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A&E >  Entertainment

Weezer returns with introspective, poignant ‘OK Human’

Jan. 28, 2021 Updated Thu., Jan. 28, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.

Humor and rock are typically mutually exclusive. It’s been a long time since Van Halen charmed fans with equal parts wink and a smile and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar innovation, which changed the sonic lexicon.

Weezer is adept at sly and subtle humor. The catchy “Pink Triangle,” from the band’s exceptional second album, “Pinkerton,” is amusing and provocative. Who doesn’t love the band’s charming “Buddy Holly” video?

The alt-corporate rockers induce smiles with their latest album, “OK Human,” a take on Radiohead’s first of many brilliant albums, “OK Computer,” which was inspired by how technology is replacing humanity.

“OK Human” is more Beach Boys than Radiohead. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo does his best Brian Wilson while working with a 38-piece orchestra. It’s a surprisingly introspective effort, especially considering that the band announced in 2020 that it would return with the muscular “Van Weezer” album, a tribute to, among other rock legends, Eddie Van Halen.

But Weezer effectively goes the other way with “OK Human,” which drops Friday. Cuomo manages to be deep and funny at the same time while belting out that “Kim Jong Un could blow up my city, and I’d never know.”

That’s a great reference to how buried most people are into their phones. It wouldn’t take much to divide and conquer since folks live inside technology and make like an ostrich on a daily basis.

Cuomo is an underrated artist, and Weezer, as popular as the act has been, doesn’t get enough credit.

“Rivers is unique and so talented,” Weezer drummer Pat Wilson told me during a 2017 interview. “I’ve written a lot of songs with Rivers, and it’s been a great experience. Rivers was always smart enough to focus on being a songwriter.”

Cuomo, who studied at Harvard in between the band’s first release, “The Blue Album,” and “Pinkerton” is a cerebral figure but plays up the nerd image. Wilson, who has been part of Weezer with guitarist Brian Bell since the band’s inception nearly 30 years ago, detailed how much he enjoys working with Cuomo.

“I love being in a band with Rivers,” Wilson said. “If that wasn’t so, I would have left Weezer years ago. ”

After writing and recording a concert’s worth of hits such as “Hash Pipe,” “Pork and Beans” and “Undone (The Sweater Song),” Cuomo continues to challenge himself with “OK Human” by penning a bold album of poignant songs without guitars. Cuomo sat down in front of his piano and created his midlife symphony to God while sporting an ironic mustache.

“Weezer comes from a place that’s different than most (contemporary) bands,” Wilson said. That’s laudable. Weezer has never been down with trends. Weezer emerged at just about the same time as Radiohead. The bands started in the same spot with alternative hits.

Cuomo, an Ivy Leaguer, watched as Radiohead became the Beatles of his generation while he led a quietly solid rock band that continues to challenge itself. Weezer is so respectable that it can be forgiven for its recent reverential cover of Toto’s “Africa.”

The band plans to release “Van Weezer,” which is full of incendiary rockers, later in 2021 with the hope of touring. The band was slated to perform last July at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, but the show and jaunt were nixed due to the pandemic. Perhaps Weezer will hit the road this year, but, if not, the band adds a pair of albums to its enviable canon.

Whenever Weezer returns to Spokane, yes, some of the new tunes will be rendered, but, unlike some successful bands who are reluctant to look back, the early material will not be ignored. Some of the more amusing and hook-laden songs are from “The Blue Album.”

I remember walking into Manhattan’s DGC office for an advance of Hole’s “Live Through This” a month before it was released in March 1994.

“Hey, you got to check this album out, too. It comes out in two months,” the publicist said. It was Weezer’s debut.

For years, fans have hoped for a repeat of the power pop from Weezer’s initial release and “Pinkerton,” but the band will never return to the studio to re-create music from its salad days.

“There is no way we can go back and re-create such an album,” Wilson said. “We’re not in our 20s anymore. That period has come and gone. We can play songs from that era, but, when it comes time to make new music, we’ve moved on.”

That’s evident, particularly after a spin of “OK Human,” which is a nice surprise from a band that continues to move forward and has retained its sense of humor after a 28-year run.

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