Sounds like an odd plan: After Van Weezer, its very corny but entertaining metal-influenced record, Weezer announced it would be making a four-EP series, SZNZ, with the releases coming out on the first day of each season. Guitarist Brian Bell teased that one of the records would be “Weezer-inspired,” with the others taking on inspiration from acts like The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, and Elliott Smith. The project kicks off with the themeless one, seemingly just based on the happiness of the season. But while this may not be the EP based on the band’s own work (that one is coming in the summer), it still sprinkles in bits reminiscent of Weezer’s first three albums, without leaving its current pop-heavy sound.
The EP begins with “Opening Night,” featuring Rivers Cuomo singing to the tune of Vivaldi’s “La Primavera,” as Bell recreates the arrangement on the guitar. The whimsical start features hilariously ridiculous lyrics like “Shakespeare makes me happy, so happy, and I’m happy to be with you.” The Shakespeare reference is apt—Weezer’s take on “La Primavera” evokes the imagery of Puck, Shakespeare’s biggest trickster, prancing around in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, complete with a fantastical flute.
In less than a minute, the breezy number shifts into the power pop for which the band is known, alternating between whimsy and a guitar-heavy tune that should please fans who expect a “Weezer-inspired” EP to actually emulate the band’s early years. It’s not the best song on Spring, but it certainly sets the tone.
Second track “Angels On Vacation,” may be the closest we’ll get to having Weezer sound like old Weezer. The opening guitar riff contains traces of Pinkerton’s “The Good Life,” paired with an upbeat approach similar to the tone the band explored on The Green Album. The unabashedly enjoyable and refreshing melody is attractive enough that you forget about the lyrics. The only downside: the reminder that Weezer can still craft songs like this, but Cuomo chooses not to.
Unfortunately, arguably the best song on the EP is jarringly followed by the worst one: “A Little Bit Of Love,” which sounds like it was made for a car or coffee commercial, with Weezer doing its best imitation of bland, radio-friendly rock akin to The Lumineers. The band selected “A Little Bit Of Love” as the only single for Spring, an interesting choice that hints at Cuomo’s mindset. Going with the arguably most marketable but least playful track seemingly signals a desire to break into mainstream radio again, rather than appeasing fans expecting The Blue Album-style songs.
The middle of the EP drags with filler tracks. “Garden Of Eden,” one of the most pared-down songs on Spring, is nice enough that it doesn’t beg to be skipped, but hardly memorable. “The Sound Of Drums,” an odd combination of folk and power pop, doesn’t work, but gets points for at least being unexpected.
But those middle duds are followed by “All This Love,” a song with cloyingly corny lyrics (“I’ve got all this love that I’ve been saving up”) yet undeniably catchy. For better or worse, it’s one of the EP’s standouts, the kind of song where you’ll find yourself humming the hokey “doo-doo-doo” part. In its current era, Weezer tends to makes songs that are simultaneously terrible and genius, and “All This Love” is a perfect example.
Closing track “Wild At Heart” sounds like the marriage between Pinkerton-era Weezer and the current version, with a vocal inflection from Cuomo that hearkens back to “No Other One.” It’s cheery and fun, despite its not-so-great chorus: “Wild at heart, you’ve got me wild at heart like we used to be, like we meant to be.”
While Cuomo doesn’t seem to be putting as much work as he used to into the lyrics—he’s been quoted as saying that as much as he’d want to his music to have a profound message, it’s hard for him to “be divisive in a song” these days—the band’s focus has shifted to showing how well it can create attention-grabbing arrangements instead of crafting words that matter. After all, it’s safer to write cheesy love songs than to write about questionable topics like fantasizing about teenage Japanese girls , lusting over lesbians, and wanting to control your partner, even if those topics resulted in the band’s best work.
This EP finds Weezer safely in its comfort zone, leaving a big challenge for the rest of the EPs in the series. But for now, fans can still enjoy the fact that Weezer can sometimes—when the right effort is made—sound genuinely great.