At the north end of downtown Ann Arbor, sitting on Main Street between a coffee shop and a catering company, there’s a German-themed restaurant called Heidelberg. The first floor features a traditional dining room while the basement is a rathskeller where you’ll find a bunch of twenty-somethings trying to drink das boot. Above both of those, on the building’s second floor, is a club that abandons all German pretense. It’s a place to drink, dance and develop tinnitus. It’s also the place where, in the summer after my senior year of college, I spent every Wednesday night drinking with my friends and singing karaoke.
Most of the guys in our regular ensemble were singers—having met through the UMMGC—so our drunken renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and “Tainted Love” weren’t as unbearable as sloshed karaoke often is. But nobody goes to karaoke to hear someone else sing. The fun is in your own performance, which is hopefully aided by a group of raucously supportive friends.
Last summer, when Weezer released their cover of “Africa,” Toto’s confusing ode to anthropology, I enjoyed the novelty of what was essentially a high-fidelity, digital recreation of an ’80s banger. That Weezer’s iteration was the musical equivalent of a shot-for-shot remake and introduced exactly zero new perspective to the song wasn’t a problem because the single was little more than a fun, extremely online summer event. It was a Rivers Cuomo karaoke cut that the notoriously private singer had decided to share with the world. It was amusing, but it certainly did not leave me wanting more.
So yesterday’s surprise release of Weezer (The Teal Album), a collection of “Africa” and nine more “largely faithful” covers, seemed unnecessary. And, honestly, it is. Each of the album’s tracks is shimmering and pristine but also devoid of any compelling emotion or attitude. It’s essentially one of those voiceless karaoke albums with Cuomo’s singing overdubbed on top. The song selection, which features “Billie Jean,” “Stand by Me” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, is excellent but your listening time would be better spent with a playlist of the original tracks. Unless, I suppose, you’re the type of person who went to karaoke night specifically to listen to your friends sing, in which case your pal Rivers has got just the album for you.