Weezer Retain Glimmers of Greatness on 'SZNZ: Winter'

BY Alex HudsonPublished Dec 22, 2022

Anyone who has spent any time with Rivers Cuomo's demos knows that the only thing keeping Weezer from releasing another truly great album is the songwriter's tendency to over-edit, and his apparent inability to differentiate a good idea from a bad one. How else to explain how the achingly beautiful "Since You Came Around" was watered down to become "Jacked Up," or how the gorgeous refrain of "Pacific Sunset" was randomly tacked onto the end of SZNZ: Autumn?

Weezer's SZNZ EP series has been a frustrating listen for this very reason, with great choruses and terrible verses awkwardly smushed together in an attempt to fit into the inane concept inspired by Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.

Cuomo has described the final of these EPs, Winter, as "sad, acoustic, Elliott Smith-style" — a description that is only true in the sense that Elliott Smith sometimes fingerpicked an acoustic guitar, and these songs do as well. (Winter sounds about as much like Elliott Smith as "My Name Is Jonas" does, for the same reason.) The songs have absolutely nothing to do with winter, either lyrically or musically, so it's helpful just to throw the concept out the window and try to enjoy them for what they are: a bright, warm, summery jumble of incoherent ideas that mostly sound like pretty decent Weezer songs.

"Iambic Pentameter" captures both the good and bad of the project, its waltz-time crunch evoking classic Weezer — but don't enjoy it too much, since Cuomo scraps the idea halfway through, shifting into a series of passages that last less than that 30 seconds each: there's a childish acoustic ditty, swinging rock, and a proggy solo of duelling guitar and violin solos. It's not so much a suite as a mash of unconnected ideas — four different songs that weren't quite good enough on their own, and were haphazardly stitched together without even the slightest attempt to smooth out the seams.

But anytime Cuomo and co. lose the plot, they reorient themselves with crunchy power pop. The military march of "Sheraton Commander" is thankfully much more tolerable than past SZNZ flirtations with classical music ("Tastes Like Pain," "Opening Night"), while "Dark Enough to See the Stars" uses an ascendent key change to add some compositional complexity without muddling its pop sweetness too badly.

The closing combo of "The One That Got Away" and "The Deep and Dreamless Sleep" features possibly the best melodies of the whole SZNZ project. And sure, it would have been better if Weezer leaned into these strengths, instead of adding wanky prog breakdowns and unnecessarily fussy rhythmic shifts. But they're a nice reminder that Cuomo hasn't lost his knack for golden melodies — even if his ambitions continually pull him away from what he's actually good at.

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