A distant cousin of Green + Pacific Daydream
Rob Wilson
12:08 23rd March 2022

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First mentioned by Rivers Cuomo during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (as Cuomo holed himself up in his basement studio, writing music and performing for fans on Zoom and Snapchat), SZNZ was originally intended to be a collection of four albums released on the equinox of each season in 2022.

Soon, those prospective albums became “mini-albums”, then those mini-albums were whittled down to 7-track EPs. The first of the four, Spring, was briefed to fans by Cuomo as “happy chill”. To Weezer’s most avid followers, such a description evoked Green (2001) and Pacific Daydream (2017), where Cuomo adopted a somewhat horizontal stance behind the microphone while his band—polished up by slick, polished rock production—laid back in the grass and played their instruments behind him. And, for better or worse, Spring nestles neatly into the band’s discography as a distant cousin of them both.

It immediately, and then throughout, shoots for wholesome welcomes and romance. The mix is filled with acoustic strings and woodwind instruments, with medieval and rustic aesthetics instantly loaded into the foreground on ‘Opening Night’. The song finds Cuomo on “a night out under the stars, with Romeo & Juliet”, alongside a person (or people) he’s delighted to be in the company of. Shakespeare makes him happy, he says. So too does Vivaldi, whose own Four Seasons violin concerto ‘La Primavera’ is woven into chirping vocal melodies.

The classic Weezer fuzz emerges for the choruses, but the rougher edges don’t burst in or enforce huge dynamic shifts—they tend to hum and buzz gently instead, as if under self-restraint, carefully avoiding disrupting the cultivated atmosphere of nature, greenery, and cottagecore tranquillity. It’s a sweet, affectionately goofy introduction that establishes a clear template for the rest of the record that is rarely, if ever, deviated from.

The restraint of the fuzzy guitars on ‘Opening Night’ is something present throughout Spring and speaks to a dynamic and sonic conflict that persists until impressive closer ‘Wild At Heart’s brief, menacing coda. There’s a calm warmth to the distorted tones, but the amount of balm required to ensure a smooth inclusion in this EP’s mix (dominated by organic, acoustic sounds as it is) does occasionally prevent the material from developing as desired.

‘All This Love’ reaches an emotional tipping point just before its final act, but instead of going loud—enabling its last movements to crash and grunt—it steers clear of increasing the volume and instead opts for an awkwardly positioned and slightly uninvited key change to shake things up. It’s clumsy. ‘The Garden of Eden’ (which resembles Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’ too much for me to unhear it) insists that “we’ll all be strumming guitars” but only by squinting my ears can I hear any. There’s a constant tension on Spring between Weezer’s aims for the concept and their decades-old habits as a group. Occasionally the balance tips.

It's something that they thankfully, and triumphantly, rise above across the rest of the EP. ‘Angels on Vacation’, already proving itself to be a firm favourite with fans, strikes that delicate balance. Telling the story of two angels who take their “halos off” and descend to Earth to revel in human delights, it effortlessly transitions from church choirs into classic, grungy Weezer fare, then into piano-led bridges accompanied by back-masked guitars, switching to traditional Weez-mode to round off.

‘The Sound of Drums’ sits permanently in third gear but does find curious ways to rephrase repeated patterns in its verses, exhibiting songwriting excursions and flourishes that the majority of the EP shirks in favour of getting straight to the point—‘A Little Bit of Love’ is repetitive and twee, for example, but it delivers on the EP’s formula and contains exactly the kind of irresistible earworm Cuomo specialises in.

If the attempt with Spring was to combine a softer interpretation of the Weezer’s classic sound with heaps of folksy and baroque tones and aesthetics, then the majority of the EP can be considered a success. After half a decade of Weezer albums being delayed (Black, Van Weezer), significantly altered late in the day (Black), arriving earlier than expected (Pacific Daydream, OK Human), and dropping out of nowhere (Teal), there’s been a clarity and focus to the entire Spring rollout that’s felt stress-free and refreshing."Happy chill”, if you will. And now, as a fully realised, short, snappy, pop production that’s out in the world, it provides a cautiously optimistic step into the SZNZ project that stands before us. Roll on Summer. 

SZNZ: Spring is out now.

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