On my drive from Florida to Ohio, I listened to a lot of the Weezer discography, in chronological order. Two things struck me: the back-tracking between "Pork & Beans" and "Back to the Shack," and the hints in "Memories" that perhaps Rivers is an unreliable source for information on how he composes songs.
First, the back-tracking. "Pork & Beans" is from the "red" album, which is probably the height of Weezer's experimentation. It is the album with band members playing instruments they don't usually play, or singing lead when they usually don't. And in the lyrics of "Pork & Beans," Rivers specifically says, "I ain't gonna do the things that you like ... I don't give a hoot about what you think."
In 2011, in a very serendipitous moment, I picked up a copy of a book entitled The Advanced Genius Theory, by Jason Hartley, that was being given away by some professor in my department. I love this book because it basically tells cranks like Comic Book Guy to sit down and shut up. If I had unlimited funds, I'd mail a copy of this book to every Weezer fan, especially the ones like Leslie Jones's character in this Saturday Night Live sketch. And in "Pork & Beans," Rivers was telling them, just like Hartley, to sit down and shut up.
Which is why "Back to the Shack" is so disappointing. Not that artists can't revisit their old style, but that the lyrics are such a mea culpa for the "red" album. "Maybe I should play the lead guitar and Pat should play the drums," is as close as you can get to singing the words, "The 'red' album was a mistake." It's like Rivers has internalized the argument that The Advanced Genius Theory is meant to dispel.
However, there's a style of Weezer fan who's not happy unless they are complaining about Weezer. And such a person wrote this review of the new "black" album. And this leads me to my second point: maybe Rivers's summary of his song-writing process is not to be believed. After all, in "Memories," he specifically sings, "Messing with the journalists and telling stupid lies." And if you're going to write a whole bunch of heart-felt lyrics like on "Make Believe" and just have people poop all over them, why not tell them that everything you write now comes from a spreadsheet and an algorithm (which, as we all know, is how Al and Tipper Gore practice birth control)?
I'm not convinced that the spreadsheet method is the real method. But even if it is, sit down and shut up.