Given that two of their recent five singles have been covers, a release like this was never out of the question. However, instead of being more of a meme, like the Toto covers, this album is moderately serious in that there is real quality in the performance and production of these covers (not to say the Toto covers weren’t good).
The album opens up with “Africa,” allowing Weezer fans to calm down a bit after this incredible surprise that seemed to be completely out of the blue (or dare I say it, teal). The spacey production on this song is much better in the context of this album as several other songs have a subtly ethereal, shiny quality as well. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” is executed extremely well; Weezer demonstrates their versatility to a considerable degree on these covers, being able to pump out everything from synth pop to orchestral rock just as well as they can play their usual heavy hitting garage rock.
“Take on Me” and “Happy Together” will be familiar to those who have seen Weezer live, as they have been performing both of these at recent shows. Although, the live version of “Take on Me” is a solo acoustic performance by Rivers, whereas this is a full band version. This is another highlight of the album, as once again the production is excellent, and the cover sounds natural. Weezer even ventures into hard rock, covering Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” which they have also performed live.
These covers are not exact recreations of the originals; Weezer puts their own spin on these songs, blending them with Weezer’s own sound to create an intriguing musical aesthetic. “Mr Blue Sky” and “Billie Jean” in particular exemplify this with the trademark fat guitar that is forever associated with Weezer appearing at times throughout the two songs. Of course, the same is true with “Africa,” but now that there is a whole album of these covers, this is a lot easier to appreciate.
Rivers’ vocal prowess really shines through on this album. Considering how raw his voice was in the early days of Weezer, his present vocal control is all the more impressive; he sounds so comfortable even while singing pop, a genre infamous for its need for perfection, especially from vocalists. Instrumentally, Scott Shriner showcases his skills the most. Basically every song has excellent bass; he exhibits quick control and excellent use of octaves on “Take on Me” and is tight as ever on “Billie Jean.”
This release is all a Weezer fan could ask for in the lead up to the Black Album, which drops March 1.