The White Album arrives during the fourteenth year of River Cuomo's Peter Pan performance. Between Maladroit and Hurley, Cuomo and his band Weezer resisted musical maturity in the hope of finding a "new audience" by releasing a stream of albums that were as bizarre as they were mediocre. Rivers seemed like a lost cause after the hilariously disastrous Raditude in 2009, but there were instances of self-awareness on the band's 2014 album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, through which he reluctantly admitted he'd dropped the ball. For their latest colour-coded self-titled release - following Blue, Green and Red - Cuomo has completely retreated into his musical infancy for inspiration, and it should come as no surprise that focusing on that long-forgotten mixture of Beach Boys' classic sunshine pop and Weezer's own brand of Nirvana-informed post-grunge has encouraged forgiveness from their die-hard fans: it's the material we know best and it's the era we cherish the most.

The rest of the band seem to be respectful of Rivers' perpetual surrender to nostalgia, which allows endearing quirks to creep back into their sound. For starters, it's impossible to truly despise a band who would dare to open up their tenth album with an on-the-nose call back to their youthful heyday after such an extended malaise. After a field recording of gushing waves and cawing gulls, a glockenspiel and a guitar share the opening melody on 'California Kids', just as they did on 'Pink Triangle' - it brings out a chuckle. It's also been confirmed in recent weeks that Cuomo set up a Tinder account and spent several days down on Californian seafronts meeting local residents during White's creation - from such a small gesture it's clear that he was intent on recapturing the Brian Wilson feeling that guided Blue to its status as a classic. It's the sort of commitment to a unified vision that was completely absent from the majority of Weezer's albums in the noughties. A Rivers desperate to relive his twenties is preferable to a Rivers without a shred of conviction.

The finest realisation of his intentions with this project arrives towards the back end: despite its cringe-inducing title, 'L.A. Girlz' is the first Weezer track in fourteen years that feels like a legitimate rock song worthy of affection. It's driven by such a natural groove, which is powerfully consolidated by Rivers' constant contribution to its harmonic atmosphere. His vocal performance is reminiscent of his better days, the guitar solo is active and its fast-paced waltz brings the elements together to produce something truly worth cherishing. 'Do You Wanna Get High?' stands apart from the beachside themes, however, and focuses instead on recreational drugs - instrumentally, its chugging minor key down-strumming recalls the angst-ridden cynicism of Pinkerton, but sounds completely at home as the halfway point of an album with the good times on the brain. The results aren't so promising elsewhere, especially on 'King of the World', though, and a forty-five year old Rivers should be kicking himself for its hook: "If I was king of the world, you'd be my girl" - really? '(Girl We Got A) Good Thing' and 'Wind in Our Sails' both contain enough sunshine to be satisfactory, but tend towards harmless drifting. They just don't stick.

In spite of the commitment to Blue aesthetics, though, too much of White is still a continuation of the dark days. 'Thank God for Girls', the weakest offering by far, is unforgivably limp despite its wish to be a complete ruckus, and 'Jacked Up' is innocuous despite its reliance on jabbed piano chords and breakbeats. 'Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori' is completely devoid of a memorable refrain, too, which makes its sort-of-ironic Red era guitar intro feel cheap - even if it does mimic the chord sequence of 'My Name is Jonas', it has a stronger connection to 'Troublemaker'. The quality of the album dips significantly when the thirst to recreate the formula is left unsatisfied, and it exposes something that Rivers is unable to control even when his hands are in the ten-and-two position: Blue was twenty-two years ago. Even if former bassist Matt Sharp hadn't left in 1998, and even if Rivers' passion hadn't ebbed away so abruptly, it's fair to say that Weezer would have declined at some point - it's the case for so many bands. Nothing can stay the same, which is a fact that Weezer absolutely need to accept before they continue to contort themselves to fit Rivers' artistic pressures.

The pre-teen protagonist of the 'L.A. Girlz' video suggests that Cuomo is fully aware of his inability to align his music with his age, but it requires a certain level of emotional investment to truly believe in his approach after so much time. The sad truth is that Weezer won't make a genuinely special record again as long as they remain influenced by the sanitized polish of their post-millennium material. Cuomo can spend long nights watching the tide roll away into the orange Californian sunset as much as he likes, but that's only good for a nostalgic tug as opposed to a genuinely great record. Weezer probably died in 1998, which means they have been posing as "Wezzer" ever since. The latest attempt at complete reversion is comforting and sweet - it's nice to know Rivers finally woke up - but it's cheapened by the sense that it's just too late now. As Hari Kondabolu once said, the creepy old dudes at Weezer concerts these days are Weezer themselves - they need to grow up. The White Album is a return to a particular state, but it was never going to be a return to form.