A Primer on: Weezer
Weezer’s eleventh studio album Pacific Daydream is out today. As a group that’s been around since 1992 with no real break from touring or recording, the band has been instrumental in the alternative boom of the early 90s and have a few landmark albums from that decade as well. But, as we all know, their style has changed over time and they seem like an almost foreign entity from their first few albums. What’s the deal with those middle-period Weezer album? Is there anything of note released after Pinkerton or should Weezer have hung it up 17 years ago? Here’s a primer on one of the most celebrated 90′s bands of all time. For longtime Weezer fans testing the waters to jump back in or for newcomers wanting to learn about an important alternative band.
Weezer (The Blue Album) – 1994
The Rundown: Maybe one of the best debut albums of the 90s – if not the best? Combining Beach Boys infectious pop songwriting with Rivers Cuomos’ past experience of heavy metal (google the metal group “Avant Garde” kids) makes for some of the best and memorable pop songs that helped pushed alternative music into mainstream consciousness on arrival. It’s nerds rocking out and it never sounded so good.
Standout Tracks: Almost every song on here is loud and catchy but with enough depth or emotional impact to be lasting memorable alternative hits. Everyone’s Mom loves Buddy Holly thanks in part to it’s brilliant Spike Jonze-directed music video, and every college kid has tried to play Undone (The Sweater Song) or drunkenly sing along to Say It Ain’t So but the real gems here are the short but intense pair of No One Else and Surf Wax America that cement Weezer’s pop songwriting proficiency, and album closer Only In Dreams that shows how deep and expansive their repertoire can be.
What Sucks: Do I have to pick anything? If there has to be a fault with this record, maybe The World Has Turned and Left Me Here and Holiday are slightly less polished/impressive as every other song on the album but that’s a stretch.
Final Word: Everyone who likes music should own this album. Twice.
The Rundown: Struggling with the seemingly-overnight success of The Blue Album coupled with medical procedures and a half-written failed album led to the much more darker (and much more awkward) album Pinkerton in 1996. The album is much louder than its predecessor and Rivers Cuomo opens up with just about every feeling he has – he’s said in more recent times that Pinkerton’s songs make him embarrassed. Although it didn’t have as many surefire radio hits as the debut, Pinkerton is a different take on the formula for that album and the end result is just as amazing.
Standout Tracks: The songs on Pinkerton range from danceable jams, speedy heavy riffing and quieter, more introspective numbers. The biggest radio hit from the album is undoubtedly El Scorcho which runs the gambit between middling, acoustic-tinged ballads to full blown punk rocking out. Why Bother? – one of Weezer’s shortest recorded songs – is a glimpse into one of Weezer’s more focused and rock-oriented songs, whereas Across the Sea is a great, expansive track although with slightly cringe-inducing lyrics.
What Sucks: As the final track in a full album playthrough, Butterfly is a fitting send-off – but on its own it just feels woefully lacking. No Other One is a bit unmemorable also.
Final Word: A fitting follow-up to the Blue album even though it has its flaws – and some of those flaws are what make this album great.
Weezer (The Green Album) – 2001
The Rundown: The longest wait between studio albums (5 years) birthed The Green Album with arguably some of Weezer’s best known tracks. Seemingly poised to transition out of the 90s and keep reigning on top of the rock world, something happened and they just sort of failed to capitalize on the momentum. Which is a total shame because like the two before, the Green Album is a fantastic and underrated album.
Standout Tracks: Hash Pipe dominated MTV (remember them?) and is also maybe Weezer’s heaviest single, while Island In the Sun is still often used in movie trailers, radio jingles, you name it. And for good reason. Although those two songs are the undisputed breakout tracks from the album, the rest of it is littered with choice cuts. Photograph is infectious, Crab is a lot like what more recent Weezer should sound like, and Knock-Down Drag-Out should still be a staple in their live set to get mosh pits started.
What Sucks: There’s not really a standout “bad” track on this album, although the two tracks to end the album, Glorious Day and O Girlfriend are a little bland and uninspired. Also, at 28 minutes, the Green Album is Weezer’s shortest album – by quite a bit actually.
Final Word: While not an instant classic, the Green Album should satisfy those who liked the catchiness of the Blue album and the darker turn with Pinkerton.
Maladroit – 2002
The Rundown: Released just 364 days after the Green album, Maladroit is a seemingly oft-forgotten album in the long and storied history of Weezer. A couple small blips on the radar from a few songs got a small reaction and it just seems like people moved on real quick from this album. Maybe it was just too much Weezer too quickly? This is possibly the last release from Weezer before the dreaded *gulp* “sellout” phase of the group.
Standout Tracks: First single Dope Nose is a lot like Hash Pipe – it has a heavy, crunchy, bass-driven riff throughout the track and a killer guitar solo. Keep Fishin’ is a fun song with an even more fun music video starring The Muppets. Most people probably couldn’t name another song from the album – but tracks like Slob and Space Rock seem like leftovers from the 90s (in a good way!) and Possibilities is Weezer’s sole punk song in their discography. Awesome!
What Sucks: While not a bad album by any means, there’s really a reason a lot of people have forgotten this record exists. Too much filler and not enough memorable hooks. Death and Destruction is a weird, bluesy middling song that never really goes anywhere and Take Control sounds like the catalyst for all their less-than-stellar recent ourput.
Final Word: A weird transitional album from Weezer. Not as amazing as what came before but not nearly as upsetting as what came immediately after, Maladroit is an odd release from Weezer. Worth it for the singles and a few other songs.
Make Believe – 2005
The Rundown: Touted by Cuomo himself as a return to form, Make Believe is probably where most 90s Weezer fans feel like the band lost the plot. Despite the group’s biggest hit single to date and a Grammy nomination, there’s only a few flashes of old Weezer over a decade after their beginnings. But is it really that bad?
Standout Tracks: Although the less popular of the two mega-hit singles from this record, Perfect Situation is a very accomplished track (and is especially one of Weezer’s greatest sing-along live songs). The weird 80′s-style synths in This Is Such A Pity and My Best Friend are startling but they at least make the songs they’re attached to interesting. Pardon Me and The Other Way sound like the last bastions of 90s-era Weezer that they pulled out of a vault to stick in here.
What Sucks: Where to begin? While there’s not really anything offensively bad here, most of it is underwhelming, forgettable and really just feels like an aging band trying to recapture what made them so good in the past. Beverly Hills was a monumental hit for Weezer reaching the top 10 on the Billboard charts and is probably what paved the way for the bland, safe, forgettable Weezer in the years to come. Peace and The Damage In Your Heart are two of Weezer’s most boring tracks and the one-two slog of Freak Me Out and Haunt You Every Day are a test of patience to make it through the end of the album.
Final Word: My pick for the turning point in Weezer’s career. Perfect Situation is shockingly good and bits of other songs stand out – but there’s not that much else here.
Weezer (The Red Album) – 2008
The Rundown: The Red Album is the beginning of a run of Weezer albums where it seems the only notable tracks on each album were the singles – and sometimes maybe not even that. Yet another gigantic single for the band here but what else is there?
Standout Tracks: This is a tough one. Pork & Beans is basically the same song as Beverly Hills – stylistically and lyrically – although I think it’s the slightly better of the two. Dreamin’ is alright although it should be half the length. Automatic is fun too – it features a talkbox and lead vocals from drummer Patrick Wilson.
What Sucks: If there was a legitimate “Best Of” album for Weezer, it shouldn’t feature a single song off the Red album. Troublemaker has maybe the worst lyrics from any of Weezer’s singles and Everybody Get Dangerous and Cold Dark World feature like half-rapping that just make them sound like your friend’s lame Dad who think’s he’s WAY cooler than he actually is. A lot of people bring up The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn) as a rare gem in later Weezer albums – and granted it’s a random epic progressive rocker out of nowhere – the band goes through 11 different styles throughout the song with varying levels of success. It would be a perfect Weezer song at half the length and cutting out the terrible Rivers’ rapping and falsetto singing. A painful album overall.
Final Word: Maybe Weezer’s worst album? It just feels like their hearts weren’t in it when making the Red album. Bits and pieces from certain songs would make for maybe a competent 3-song EP? Just totally bad. Avoid.
Raditude – 2009
The Rundown: That album cover. Those songtitles. Weezer’s 2nd album in two years. Raditude has all the makings of an album letdown – but it can’t be worse than the previous releases…can it? But seriously…that album cover. I want that dog or a dog just like that as soon as possible please.
Standout Tracks: To everyone’s surprise, lead single (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To is possibly Weezer’s best single since the Green album? It’s catchy, it has fun/cheesy lyrics and it has great songwriting? Where was this Weezer over the past few years? I’m Your Daddy, despite a questionable title and lyrics, is another pretty great song that sounds like old Weezer – and isn’t that what everyone wants? In The Mall and Let It All Hang Out are heavy – remember when Weezer was heavy? – while Turn Me Round sounds like a Blue album B-side. Awesome!
What Sucks: Most of the lyrics on this album are atrocious. Weezer have never been particularly gifted with lyrics (at least not for a long time) but this is exceptional. Other than that, the biggest sing on this album is it seems a lot of these songs were written for the explicit purpose of getting on the radio. The “woah-oh’s” and handclaps on The Girl Got Hot and Can’t Stop Partying don’t make it catchy or fun to listen to when the rest of those songs are just bad. Love Is The Answer is embarrassingly bad as well.
Final Word: Compared to the Red album, almost any album seems like perfection. Raditude still shows signs of what made Weezer hard to stomach in the mid-to-late 00′s but it’s an improvement.
Hurley – 2010
The Rundown: Yet another year with yet another Weezer album. With possibly the most confusing choice for album cover in this history of pop music, is Hurley a turning point in Weezer’s later career or just the ejection of more songs piled up over a three-year period?
Standout Tracks: Memories is a great first single from Hurley. It’s heavy, it’s catchy and it’s fun. It actually feels like Weezer gives a damn for the first time in a long, long time instead of phoning it in. Ruling Me is the most 90s Weezer has sounded in a while and Brave New World is a glimpse at what’s to come in Weezer’s future.
What Sucks: While Run Away seems like one of Weezer’s worst recorded performances and Where’s My Sex? is a weird mish-mash of genres, there’s not a whole lot of “bad” tracks on Hurley – just mostly forgettable. Trainwrecks seems like it’s close to being an epic Weezer track but never really manages to capitalize on its potentials, and in a different timeline, Smart Girls is Weezer’s biggest song. Nothing too bad here, just a lot of wasted potential.
Final Word: A breath of fresh air! This is the first Weezer album in quite some time that’s more good than bad. It’s understandable for fans at this point in Weezer’s career to be wary of anything they do, but with Hurley it’s official – it’s okay to jump back in to the band!
Everything Will Be Alright In The End (2014)
The Rundown: After three albums in three years, Weezer took a much-needed break. After their 2nd-longest hiatus between albums, Weezer roared back with Everything Will Be Alright In The End and with an album cover like that, it has to be great, right?
Standout Tracks: Every track here is a standout. EWBAITE isn’t so much a return to form as it is Weezer taking the best parts of their best albums and mixing them together to make one of their best albums ever – and certainly their best since the 90s. Back to the Shack is a raucous single showcasing just where Weezer is intent on going – back to the basics. Lonely Girl takes cues from No One Else and You Gave Your Love To Me Softly and it shows. Da Vinci is sickly sweet and Weezer’s best love song, while Cleopatra is one of Weezer’s angrier songs but just as memorable. Progressive rock licks are all over this album, especially in Foolish Father and the absolutely brilliant Futurescape Trilogy to close out the album. Weezer is finally embracing what made them so good in the beginning and is playing to their strengths throughout this entire album.
What Sucks: Again, if I had to pick something, I feel like The British Are Coming isn’t nearly as polished as the rest of the album – maybe the same with I’ve Had It Up To Here (the lyrics aren’t great here either.)
Final Word: This is Weezer’s best album since Pinkerton. It’s their most complete album from start to finish in their entire discography. If someone wants to make an attempt to say EWBAITE is the greatest Weezer album, it would be worth listening to them.
Weezer (The White Album) – 2016
The Rundown: After the amazing self-rediscovery Weezer made with EWBAITE, imagine the surprise when The White Album was announced soon after – and it seemed like it was taking more cues from their mid-00s stretch of albums instead of their 90s output? Maybe it was just a fluke…or maybe EWBAITE was the fluke?
Standout Tracks: Album opener California Kids is a great continuation of Weezer remembering to put the “power” in “power pop.” Followed up by Wind In Our Sail and King of the World see Weezer relying on the same formula that made them so great, but also with maybe just a smidge of experimentation? There’s quite a few time signature changes and surprising elements on the album here. Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori alongside L.A. Girlz should please 90s Weezer purists and Endless Bummer is the first (2014′s Futurescape Trilogy notwithstanding) album closer Weezer’s done in a real, real long time that wasn’t a letdown.
What Sucks: I think this is the only Weezer album where the singles are decidedly worse than the rest of the album. Thank God For Girls is okay but tries to cram way too much into too short of a song. Do You Wanna Get High? is measurably better but just a little unmemorable compared to the rest of the album. Jacked Up seems to be the only actual bad song on the album – totally uninspired.
Final Word: After a couple singles frightened me to think Weezer was regressing, the rest of the White album was a pleasant surprise. This is the first time Weezer has released two great albums in a row in a really long time and that should be cause for celebration.
Pacific Daydream – 2017
And that brings us to today’s release of Pacific Daydream. The band has steadily been releasing singles over the last few months and the styles displayed by Weezer have been eclectic to say the least. Whether the dance vibes of Feels Like Summer or the crunchy guitar in Mexican Fender, it seems like Pacific Daydream might just have something for everyone – the recently released Weekend Woman sounds unlike anything Weezer has done before – but in a good way! It comes down to this – if the two albums preceding Pacifc Daydream are anything to go by, this should be another good Weezer album to add another release to a fantastic run of albums.
If anything, this should cement Weezer as one of the great alternative bands in music history, taking the bad with the good. I wouldn’t want it any other way.