By: Noah Wortham
“OK Human” is the latest album by the American rock band, Weezer. Released on Jan. 29, this record is the 14th studio album for the group. This release sets itself apart by introducing a backing orchestra of strings that were recorded at Abbey Road studios. The group’s current ensemble is composed of Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner.
The albums production dates back as far as 2017 and Cuomo credits producer Jake Sinclair for planting the idea of “you (Cuomo) and a piano and an orchestra, and it’s gonna be like super personal quirky songs that only you could write, not worrying about commercial potential at all.”
The band was roughly 90 percent done with the record when they received an offer to participate in 2020’s “Hella Mega Tour,” alongside Green Day and Fallout Boy.
OK Human’s sound and style did not match up with the tour, so they shifted and produced a metal album instead for the tour.
In an interview with NPR, Cuomo mentioned how after they finished the metal album their “manager called and said ‘Guess what? The whole tour is off! There’s a pandemic!’”
Thus, the group backpedaled and returned to focus on release of “OK Human” once more, with the metal album postponed to later this year.
The record starts off strong with the single “All My Favorite Songs.” The track begins with a somber flute piece backed up by light chimes before the song picks up with strings and Cuomo’s vocals.
The lyrics immediately begin with the track’s hook about how “All my favorite songs are slow and sad” and how “All my favorite people make me mad,” An idea that points to his conclusion “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” The rich and varied instrumentation alongside the catchy and relatable hook set an excellent tone for the album.
The second track “Aloo Gobi” focuses on how Cuomo was living out the “same old dull routines” and how he’d “rather be a man on a mission.” However, the meaning of the track has become ironic to Cuomo who commented to NME that “when I wrote it, I was just bored with my social life, but I really took it for granted. That’s all been obliterated now, and I sure do miss it!” The instrumentation stands out again on this track with its rich strings that back Cuomo’s vocals and the violins that flow underneath.
Track 2’s ending flows into the start of track 3 “Grapes of Wrath.” Inspired by a sleepless night listening to the book “Grapes of Wrath” on Audible, the track explores that state of mind and makes references to various pieces of literature. The instrumentation is scaled back on this track and is reserved mostly for the delivery of the hook.
The understated song, “Numbers,” carries a melancholic tone and dwells on the dark side of statistics. The “numbers are out to get you” and “they’ll kill you if they get through.” Rather than having numbers grant freedom in individuality they become an object of preoccupation that can oppress and restrict. The instrumental backing starts off soft and somber then swells up to the chorus. The song features a nice blend of mixed instrumentation with piano, strings and horns.
“Screens” is one of the groovier songs in the track list with its prominent beat and deep strings. Despite an instrumental catch, the track can come across as tiresome with its themes. The lyrics focus on the digital age where “the real world is dying” and how “Everyone stares at the screens.”
The track “Bird with a Broken Wing” has a woodwind-based entrance and a hypnotizing string backing with light textures weaving back and forth. The instrumentation assists in painting the nostalgic tone of the track. Cuomo portrays himself as a bird that is reflecting back upon his life. Despite having become a “bird with a broken wing” he still has “this beautiful song to sing.”
The album concludes with a track titled “La Brea Tar Pits.” Cuomo’s lyrics places himself as a man who is “sinking in the La Brea Tar Pits” after “tromping the jungles” and he says that “I don’t want to die cause there’s still so much to give.” The chorus is warm and beautiful despite the subject matter. The track closes out the album with an instrumental finale that holds and fades.
Weezer managed to fit a surprising amount of content into a 12-track album that has a total runtime of only 30 minutes. The album is fairly consistent in its approach of catchy hooks with the mixed instrumentation to back it. A negative aspect of the album is that it is fairly frontloaded with good tracks with a weaker midpoint. However, they are still able to provide a conclusion to end strong.