If you want to get technical, Weezer have released(/re-released) a total of 3 albums in 2010. If you want to get even more technical, Weezer have released(/re-released) those 3 albums within a 3 month span. Is this too much in the way of material? Hardcore Weezer fans might not think so, but really what all this material does is roll up into one massive bunch where confusion runs rampant and it’s difficult to focus on a singluar release. In other words, if you really liked “Hurley”, you may not have noticed that “Pinkerton” was re-released with 25 extra tracks attached, or that the band also put out a rarities collection in the form of “Death to False Metal”. Of course that’s also assuming your average Weezer fan could ignore the cash bait of a deluxe edition reissue of one of the band’s two greatest records. So really it’s “Death to False Metal” that suffers most, in particular because it’s an odds-and-ends collection rather than something brand new or at least previously great. Still, the 10-track record does contain a host of songs that have never been released in any official format beforehand, and bear dates of creation back to the late 90s and early 00s when they were still making relatively good music. Chances are most if not all of the record is new to you, and though it’s easy to imagine so, this is less a case of throwing music out there just for the sake of it and more a case of carefully piecing together a set of songs that work well together to give fans a gift of material that was good, but didn’t make final albums for one reason or another.
You’ve got to imagine that there’s a collection of really terrible Weezer songs out there that the band is smartly refusing to release. To put it another way, “Death to False Metal” doesn’t have much in the way of cringe-worthy music on it, and were it not touted as being a collection of unreleased material, the band could have called it a brand new record and gotten away with it. Plenty of bands have taken years upon years and released album upon album before some of their songs finally see completion. Though portions of this Weezer record were re-recorded to assist in fidelity purposes, everything was pretty much in completed form already when the decision was made to release it. That doesn’t mean there’s not a little bit of demo-like fuzz on a couple of the songs, but compared to the two albums’ worth or Rivers Cuomo “Alone” demos or even some of the studio outtakes on the deluxe edition of “Pinkerton”, there’s definitely a higher clarity of both audio and vision when it comes to “Death to False Metal”.
Anyone looking for some magical unearthed gem or perhaps thinks that Weezer has been holding their best music back from us is bound for just a shade of disappointment. Virtually all of “Death to False Metal” echoes a lot of what Weezer is doing currently, even if “Hurley” was a better album than most of us had a right to expect. Somewhere around the release of “The Red Album”, I half-assedly resigned the idea that Weezer would ever do anything truly worthwhile again, choosing instead to write mindlessly fun melodies that were easy to sing along to. In other words, they stopped challenging themselves. If you come in looking for that fun version of the band, they’re more than willing to deliver. Though there are some stylistic variations, moving from straight rock songs to ballads to heavier, angrier material, most of the songs on “Death to False Metal” follow the same format: inconsequential verse to anthemic chorus to inconsequential verse. The verses are only a means to an end, basically, as the hooks dig in and stick in your mind each time a chorus rolls around, and boy do they roll around often.
Topically, the songwriting is about as plainspoken as Rivers Cuomo tends to get. No deep, dark confessionals because he hasn’t done that since “Pinkerton”, and if you ever have trouble remembering the hook in a chorus, just look to the song title. “Turning Up the Radio” is a song about doing exactly that, and the chorus will tell you that a dozen times or more. “Blowin’ My Stack” has Rivers getting angry, but it’s one of those playful sort of angers that’s lighthearted and catchy enough to stick with you. One of the heaviest guitar songs is “Everyone”, and you get one guess as to what singular word is repeated over and over again as the hook. One of the more delightful songs, primarily because it’s so bouncy and easygoing, has to be “I’m A Robot”, with a playful little piano and some snarky lyrics that make it pretty easy to crack a smile. For such a blissful device, you’d expect Weezer’s version of “Trampoline” to be great for jumping up and down to. The tempo flags just a little bit and the guitars are just a little too crunchy to fully recreate the excitement of launching off a springy piece of fabric. One of the album’s biggest missteps comes in the form of “Autopilot”, where spacey keyboards and the use of Auto-Tune apparently seemed like good ideas. It sounds like the kind of track that was intended for “Make Believe”, and that record sucked enough without this song helping it out. Then to close there’s an interesting cover of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”. Weezer’s version makes the song a bit easier to admit to liking, for those afraid to acknowledge that the original version was pretty damn good in and of itself for an R&B ballad.
Should you currently own every Weezer album, or at least almost every Weezer album, “Death to False Metal” is another one to add to your collection without much shame because clearly you already have none. Hahaha, just kidding (sort of). But working on the assumption that You’re not expecting a “Blue Album” or “Pinkerton” or even “Green Album” out of this, you’ll come away from this little collection of Weezer’s past with a fresh set of songs that are plainly fun. Listening to this is like being forced to eat a vanilla ice cream cone – you’re happy just to have ice cream, but there’s definitely more exciting and better flavors out there. One thing that is nice about this record is that Weezer’s diversity is on display, along with how they’ve changed in the last 10 years. There’s some playful numbers, a few with some serious guitar crunch, a pair of ballads, a cover, and one sort of gonzo minor experiment (see: “Autopilot”). There are a few of you out there that think “Make Believe” or “Raditude” mark some of the band’s best material, and it’s almost like this album is especially for you. Everyone else take note – “Hurley” is probably the best thing Weezer has done since the “Green Album”, and you’re far better off keeping your focus on that rather than wasting your time and money on “Death to False Metal”. It’s good to see these songs find a home on an official Weezer release, but there was a reason they were dropped from other records. Perhaps the next time the band thinks about releasing another one of these compilations, they’ll remember that and make a smarter choice.