I didn't exactly expect this album to drop, and neither did anyone else, really. I figured that the next time I'd be talking about a new Weezer album it would be in reference to their now delayed upcoming project, Van Weezer. So when I woke up about a week ago and heard that Weezer had just dropped a new single from their newest album, one with a title mimicking Radiohead's Ok Computer, I was surprised, to say the least. Lucky for me, that surprise turned out to be a pleasant one, as "All My Favorite Songs" quickly became, well, one of my favorite songs of these early stages of 2021. But what about the album that it's on? Did it live up to the high expectations it's lead single set? Well... kind of. For the most part. While not a masterpiece, or in any sort of competition with any of their 90's work, Ok Human is a pretty good record. It shows Weezer revamping their sound and doing away with their conventional rock instruments in order to substitute them with orchestration. And, already, this deserves praise. Weezer has garnered a negative reputation in the past for selling out and making formulaic power pop for the masses, so to see them throw out that formula signals to me that they care about making good music, and that they care about trying out new things, even so late into their career. And, to be honest, their gamble mostly pays off. I really like the unique and somewhat vintage sound this album has, it makes it feel sweeter, and more personal than a lot of their other projects. And it's clear from the lead single alone that that's the tone Rivers was going for.
The entire album carries with it this feeling of stripping down, and reverting back, to a more honest sound. One that Weezer themselves never possessed, but many other artists did. The lyrics reflect this also, though not always in the best light. Save for a few lines here and there, much of the songwriting on Ok Human ranges from fine to just plain not good. A fitting example of the latter would be the song "Screens", an anti-technology song who's lyrics are as groundbreaking as ice is hot. It's possible that Rivers know this and is being tongue and cheek, but even if he is, that doesn't make the song enjoyable. And besides, even if that song is meant to be taken as a joke, I do know of at least one song on here where the groan-worthy lyrics are 100% not intentional, and that would be "Numbers". In this track, we hear Rivers lament about how numbers and data control us, how we're obsessed with our weight, or obsessed with how many likes we get on Instagram, or blah blah blah blah blah no one cares. It's so incredibly maudlin and shallow, and feels just as empty, content-wise, as "Screens".
But enough of the misses, let's talk about some of the songs on here that truly do hit their intended target. "All My Favorite Songs" is a great example, as it's lyrics are simplistic, yet heartfelt and relatable, as Rivers portrays himself as an introverted teen. The way he describes feeling guilty for not attending parties he never even had a desire to go to, or feeling lonely and isolated in a way that's portrayed in all of his favorite music, as strings rise up all around him, is honestly wonderful, and probably the main highlight on the record. Another great track would be "Grapes of Wrath", a song about the bliss that comes with escaping reality with a good book. It's both catchy, as well as sarcastic, and is yet another bright spot on a pretty great side 1. "Aloo Gobi" is another solid song, as it describes something we all can relate to during times like this, which is missing going out on dates, or just traveling in general. Just like "All My Favorite Songs", it manages to strike a really nice balance between being hooky and fun, as well as melancholic and saddening. On a different note, "Bird With a Broken Wing" is sort of a disappointing track to me, as I feel like it doesn't live up to the emotional potential of its subject matter, which is essentially Weezer's journey from being rock gods to being widely derided, and brushed off as some sort of meme. It's one of those songs that takes actually intriguing subject matter and just delivers it all wrong. It's lyrics are just kind of meh, and it's chorus is underwhelming. It makes a serious topic feel melodramatic and dismissable. I suppose it can still be kind of touching in the right context, and I've heard worse, but overall, not one of the record's high points. Moving on to more positives, I really like how Weezer tried to make a lot of the songs transition into one another on this album. It's the first time they've ever really done anything like that in their career, and it works pretty well with all of the orchestration. At times it can feel sort of messily done, like during the change between "Aloo Gobi" and "Grapes of Wrath", but other than that, it's a really nice addition that helps the album flow along in a way that feels natural.
Overall, while Ok Human is very, very far from being perfect, it's without a doubt a solid record, and shows Weezer moving in a fresher, bolder, and riskier direction. Despite how asinine and preachy some of the "muh phone bad" lyrics were, I like the fact that the band decided to abandon their signature sound, and create a record that feels less polished, and more indie. It sticks out like a sore thumb in Weezer's discography, and I think it does so for the better, as it's distinctive character and subtle, yet flavorful, personality makes it a lot more interesting than most of their 2000s material. Whether or not Weezer will continue in this direction on another record, who knows, but even if they don't, Ok Human has already proven itself more than worthy of a place in Weezer's catalogue, and is one of their better efforts of the past few years.
Favorite Song: "All My Favorite Songs"
Least Favorite Song: "Screens"