began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and finished in its midst, it’s in the albums evoking of social isolation, like on the standout single “All My Favourite Songs” that its themes really shine. This does cause eye rolls, especially when references to getting “back to these Zoom interviews” crop up on the otherwise excellent “Playing My Piano”. It is nevertheless refreshing to see Rivers lyrics veer away from the nonsensical, or the just plain cringey on past albums and deal with more raw and emotional themes.
Aloo Gobi comes to mind with its repeated “You are not alone” refrain and even Screens with its simple “I miss my friends. I miss my family” final lines. Yet, it’s in the music itself where OK Human truly shines. In a first for a full length Weezer album the
electric guitars have been ditched in favour of a full string section. The embrace of analog in keeping with the albums thematic drive could’ve been a disaster but instead it’s a triumph. The orchestral flourishes manage to deliver contrasting emotions, the upbeat bounciness of Grapes of Wrath, and the serious on the albums best track “Numbers” and “Playing my Piano”. Across the album, OK Human finds Rivers delivering some of his best vocal performances yet. On both “Numbers” and “Playing my Piano” Rivers vocals working in tandem with the strings bring a serious emotional intensity that makes the album a serious pleasure.
There are no truly bad tracks, although “Mirror Image” comes close just for its brevity and mostly uninteresting sound. Flowing beautifully from track to track, alongside the brief interlude, listening in a single sitting feels ideal. Even on the aforementioned Screens with its at times eye roll inducing lyrics, Weezer deliver catchy hook after catchy hook. Even as it loses steam towards its final leg, the album never dips into poor quality and tracks like “Bird with a Broken Wing” would be album highlights on some of the bands weaker offerings. OK Human stands as testimony to Weezer’s continued capability, even almost 30 years into their career, of producing a great album. With Van Weezer around the corner, they look set have their best year since 2016. And whilst it doesn’t ever reach the heights of Blue, Pinkerton or even in my opinion White, it remains a fun, powerful and genuinely pleasant album that deserves to rank as one of their best efforts.
And in these difficult times, isn’t that something worth smiling about?
Favourite Tracks: All My Favourite Songs, Grapes of Wrath, Numbers, Playing My Piano
Least Favourite Tracks: Mirror Image
Written by Joe Baird