Published on February 4th, 2019 | by Jeff Thiessen0
Weezer – The Teal Album
Bad news for Jeff’s family and friends: apparently Weezer’s ‘Teal Album’ was his In the Mouth of Madness experience. The Jeff that was, is gone.
I’m currently listening to Weezer’s ‘The Teal Album,’ their brand new surprise release, consisting entirely of covers. Truth be told, I’ve been listening to it all morning and afternoon, which is certainly not how I expected to spend Superbowl Sunday.
‘The Teal Album’ is my entire relationship/history with music, compounded into a soul-shattering homecoming, a singularity that has swallowed me up and thrust me into a world that no longer makes any sense to me, yet one that shimmers with boundless possibilities of auditory pain and pleasure. In a way, it reminds me of the puzzle box in Hellraiser, but instead of the High Priest of Hell paying me a visit, it’s Rivers Cuomo, and instead of a labyrinthian maze of the most purest form of existential anguish, I’m treated to Weezer covering hits by Eurythmics, Michael Jackson, and TLC. To truly examine this new reality is pointless, as the limitations of good/bad are stretched into the infinite, and all I’m now left with is a hellhound heart and the brutal realization that this is ‘The Teal Album’ is now in full control of my musical destiny. This is truly the result of gazing into the abyss too long.
The Teal Album is ten songs. Here’s the list:
Toto – Africa
Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (are made of this)
A-Ha – Take on Me
Turtles – Happy Together
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Electric Light Orchestra -Mr. Blue Sky
TLC – No Scrubs
Michael Jackson – Billy Jean
Ben E. King – Stand by Me
As you probably know by now, one of the more random musical developments in 2018 was Weezer’s cover of ‘Africa.’ It was a truly baffling release, even for a one-off thing, and I found myself struggling with its presence in my world more than I really should’ve. It’s not that it wasn’t good – well it certainly wasn’t a good cover by any reasonable metric, it just occupied a very uncomfortable musical terrain that frankly I didn’t know existed. This isn’t my reaction as a music journalist, this is my reaction as a human being. Its continued rotation in mainstream music just made me vaguely uncomfortable, I knew I wanted to rake it over the coals but it was such foreign territory, I didn’t even know where to start. Little did I know, that dot stretched into a Mobius Strip with the release of ‘The Teal Album’ on January 24th, 2019. I have no mouth and I must scream.
Listening to this is believing, unfortunately the jury is definitely out in regards to, believing in what exactly? Turns out ‘Africa’ wasn’t a smokescreen after all, that ultra-faithful cover that could be better described as a grotesque replica, actually was a sincere warning shot. The conundrum facing that song, or paradox I suppose, seemed to be the following: Weezer’s version was as close to the original as humanly possible, there wasn’t anything in there that could be considered even a remote variation. So with that said, if you love the Toto song, why would you ever handpick Weezer’s, and if you didn’t like the Toto song, what chance could you have of liking the Weezer one?
The more I wrestled with this, the more I realized it’s just a circular hell where nobody really wins. And this concept seems to perversely excite Weezer for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, as this formula is expanded to a full-length release with ‘The Teal Album.’ I really can’t overemphasize enough how astoundingly close to the original versions these songs are. Weezer kept all the arrangements in lockstep with their counterparts, even the bridges remain completely untouched for the most part. It really doesn’t take long, maybe three songs in once you finish ‘Sweet Dreams,’ that you’re just listening to a karaoke record created in a world where the stars don’t shine.
And the more I listen to this, the more I’m realizing the almost creepily meticulous attention to detail on these tracks. One of the coolest parts on the original ‘Sweet Dreams’ is how Annie Lennox effortlessly alters the cadence of “this” in the hook, so it rhymes with “dreams”. It’s actually a really impressive feat, considering how self-regulating she keeps herself throughout that entire song. Well somehow, Rivers does this too, when my ear picked up on this I was more than a little shocked and I realized I am now in uncharted waters. This was the moment set up for him to fail, this was the moment of truth that would’ve allowed us to banish ‘The Teal Album’ to the same land of wind and ghosts we send all those other lame, ineffectual cover albums to. Instead, this proved to be the moment my eye began to twitch uncontrollably.
A similar thing happens on their ‘Take on Me’ cover. The dramatic ascension Harket seemed to nail in A-Ha’s 1984 single was a surprisingly nimble performance. Push it too far and the song loses some of its 80s pop fun, not enough and it sounds like a bad Duran Duran song. He actually walked a very fine line in terms of the famous hook, the theatrics had very little room for error. And wouldn’t you know it, Cuomo strolls in and somehow walks that exact same tight rope. This proved to be the moment my other eye began to twitch uncontrollably.
I just started listening to it today, so I suspect I’ll find more examples as I go on, but they continue to creep up on me and I hope this isn’t reading as complimentary. It is impressive, but it’s impressive in the same way you have to marvel at a fully intact hair doll police find at the scene of a hideous murder. There’s no part of you that wants to see him make it, and you certainly don’t have any desire to hold it, but there’s a pretty big part of you that is astonished that so much beautiful effort and craftsmanship can go towards something so beyond the pale that only he could justify.
At this point you might be wondering if it’s a purposefully ironic release, and I’m missing the joke. I haven’t quite discounted that theory, but the more I listen to this, the less likely it seems. Any time I think I catch a hint of detached irony, I’m thrown off the scent by a song or moment way too steeped in outright sincerity (not sure if that’s the right word here, but adjectives fail me fairly constantly when it comes to this album) to lend credence to the “in on the joke” postulation. If Weezer delivered a full album of ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Billie Jean’ type songs, I think then we can run with that a bit more, but when you pair them up with ‘Paranoid’ and Electric Light Orchestra, I’m afraid chaos theory is the one we have to read up on.
When ‘Africa’ came out, the knee-jerk reaction I initially had was “Well, Weezer has jumped the shark, it’s clear now.” Then I heard it again, and I actually seriously started questioning their sanity. Not seriously of course, but just one of those fun back-of-your-mind, “what if?” hunches that never really goes away. Now as I listen to ‘The Teal Album,’ I’m questioning mine. I can’t hate it, but I also can’t accept it. I just now am starting to embrace the fact that it’s actually me in the mouth of madness, and the scary thing is, I don’t know if I want to get out, even if I could.