Ram Jams: ‘OK Human’

Weezer delivers internet-themed, string-heavy, pandemic-appropriate 14th album

album cover of OK Human by Weezer



Genre: Pop Rock

On a Playlist With: AJR, Jukebox the Ghost, Cage the Elephant

“OK Human” was a surprise release from the nearly 30-year-old band Weezer, as it was announced on Jan. 18 with a release date of Jan. 29. I freely admit that I’m a recent fan, and I only really know the self-titled white album (2016) and “Pacific Daydream” (2017), plus some older popular songs. (I’ve just gotten into “Pinkerton” (1996) and predict it will become one of my favorites.)

The first thing that stands out about this album is the theme of the online world — the title is a nod to Radiohead’s technophobic “OK Computer.” As much as one may dislike being online, the coronavirus pandemic has made the internet even more necessary. The lyrics on this album might age very quickly, making it a bit awkward to sing in the shower in 2030 about “Homework or memes, slime or BLACKPINK.” The melodies, rhythms and transitions between songs make the album eminently listenable this year or any year.

We’re all living through the pandemic, spending hours on computers, and Rivers Cuomo, the frontman for Weezer, deftly remarks upon the world we inhabit. “Screens” repeats the chorus, “Now the real world is dying / As everybody moves into the cloud / … / Everyone stares at the screens,” showing a fear that the real world will become unimportant in the face of the web. But I am helpless in the face of its cello/bass opening — I must bop my head along.

Although the album is about loneliness and discontent, many of the songs feel positively peppy, and the hope found in the lyrics is something to hold onto even during the isolation of the pandemic.

With a namedrop of “Zoom interviews” in “Playing My Piano,” future listeners can easily date this album to a very specific time in history.

Before the pandemic, “Aloo Gobi” was about Cuomo’s boredom with his “same old dull routines” of having dinner and seeing a movie with his wife. During the pandemic, he realized he took the mundane for granted, and he admitted to NME, “The irony in that song is unbelievable to me.”

Because we’re so surrounded by the internet, the band decided to use no electric guitar, instead turning to acoustic strings, piano and vocals for the entire album. This isn’t the first time Weezer has explicitly left a seemingly necessary part of rock music out of an album — “Pacific Daydream” never uses the word “girl,” while the white album had it in the titles of three songs.

The least interesting songs on the album, “Everything Happens for a Reason” and “Mirror Image,” are only boring on their own; they mesh perfectly into the album itself, flowing seamlessly into “Here Comes the Rain” and from “Playing My Piano,” respectively. 

My favorite songs on albums often end up being the last song, so I am anticipating that I will soon come to love “La Brea Tar Pits,” but right now it’s a solid OK. An honorable mention goes to “Numbers” and Cuomo’s recitation of the Fibonacci sequence at the end, which I, a nerd, love.

Grapes of Wrath” references a number of classic novels such as “Mrs. Dalloway,” “1984” and “Moby Dick” — perfect for a college student who’s read most of them. The titular novel emerges in the chorus “I’m gonna rock my Audible / Headphone, ‘Grapes of Wrath’ / Drift off to oblivion / I just don’t care, I just don’t care.” Cuomo wants to escape real life into a book, but he does it by 21st-century means. As an audiobook fan, I can relate.

“Grapes of Wrath” reminds me of “Pacific Daydream” songs in the melody, rhythm and tone. I can’t pick out a specific track it sounds like, but the upbeat vibes are the same. 

“OK Human” is on par with “Pacific Daydream” — not Weezer’s best work, but very catchy — so I gave it the same rating as I’d give the latter. It’s a solid record, and if it were created by anyone else, I might have rated it higher than 7/10. However, the white album is one of my top-five albums ever, and if that’s a 10/10, I need to accurately show the space between perfection and everything else.

Although the album is about loneliness and discontent, many of the songs feel positively peppy, and the hope found in the lyrics is something to hold onto even during the isolation of the pandemic.

The Bottom Line: “OK Human” is a satisfying album perfect for the pandemic, though the lack of electronics may turn off some seasoned Weezer fans.

The Peaks: “Grapes of Wrath,” “Playing My Piano,” “Screens”

The Valleys: “Everything Happens for a Reason,” “Mirror Image” 

The Verdict: 7/10