In an alternate universe, Weezer only released their first two albums -- 1994’s 'Blue Album' and 1996’s ‘Pinkerton’ -- then disbanded when bassist Matt Sharp left in 1997. In that universe, one where frontman Rivers Cuomo assumed the role of a reclusive Cobainian figure, the band triumphantly reformed in 2014 to release this -- their third album.

But that’s not the universe we live in. Here in our universe -- the one where Weezer never really stopped and released one more decent record (2001’s Green Album) and five others that delved increasingly into bad jokes and self-parody -- this is Weezer’s ninth album. But the title, ‘Everything Will Be Alright In the End,’ serves as more than just kind words of encouragement; it’s reassurance to fans that this is the closest Weezer have come to being that same band they were in the beginning.

The album kicks off with the distinctly ‘90s sound of a radio dial, then the voice of a little girl waking from a nightmare (subtle) before guitars chug directly into ‘Ain’t Got Nobody’ -- the sort of shout-along anthem that would’ve potentially fit snugly on the 'Blue Album.' Then comes the lead single, ‘Back to the Shack,’ in which Cuomo literally apologizes (presumably for the off-course direction he flew Weezer on over the years), singing, “Sorry guys, I didn’t realize that I needed you so much / I thought I’d get a new audience / I forgot that disco sucks.”

That kind of breaking of the fourth wall would feel precariously like pandering if Weezer didn’t go on to back up the assurance with their most focused, most energetic album in more than a decade. Again guided by 'Blue' and 'Green' album producer Ric Ocasek, ‘Everything Will Be Alright In the End’ features an overt throwback feel with ‘Lonely Girl’ and the quirky, could-be ‘Pinkerton’ track, ‘Da Vinci.’ But there are also a few new sounds to be heard on the album: Cuomo duets with Best Coast singer Bethany Cosentino on the sugary ‘Go Away’ and the album closes with the three-part ‘Futurescope Trilogy,’ which evokes ‘Songs From the Black Hole’ -- the rock opera Cuomo never finished after the 'Blue Album.'

To the casual observer, ‘Everything Will Be Be Alright In the End’ sounds exactly like a Weezer album. It’s self-referential and intentionally goofy but also laden with hot-rodding guitar and gargantuan hooks. But those who have really been paying attention will immediately notice far more sincerity and self-awareness than we’ve heard from Cuomo in quite a while.

He finally seems himself and relatively relaxed with the legacy Weezer are leaving in 'Back to the Shack' when he concludes,  “If we die in obscurity / Oh well / At least we raised some hell.

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