I woke up this morning to the news that Weezer has released an album of cover songs. This, of course, is immensely important to people like me. So here we are, a review of The Teal Album (you can listen along here).
There are, broadly, two theories of how to cover a song. The Filipino Bar Band Theory of Cover Songs holds that a good cover is one that recreates the original nearly exactly. It is so named after Arnel Pineda, the Filipino singer who sounds so much like Steve Perry (listen to this) that he is now the lead singer of Journey. Anyone who has spent time in Southeast Asia is familiar with any number of house bands who specialize in stunningly accurate covers of pop standards.*
The Joe Cocker Theory of Cover Songs holds that the point of a cover song is to recreate the song differently, in the style of the cover band, and that that is what makes a cover interesting. So named for Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” it is the theory that underlines some of the very best covers, from Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” to Dinosaur Jr’s “Just Like Heaven” to Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” to John Mellencamp and Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s “Wild Night” to Nirvana’s “Oh Me” to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” to The Ataris “Boys of Summer” (shut up) and every cover of a Bob Dylan song.
Weezer generally subscribes to the Filipino Bar Band Theory. This was apparent with their earlier release of Toto’s Africa, which sounds a lot more like Toto than it sounds like Weezer. This theme continues throughout the rest of The Teal Album. Most of these covers are fairly faithful reproductions of the originals. As such, they are mostly uninspiring copies of otherwise great songs.** The rare exceptions are what keep The Teal Album from being a total flop. In order of interestingness, I’d rank as follows:
- Happy Together—this is pretty good
- Stand By Me—the “Buddy Holly”-style guitar work on the string section makes the cover
- Paranoid—big gap between the first two and this one, but it’s fine
- No Scrubs—it is possible that this cover will grow on me over time
The rest of the covers are, musically speaking, entirely forgettable. If I want to hear “Take On Me” performed like the a-ha version, I’ll just listen to that.
* The house band at Bugil’s in the 2000s did a stunningly realistic cover of Maroon 5’s She Will Be Loved.
** It should be illegal to release a cover of “Everybody Wants to the Rule the World.” The song is perfect as it is and cannot be improved upon.