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Weezer | Weezer (Teal Album)

Rivers Cuomo & co. take their fun seriously on this surprise covers album.

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“The thing that pisses me off is when critics say that it’s all a big joke,” Rivers Cuomo told me several years ago. “When they say I’m intentionally making fun of certain kinds of music, or I’m making fun of my fans … It’s so frustrating for me because I put so much work into the records. No one would put that much effort into a joke!” Of course, that doesn’t prevent Cuomo (and presumably his Weezer bandmates) from enjoying themselves now and then. Which is most assuredly what they’re doing on this surprise-release covers album. Presumably inspired by the viral campaign urging them to cover Toto’s Africa — and the wave of jubilation that resulted when they finally did (after playfully troll-covering Rosanna first) — this savvy 36-minute crowdpleaser takes the concept, um, all the way. Not only does it include faithful renditions of Africa and other ’80s pop chestnuts like Tears For FearsEverybody Wants to Rule the World, a-ha’s Take On Me and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean (but not Rosanna, unfortunately), it also joyfully jumps genres and generations by tackling Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, The TurtlesHappy Together, ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, TLC’s No Scrubs and Ben E. King’s Stand By Me. That’s cutting an impressively wide swath. But Cuomo and co. pull it off with lovingly detailed expertise, recreating most of these familiar hits right down to the drum fills, effects and background harmonies — while subtly adding their signature serrated guitar tones to the mix here and there just to mark the territory. Which is to say: Weezer might just be out for fun here. But if anybody takes his fun seriously, it’s Rivers Cuomo. The joke’s on anyone who thinks otherwise.