The Black Album starts with its worst song. Can't Knock the Hustle mashes commercial funk-rock with a mariachi-led Latin refrain to bewildering effect. If you thought after that things could only get better, well, you thought wrong.
Weezer immediately follow it with the album's second-worst song. Zombie Bastards is a tune that resurrects bloody Sublime, of all bands, in its verses, before slipping into a ridiculously catchy chorus, courtesy of frontman Rivers Cuomo, that you can't help but hum along with.
Which is the first sign that there's more to The Black Album than just highly polished but lousy, Weezer songs.
High As a Kite, the incredibly pretty third track, is much more like it. Over a bass-driven, effervescently psychedelic Beach Boys backing, Cuomo takes the chorus and soars into the sky. A full album along these lines would have been really something.
Instead, modernity crashes the party with the glossy stomp of Living in LA, before the band swing back to the 60s again on Piece of Cake. The "classic" Weezer sound gets a look-in on the great I'm Just Being Honest, while not even the cringey, sex scene lyrics of Byzantine can cause its chirpy, ornate 60s pop to flop.
Cuomo's knack for a get-stuck-in-your-brain melody remains as strong as ever throughout, and once you get over any knee-jerk resistance and sort through the few duds, there's a lot to like here. It's certainly much better than first impressions suggest and, as with most Weezer, once you've spun it a few times the songs will make themselves quite at home in your head.
If anything, The Black Album sounds like Weezer couldn't work out whether they wanted to make an album inspired by experimental, psychedelic-pop classics like Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper's or if they wanted to make a contemporary sounding, big-pop record like Beck's Colors that buries identity behind modern production. Instead of deciding, they decided to do both.
Album: The Black Album
Verdict: Despite not knowing what direction to head in Weezer end up in a good place