Weezer, one of the most wildly inconsistent bands I’ve ever been a fan of, released a full fledged cover album after the success of their version of Toto’s “Africa.”
The “Africa” cover happened after a long running fan campaign online. To be honest, I don’t really get it. I love “Africa,” I love Weezer (most of the time), but those two things don’t really go together and it wasn’t something I was clamoring to hear.
However, “Africa” actually ended up being a massive hit for Weezer, peaking at #1 on the Billboard alternative charts. It was their highest charting song since “Pork and Beans,” which was released a decade ago.
So, while they have a new album coming up in March, last week they released a surprise all-covers album called “The Teal Album.”
Overall, I didn’t dislike it. After all, I adore their cover of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart,” maybe they can replicate that magic.
Yet the main problem with this one is that all of the songs are covered too straight. There aren’t enough different ideas being played around with to make me want to listen to the Weezer version over the original.
The only real difference is that these renditions have more dirty guitars, a louder mix and an overall heavier feel. Rivers Cuomo’s voice also stands out when compared to the dynamic vocals of the people singing the original songs.
So let’s start looking at the album track by track, with the one that started it all “Africa.”
It’s pretty straightforward. It’s just the same as Toto’s version, but it uses synths instead of flutes in the interlude. However, I can see someone unfamiliar with the original liking this.
It is a quirky enough song that it fits right in with Weezer’s aesthetic, so all in all, it’s a good one. It could’ve been so much worse, considering how Pitbull butchered the song (check out “Ocean to Ocean” if you don’t mind your ears bleeding).
Up next is their cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. I think this one was pretty valiant. Cuomo has a really nice vocal performance here and I like the instrumental.
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is ok, but Weezer’s cover of it does nothing to make it their own. The instrumental just feels dull compared to the original.
The next song, “Take on Me,” falls into the same trap. These are two of the best and most dynamic songs of the 80s. Nothing about the covers are bad, but I’ll take A-ha and Eurythmics any day of the week.
Track five is “Happy Together” and this is one I can get behind. There’s just a lot of charm I like from this one. Maybe it’s because I’m less familiar with the original version of this one.
Following this are two songs I just could not see the merit of. “Paranoid” just sounds like the band’s guitarist Brian Bell doing a horrible Ozzy Osbourne impression and the instrumental not being hard enough to capture what makes the original good.
After that is “Mr. Blue Sky,” and again, Weezer is faithful to a fault. WIthout the original arrangement and vocals, this song just sounds boring to me, and I’d much rather listen to ELO’s rendition of this classic.
Then comes “No Scrubs,” a song by TLC. Truth be told, I have never heard this song before, and didn’t know what to expect.
After listening to it, I quite enjoyed it. This was probably the weirdest song the band could’ve chose to cover, so Cuomo goes all out in his delivery and sounds like he’s having a ball. That feeling is contagious and makes me like this one quite a bit.
Following this is “Billie Jean,” one of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, and I liked this one too. Cuomo basically makes every Jackson “hee-hee” or “hoooo” noise that’s ever existed and it makes me laugh.
The album closes with “Stand By Me” and I wasn’t super impressed with this one. It does sound uniquely Weezer, as they use really loud synths and bass beats over the originally melancholy and sparsely instrumented song.
So while I give it props for being different, it just doesn’t resonate emotionally with me like Ben E. King’s original does.
“The Teal Album” is a cover album through and through and comes with all of the pitfalls of being a cover album. All of the songs are well arranged and performed and “Africa,” “No Scrubs,” “Happy Together,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Billie Jean” are standouts that I’ll probably throw into the rotation.
I just feel like if there were more risks taken, and more song choices like “No Scrubs” or “Billie Jean,” the album would be better for it.
Plus, I know this album was released as a little joke and I’m taking it much more seriously than the band probably did. It definitely seems like it has been successful for the group so far, so I’m not gonna say it wasn’t a worthwhile project.
If you like Weezer or haven’t heard some of these songs before, you’ll find something to like here. Otherwise, don’t waste your time on this one.