Even by Weezer Standards, 'SZNZ: Autumn' Is Incoherent

Even by Weezer Standards, 'SZNZ: Autumn' Is Incoherent
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My deepest sympathies to any Weezer completists out there. At this point, the band's output is a bit like the fantasy tabletop RPGs they once sang about — an endless series of spinoffs, expansion packs and Easter eggs that are impenetrable to anyone except the most devoted fans. It's gotten hard enough to keep up with their mainline albums, let alone the side quests: the thousands of demos on their Weezify streaming service, the song teasers on their Weezle game, or the secret shows they've been playing under the name Goat Punishment

Weezer's Vivaldi-inspired SZNZ EPs are, technically, mainline albums — but it's such a drawn-out, intensely specific project that it's tempting to just tune out as the band drearily trudge towards the end of the year.

Autumn is a nonsensical collage of faux 2006 dance rock, slapstick musical theatre, and royalty-free orchestra music from a DeBeers commercial. "I got a bad case of… not loving me," frontman Rivers Cuomo hams on dismal opening track "Can't Dance, Don't Ask Me," its anonymous dance beat resembling stock music created for an HGTV show too cheap to license a real Franz Ferdinand song.

Every musical idea on Autumn is so flimsy that Weezer quickly abandon it and senselessly move onto the next part without the slightest regard for quality, tempo, aesthetic or mood. It doesn't make any sense when the "Elephant"-aping minor key swing of "Get Off on the Pain" turns into a straight-ahead power pop chug, then into a spooky-ooky breakdown of synth arpeggiators. It's similarly inane when Cuomo channels community theatre over-singing on "Tastes Like Pain," gasping "I hate me, I'm loser" over classical strings stolen from Vivaldi's "Winter" movement. But wait, why did he interpolate "Winter" when this EP is supposedly based on "Autumn"? Actually, who cares. 

The closest thing here to a good song is the moody, harmony-draped "Should She Stay or Should She Go," mostly because it's the only one that actually registers as a coherent song and not a chaotic assemblage of unconnected ideas stuck together with Scotch Tape.

Autumn's sheer randomness reaches its bizarre conclusion in the final moments of closer "Run, Raven, Run." After a series of ill-fitting movements — burly power pop, a waltz-y 6/8 passage and an "Only in Dreams"-style buildup — Cuomo breaks into a refrain that will make any long-suffering Weezer completists perk up: "Pacific Sunset," an unreleased highlight that appeared in various forms in the demo collections for 2014's Everything Will Be Alright in the End and 2016's White Album. It's a sublime melody that showcases Weezer at their absolute best.

So what does this gorgeous song have to do with the rest of Autumn, either musically or thematically? Absolutely nothing. After four repetitions of the melody, with the tempo feverishly increasing, it suddenly lurches to a halt, replaced by Cuomo croaking a lullaby-like ditty with a toy keyboard, the sound of him coughing from COVID, and the horror movie Foley sounds of clanging church bells and cawing ravens.

For Autumn's release on Spotify, Weezer packaged together all of the SZNZ EPs so far into one giant 21-song album — perhaps to maximize streams, or maybe to indicate to audiences that these EPs are supposed to be listened to as one project. It starts with Autumn, and then goes into Summer, followed by Spring; I'm no meteorologist, but I'm fairly sure that's not the actual progression of the seasons.

Bouncing between out-of-order seasons, each of which has an arbitrary collision of sounds and styles, is a fittingly muddled way to present this confusing, pointless project. Weezer seem intent on dutifully finishing this thing — so let's bring on Winter and just get it over with. (Crush Music)