Words by Maddy Howell
Weezer are a band who notoriously split opinions with every album they release, with a number of fans claiming their best work was in the early 90s and others adamant they peaked on their 2016 release. Overall, telling a Weezer fan that Pinkerton is overrated is likely to go down in much the same way as telling them that Raditude was a good album, but which albums have stood the test of time and which deserve to be left in the past?
11. Hurley (2010)
Hurley is just not a great album, there’s no two ways about it. Although it has it’s catchy and amusing moments, the dominance of songs that lack any form of substance is overwhelming.
It gained traction through lead single ‘Memories’, with backing vocals from members of the Jackass cast – a cool but not quite so cool fact as Michael Cera playing mandolin on ‘Hang On’. Weezer have always prided themselves on their quirks, often leading to fortunate promotional tools – but Hurley is somehow just too quirky.
When a song on your genuine “rock” album is called ‘All My Friends Are Insects’ and amounts in your band dressed in giant bug suits on a kid’s TV show mouthing along to it… it’s probably time to calm down and release a normal song. Similarly, when you release a song called ‘Where’s My Sex’ purely because your daughter mispronounced “socks”… it’s either genius or ridiculous.
The power pop brilliance of ‘Don’t Let Go’ and the chugging guitars of ‘Ruling Me’ are a couple of the rare moments which save Hurley from becoming a complete trainwreck (no pun intended). However, it’s by far Weezer’s most forgettable output to date, thankfully.
Highlights – ‘Ruling Me’, ‘Trainwrecks’, ‘Unspoken’
“Sometimes I wish I was a house at the end of the block, you could smash all my windows with the throw of a rock and make the hurt go away, come again some other day”
10. Maladroit (2002)
Maladroit is the album saved by its singles.
As the fourth full-length album in the band’s catalogue, and the first to feature bassist Scott Schriner, it’s a mash-up of huge radio rock tracks and songs so fruitlessly unadorned that if someone suggested Rebecca Black had written them it’d be hard to not question it.
We can’t entirely blame Weezer for the downfalls of the album though, considering they led a system where fans could choose the songs. So in essence we should all be blaming ourselves for the fact ‘Space Rock’ was allowed to be released for human consumption.
However, just as you think Maladroit is falling into the dark depths of forgettable garbage from once brilliant bands (joining Death Cab for Cutie’s Narrow Stairs and Jimmy Eat World’s Chase This Light), ‘Dope Nose’ rescues it perfectly. Supposedly written on the same night as The Green Album’s ‘Hashpipe’, it’s irritatingly catchy and gives a taste of the real Weezer, on an album comprised mostly of convincing imposters.
Overall, Maladroit sounds like a really fucking good Weezer cover band (refer to Geezer for more information). It struggles to stand out amongst the bands back catalogue, but the presence of songs such as Keep Fishin’ and Dope Nose save it from becoming… well… Hurley.
Highlights – ‘Keep Fishin’’, ‘Slob’, ‘Dope Nose’
“Only love can ease the pain of a boy caught in the rain, only hope will remember burning flames in December”
9. Make Believe (2005)
The main issue with Make Believe comes in the form of MTV shitstorm megawank hit ‘Beverly Hills’. Brian Bell’s irritating “gimme gimme”s are enough to make even the biggest of Weezer fan want to turn the album off before its first track has ended, and the amount of awful “Top Ten Weezer Songs” articles that place it at the number one spot is frankly stomach churning. Why open an album with so much potential on such an immediate downer?
Take ‘Beverly Hills’ out of the equation and you have an incredibly interesting album, written in 2005 when Cuomo was experimenting with his songwriting. ‘Pardon Me’ was supposedly written whilst he was on a 10-day meditation break, ‘Hold Me’ was written after a 24-hour fast, ‘The Other Way’ discusses Elliott Smith’s death and how Rivers wanted to fuck his girlfriend and ‘Haunt You Every Day’ transpired after producer Rick Rubin told Cuomo to “write a Billy Joel or Elton John type of song”, written entirely on piano.
It’s hard to talk about Make Believe without making reference to ‘My Best Friend’, a song that resembles something written for a CBeebies show and sung by a hand puppet. It can only be hoped that Cuomo wrote it whilst massively high or spaced out on meditation, but either way it’s probably best to forget it exists and listen to ‘Only in Dreams’.
Make Believe is an irritating album, partially due to the fact it had so much potential, but mostly due to how people still won’t stop playing Beverly fucking Hills.
Highlights – ‘Perfect Situation’, ‘Freak Me Out’, ‘Haunt You Every Day’
“I have many doubts about my motives, I have many fears about my greed, I have always hurt the one that I love so I’ll turn and look the other way”
8. Green Album (2001)
If we ignore the bone-shaking riff of ‘Hash Pipe’ and the simplistic genius of ‘Island in the Sun’, the Green Album has quite limited substance. As the follow-up to 1996’s Pinkerton, the 5 year break somehow managed to take the creative brilliance from their previous album and push it all aside in favour of some lovely radio rock.
However, it’s understandable why: Cuomo spent the best part of that 5-year break calling Pinkerton a “hideous record”, going as far as stating “it’s like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself.”. Sad.
At risk of reverting to the simple “it’s good, but it’s not Pinkerton” phrase that the majority of “real” Weezer fans seem overly fond of, the Green Album can simply be described as catchy.
It’s nothing groundbreaking at all – ‘Crab’ is your standard pop-rock song, ‘Smile’ is a genial, commonplace Weezer track and ‘O Girlfriend’ radiates that charming, awkward warmth that Cuomo has always been a master at producing.
However, as predictable and safe as it may be, the magic comes in the way that nobody else does it this well. The guitars and vocals both ring out in a joyful harmony, every track is a compacted 3 minutes of singalong pop rock with no overkill and by the end Rivers Cuomo essentially has you eating out of his palm. The Green Album proves that you don’t have to be groundbreaking to be good, and no one does it better than Weezer.
Highlights – ‘Island in the Sun’, ‘Crab’, ‘Hash Pipe’
“If you blew it, don’t reject it. just sit, drawin’ up the plans and re-erect it”
7. Raditude (2009)
Raditude is notorious for being Weezer’s worst album, to the point that it’s almost become a meme in the rock world. However, I’m yet to hear a solid reasoning behind why anyone deems it worse than Hurley.
Opening on perhaps one of the greatest pop songs of the 21st century, Raditude is essentially just over half an hour of pure, unadulterated hilarity. It’s Weezer at their perfect level of quirkiness, with a song about daddy kinks (probably), a disco track featuring Lil Wayne and a discussion about shopping malls somehow lasting for 4 minutes.
There’s no doubt that Raditude isn’t Weezer’s finest musical moment, but there’s something strangely admirable about their ability to pull off something so out of their comfort zone. It’s a straight up pop album for the majority of its run time, but still manages to retain a lot of things the band are notorious for.
The Pinkerton influence can be heard on ‘Put Me Back Together’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Let You Go’, the upbeat pop vibes of the Red Album are perfectly evident in ‘The Girl Got Hot’ and ‘Let It All Hang Out’ and they even manage to throw in some Bollywood on ‘Love is the Answer’.
Whilst it’s somewhat understandable why Raditude is considered a joke amongst fans, it seems sad that so many disregard such a great pop album. It may not be Weezer at their best, but how many other bands can pull off going from the angst-ridden Blue Album to a track called ‘I’m Your Daddy’?
Highlights – ‘Put Me Back Together’, ‘I Don’t Want To Let You Go’, ‘If You’re Wondering’
“I have lost all hope for being normal once again, I will be a slave to you until the bitter end”
6. Death to False Metal (2010)
As their first compilation album, Death to False Metal features 11 previously unreleased tracks, with many pondering the question of just why they were left unreleased. Cuomo has stated that this is the album that should logically follow 2010’s Hurley, and is comprised of songs from the early 90s right through to the Hurley demos.
By definition, compilations of scrapped album tracks are always going to be worse than their other albums, but to suggest that anything on Hurley is better than ‘Blowin’ My Stack’ is utterly farcical. Death to False Metal rejuvenated a number of lost gems, including a number of songs from their “mystery year” of 1998, material that arguably could have replaced their previous three albums comfortably.
‘I’m A Robot’ is a rollicking heavy handed pop rock track with painfully sub-par lyrics, ‘Everyone’ sounds like something that could occur if you put Nirvana in a room with Foo Fighters and told them to write a song in 10 minutes and ‘Losing My Mind’ is a slow, apathetic reject from Pinkerton.
Highlights of the album include a spruced up version of ‘Mykel & Carli’, a song for the founders of the Weezer fan club, previously featured as a B-side to 1994’s ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’. Opener ‘Turning Up the Radio’, came as the final product of Cuomo’s Let’s Write a Sawng YouTube songwriting project, collaborating with fans – amounting in one of the greatest Weezer songs since Pinkerton.
The album lacks direction in any way, skipping from the idiosyncratic elements of the band we’re familiar with to the more dulled down tracks clearly written as Cuomo’s venting process rather than to achieve anything of great substance musically. Nevertheless, as a compilation record it seems all too extraneous to focus on the tracks as a collective.
Overall, Death to False Metal holds together better than some of Weezer’s real albums, feeling fairly more cohesive than similar rarities compilations. Besides, if an album features a cover of Toni Braxton’s ‘Unbreak My Heart’ performed by an awkward self-confessed nerd in thick-rimmed glasses, it’s probably at least a bit good.
Highlights – ‘Losing My Mind’, ‘Blowin’ My Stack’, ‘Turning Up the Radio’
“I’m running out of energy and I have to lie down right here on the sidewalk, next to the shoe town. I hope nobody bothers me cos I’m so tired and empty, life means nothing anymore”
5. Red Album (2008)
On an average Friday night, you will find me rocking back and forth in the corner of a dark room whispering to myself, “Red Album was a good album”.
Critics love to rip this album to shreds, citing ‘Pork and Beans’ as a highlight and opting to ignore some of the sheer genius that went into creating it. It’s potentially Weezer’s weirdest record, with vocals from all four members of the band and a ridiculous amount of experimentation on tracks such as ‘Dreamin’’ and ‘The Angel and The One’.
The most questionable moment though comes in the form of 6 and a half minute long track ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’, essentially a (well-deserved) love song from Cuomo to himself. It contains piano, police sirens, rapped vocals, spoken word and Cuomo singing in falsetto and to be honest what else could you ever want from a track? It’s completely bonkers, but also ingenious – a statement that could probably be used to sum up Weezer’s career.
‘Heart Songs’ presents Cuomo reminiscing about the bands who influenced him, discussing his discovery of Nirvana in his early twenties and an amusing error in which Cuomo misidentifies the cover of ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ as being by Debbie Gibson instead of Tiffany. The whole album is just a mismatched collection of recollections and nostalgia, exhibited in such a gratifying manner that it seems odd that so many deem it as their worst record.
It undoubtedly features some of the bands worst songwriting, take ‘Thought I Knew’ and ‘Automatic’ for example, but with so much variety and such an avant-garde approach they could potentially be singing the Hokey Cokey over the top and it’d still be oddly compelling.
The Red Album is like a jigsaw where none of the pieces fit together, but the picture looks better because of it. It’s a certifiable mess, but if you like your music neat go listen to the Foo Fighters.
Highlights – ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’, ‘The Angel and the One’, ‘Heart Songs’
“I’m such a mystery as anyone can see, there isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me and when it’s party time, like 1999, I’ll party by myself because I’m such a special guy”
4. White Album (2016)
Weezer do concept albums well, very well in fact, and the California beach theme of 2016’s White Album sets out to prove exactly that.
On a record born from the Hare Krishna’s, Sikhs on roller blades and Tinder, you have to salute the California band for not falling into the trap of releasing cliché records to keep their career afloat. The White Album is weird, a satisfying and quintessential type of weird, one that even the most devoted of Weezer haters must appreciate.
Carrying on from 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, The White Album features a number of significant throwbacks to early Weezer. ‘L.A. Girlz’ is a quirky masterpiece, with references to The Divine Comedy, 2014 film Whiplash and the Lewis Caroll poem Jabberwocky. It’s a perfect mix of the classic Weezer musical style and the eccentric songwriting developed by Cuomo throughout their career.
‘Do You Wanna Get High?’ is an ode to Cuomo’s 2000-01 prescription drug usage, also paying reference to the subject of Green Album closer, ‘O Girlfriend’. Sitting perfectly in between the summery ‘Girl (We Got a Good Thing)’ and ‘King of the World’, a track dealing with Cuomo’s marriage to Kyoko Cuomo and her issues with anxiety.
Sure, ‘Thank God for Girls’ is kinda cringey, but try not to become entranced with it after a few listens. You have to commend Cuomo on his obscure songwriting strategies, using Tinder for song ideas? Pure brilliance.
Overall, the White Album is one of Weezer’s finest moments. It takes the awkward yet loveable parts from the Blue Album, mixes them with the peculiar aspects of the Red Album and proves that no matter how questionable some of their albums may be, they’re still more than capable of crafting classics.
Highlights – ‘California Kids’, ‘Jacked Up’, ‘Summer Elaine’ and ‘Drunk Dori’
“She touched my ankle, paranoid android, I felt it in my molecules”
3. Blue Album (1994)
Weezer’s debut is probably their most well-known album, in terms of notable singles, and rightly so. Released in the height of the L.A. grunge scene, the Blue Album struggled to find its footing for a number of years, constantly labelled as “ahead of its time”. But putting aside the seeming inability for 90s kids to accept anything that Kurt Cobain hadn’t been a part of, this album began the story of Weezer’s charming geekiness, one that even 22 years on is yet to reach its final chapter.
Still sitting comfortably at the top of so many “best-of” lists over 20 years after its release, it remains one of the most important debut albums of the 90s, with its big, vibrant pop-rock anthems inspiring generations of awkward musicians.
After some of the mind-numbing shit Cuomo churned out in the mid 2000s, lyrically it’s a well-needed reminder of why he is so renowned for his skills, turning even the most mundane and frivolous subjects into something hilariously enthralling. The subtly heart-shattering ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’ somehow converts a discussion on Superman boxers into one of the greatest rock tracks of the early 90s and even the blatantly misogynistic ‘No One Else’ seems endearing after a few listens.
However, ‘Only in Dreams’ is where the true enchantment of Weezer is introduced, still standing as the band’s longest song at 8 minutes in length. It opens with the most distinctive bass line of the bands career before introducing Patrick Wilson’s ride cymbal and a lightly strummed acoustic guitar – it’s a simple affair, but what ensues is Cuomo’s finest masterpiece to date. It’s dreamy, messy and finishes the album with such an intense climax that it rings in your ears for days.
The Blue Album is all over the place, never falling into the trap of becoming predictable or forgettable. It stands tall among Weezer’s back catalogue, taking pride of place among the highlights of their career.
Also, ‘Buddy Holly’ is sad, stop pretending its some cutesy fucking love song.
Highlights – ‘The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’, ‘Say it Ain’t So’, ‘Only in Dreams’
“You can’t resist her; she’s in your bones. she is your marrow and your ride home. you can’t avoid her; she’s in the air, in between molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide”
2. Everything Will Be Alright in the End (2014)
Everything Will Be Alright in the End is potentially the album that saved Weezer’s career. Not that any album put out post-Pinkerton wasn’t entirely loveable in their own special ways, but if they had returned from a 4 year break with Hurley part II… It’s not even worth thinking about.
EWBAITE was the concept album they needed, and it couldn’t have come in a better form. It departs from the electronic-pop production on previous two albums, Raditude and Hurley, returning to a sound more reminiscent of earlier material (potentially due to the return of producer Ric Ocasek.
The album is split into 3 lyrical themes: Belladonna, The Panopticon Artist and Patriarchia. Dealing with Cuomo’s relationships with women, his relationships with fans and relationships with father figures retrospectively. There’s hooks comprised entirely of whistling, Shakespeare references and a track dedicated to American Revolutionary War and somehow it works perfectly.
There’s no denying that Weezer knew EWBAITE was the album that fans wanted, but it also seems clear that they knew it was what they’re good at. Sure, they can do pop albums – but why do something you’re good at when you could do something you’re great at?
There’s something about this album that makes every Weezer fan feel at home. Whether it’s the familiar cheesiness of ‘Cleopatra’, the calming gang vocals on ‘Foolish Father’ or the references to old material in ‘Back to the Shack’ – everything about it feels right.
It’s almost impossible to pick highlights, but ‘The Futurescope Trilogy’ potentially claims the title of greatest album closer of all time, ending on a raucous cacophony of guitars, percussion and harmonies. Final track, ‘Return to Ithaka’, has five concurrent guitar solos and somehow achieves a more polished rock opera sound than Weezer’s actual rock opera, Songs From the Black Hole.
It could seem naïve to suggest that only Weezer could pull off a comeback album of such epic proportions, but yet it seems perfectly legitimate. To return from ten years of albums never gaining more than average reviews to release an album instantly penned as your greatest since 1996? Pretty impressive.
Maybe Everything Will Be Alright… isn’t the best Weezer album, but it’s the perfect one.
Highlights – ‘The British Are Coming’, ‘Foolish Father’, The Futurescope Trilogy: II. Anonymous’
“We’ve come so far, now here we are, we made it through the night. I know we will be strong, cos still everything will be alright”
1. Pinkerton (1996)
Ask any Weezer fan what their favourite album is and they’ll say almost definitely Pinkerton or the Blue album, and will be very passionate about whichever they chose. Look at any list of the all-time top emo albums and you’ll find this perched proudly in the top 5 (and if you don’t, send the author a strongly worded email). As Weezer’s second studio album, the decision to switch from the radio-friendly pop rock of their first self-titled to the bleak, funereal tone of tracks such as ‘Butterfly’ was a brave yet almost stupid idea.
Having gathered so much mainstream success off the back of their debut, Cuomo took to writing Songs from the Black Hole, a science fiction rock opera expressing his mixed feelings on stardom. However, after becoming frustrated with the limitations of rock, the decision was made to scrap the recordings and set to work on something “darker, more visceral and exposed, less playful.”
Along came Pinkerton.
The album cycles through Cuomo’s dysfunctional relationships, his sexual frustration and struggles with identity. Opener ‘Tired of Sex’ discusses his meetings with groupies and the meaningless sex, with Cuomo pondering why true love eludes him. ‘Across the Sea’ is a plea to a fan, whining about how lonely he is in an entirely pathetic manner. ‘Pink Triangle’ is a borderline homophobic rambling of a sad teenage fuckboy complaining that the girl he likes is gay.
Yet somehow among all the teen angst and incessant melancholic ramblings, comes an album that is turbulently loveable to anyone with half a heart. There’s something about the bizarre wandering riff and improvised vocals on ‘El Scorcho’ that’s hard not to crack a confused smile at, and when it slips into double-time for the bridge? Genius.
Almost the entire album is desperate, obsessive and deplorable. Whether it’s the incredible honesty, the pity, the clear cut lyrics or Cuomo’s sheer courage to wear his heart on his sleeve, Pinkerton is one of the greats.
Highlights – ‘Why Bother?’, ‘Across the Sea’, ‘Butterfly’ (special mention to ‘Long Time Sunshine’)
“What could you possibly see in little ol’ three-cord me?”