Weezer's Blue Album and Pinkerton are often heralded as some of the greatest alternative rock albums of the '90s. Released in 1994 and 1996 respectively, the LPs established the band as a prominent force within the genre. Unfortunately, almost everything they have released since has fallen flat. With the exception of 2016's White Album, Weezer have saturated their discography with mediocrity and creative missteps for the last 25 years. OK Human, however, marks a return to form.
Announced following the release of the band's largely forgettable Black Album, OK Human sees Weezer venture into fully fledged baroque pop. Utilising a full 38-piece orchestra, frontman Rivers Cuomo described the record as "piano-based" and "very eccentric". With this considered, and the album title's rather unsubtle nod to Radiohead's 1997 opus OK Computer, you could be forgiven for expecting a gimmicky, second-rate offering from Cuomo et al. OK Human, however, is not that.
Cuomo manages to write plenty of catchy hooks while also remaining lyrically engaging this time around. It's unsurprising, too, that the orchestral backing is more appealing than a lot of the stiff, uninspired instrumentals that Weezer have offered up across the last two decades. The corny title also begins to feel forgivable in context. OK Computer channels Thom Yorke's paranoia through technological terminology and alien production. This album, though, seeks to communicate the same anxiety in an organic, technologically-bereft style; something made all the more impactful given the time of recording and release.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives and experiences of nearly every person on the planet, and artists are no exception. Despite this, there has been a surprising lack of quality 'lockdown albums'. While artists such as Charli XCX (How I'm Feeling Now) have partially explored this, OK Human is one of the first records to fully capture the anxiety and loneliness of the last year. OK Human avoids grand, poetic lyricism, opting instead for candour and reality. Songs about listening to audiobooks, staring at screens and playing the piano might at first seem uninteresting, but they project the deep-seated feeling of inertia and disconnectedness present across the globe today.
For me personally, OK Human goes straight into Weezer's top five albums. That might not be saying a whole lot given their glaring inconsistency, but this release is a welcome surprise that came at the perfect time.