2020 was supposed to be the year of Van Weezer. Of course, coronavirus restrictions threw a wrench in those efforts and pushed that record back to May 7 of this year, almost a full 365 since the original release date. In its place for now is OK Human, a record cut not from the cloth of old-school rock and careless good times but from orchestration and isolation. The fact that this record employs a 38-piece orchestra and came out before the 4-man effort of Van Weezer is pretty peculiar given what delayed the latter record and the social restrictions one could imagine would be applied to the studio during this time; then again they did start recording this in ’19 so who knows?
The full spectrum of emotions one might experience being locked in their house, or perhaps just on a day-to-day basis for messed-up people gets explored on this record, starting with the torrent of conflicting feelings and desires on “All My Favourite Songs”: “I wanna be rich but I feel guilty/I fall in love with everyone who hates me”. “Aloo Gobi” rings out like “A Day In The Life” for awkward, self-effacing urbanites, with Rivers Cuomo ultimately getting his wish for better or worse with the line “I don’t want to sit to next to humans, I’m agoraphobic”. “Grapes Of Wrath” shows traces of vintage Weezer in its celebration of escape by music; in contrast “Numbers” is an intimate exploration of inadequacy. “Playing My Piano” isn’t as introspective as it is autobiographical of Cuomo’s corona lifestyle, demonstrative of the ironically open twist to the anti-social bent of this record. Cuomo’s wife, aforementioned on “Piano” gets her props on “Mirror Image”, an interlude at best but a nice addition regardless.
While much of OK Human’s first half revolves around eschewing interaction, “Screens” laments the atomization of society by technology and social media, something that’s only been amped up ten fold by current conditions. From there it runs into “Bird With A Broken Wing”, a heavily stringed number loaded with vulnerability and small bits of idealism. “Dead Roses” runs on a similar sonic dynamic, collapsing into the quick interlude “Everything Happens For A Reason”. From there, “Here Comes The Rain” switches the mood up with an upbeat piano line, sounding like a Beatles throwback circa ’66-’69, and not necessarily because of the title of the song, the slight similarity this song bares to that tune or the fact that the orchestral parts of this album were recorded at Abbey Road– you get the point, though it was clearly stated that Harry Nilsson and the Pet Sounds era of The Beach Boys were the main inspirations for this record. “La Brea Tar Pits” closes the record out, one more dose of well-mixed orchestration and rainy day pop-rock that Weezer has finely incorporated into their brand with a live studio vibe to boot.
There’s a whole gamut of universal sentiments explored on OK Human, and while Van Weezer is the first thing all of us wanted to hear, this serves as a fine and timely stopgap. A time where much of the world is completely locked in their homes and separated from those closest to them isn’t the time to release a fun, blazing rock record; this is the time to go back and rekindle those Pinkerton vibes and that’s more or less what Weezer did here. The difference now being that while Weezer continues to be one of the flagship bands of the awkward outsider, with the way things are at the moment these songs pretty much apply to everyone now, dissolving the distinctions between socialite and loner for a while. Time will tell what will come of Weezer and everyone else in the live realm, but for now, as long as there’s some kind of music getting out and we can pick up on it, we can get by.