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Weezer’s ‘The Teal Album’ has you covered

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Anyone who knows me knows that for the most part, I stopped paying attention to music over two decades ago. My tastes, while not quite frozen in amber, haven’t changed a whole lot in the years that have passed since, so it’s rare for a new musical project to appear that piques my interest in any meaningful way.

And then Weezer dropped “The Teal Album.”

This surprise offering is a collection of 10 covers – a sort of appetizer for the main course that will be the band’s “The Black Album,” to be released later this year. It’s a surprisingly straightforward bunch, with Rivers Cuomo and company mostly content to do fairly loyal renditions of these classic songs. A lot of the tunes come from the 1980s, though the earliest song is from 1961 and the latest from 1999; it’s a fun, goofy assemblage, a musical trifle that entertains without any sense of self-seriousness.

Leading off is a cover of Toto’s “Africa” – likely the song that really kicked this project off in the first place. The band succumbed to ongoing internet pressure to record the 1980s classic after a weirdly insistent online campaign. They definitely leaned into it, playing it straight with the cover and getting Weird Al to be in the video.

That one is followed by a trio of 1980s all-stars – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears; “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics; and “Take On Me” by a-ha. Again, these are straightforward covers, yet their inherent Weezer-ness is inescapable.

Then it starts getting a little … weird. Next up is the classic “Happy Together,” which was a hit for the Turtles over 50 years ago. Then they dig into Black Sabbath’s 1970 metal touchstone “Paranoid,” producing a track that so utterly encapsulates the weird Venn diagram of my musical tastes from the mid-1990s, it immediately became my favorite on the album.

From there, we hit Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” – which is also a jam – before arriving at what is probably the most unexpected cover of the bunch, a guys-with-guitars take on TLC’s “No Scrubs” that is fun while also giving the impression of just missing being REALLY fun, like it wanted to be Jonathan Coulton doing “Baby Got Back” but wound up more Ben Folds doing “B-----s Ain’t S—t.”

From there, we hit the Michael Jackson classic “Billie Jean” and close it out with another unexpected twist, an earnest take on Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.”

And that’s all she wrote.

None of these songs are spectacular, but that doesn’t seem to be the intent. It’s about paying homage. Do some of the choices feel a little calculated? Sure – that opening stretch comes off a little like an effort to keep the nostalgia-driven success of “Africa” going. But those tunes aren’t bad. None of them are, really. For me, the biggest miss is probably “Happy Together” – for whatever reason, it feels like the worst fit, but it’s not a quality issue.

As for favorites, the run of Sabbath, ELO and TLC is probably where I’m going to spend the most time upon continued listening. “Paranoid” was a delightful surprise for me; I wouldn’t have expected to dig this version as much as I did. “Mr. Blue Sky” is a killer tune no matter who’s doing it. And “No Scrubs” – man, I get why people love it and I get why people hate it. I lean more toward the former, but I have no quibble with those landing squarely on the latter.

There’s nothing necessary about “The Teal Album.” Honestly, I more or less wandered away after “Pinkerton.” But is necessity all that important? Isn’t it OK to just have some fun with a record? They’re just playing songs that they like with their friends – and that’s enough.

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