Just in case anyone else happens to be an avid Weezer fan.
Note: Weezer has four self-titled albums that are commonly referred to by album art color.
1. Weezer (1994)
Weezer fans are divided on many things. If you haven’t wasted years following the band like I have, you’ll know by the end of this list that they’ve had an eccentric career with celebrated highs and cringeworthy lows. Many debate what’s where in the middle, but most agree on this: Weezer’s first two records are their best. Any release that’s come close has some sort of caveat, be it over- or under-production, one or more weak links, embarrassing collaborations, corporate sponsorships, you name it.
Fans further agree that Weezer’s inaugural Blue Album and its successor Pinkerton are just as good as each other. It’s tough to decide between them, but Blue is my essential Weezer. Its seamless tracklist of blissfully distorted alt-rock anthems makes a perfect balance of pure fun and passion and, coming from the peak of Weezer’s writing career, the debut is flawless. Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo’s trademark awkward lyrics are somehow charming (later efforts lack in poetry), and this may be the magic of the album.
2. Pinkerton (1996)
Pinkerton is far and beyond Weezer’s most emotional work. The band’s first sequal opens with a punch of deprivation in “Tired of Sex”—immediately, you know you’re in for something different than Blue. Pinkerton carries on with equally tortured and earnest tracks, all just as raw and passionate. With frequent mood swings (though constant themes), and several moments of comic relief and wit, the listener experiences a rounded and powerful ride. This ride is jerked in the closer, “Butterfly”—after nine aggressive tracks, Pinkerton concludes with a remorseful, acoustic ballad that exposes heart-wrenching depth into Cuomo’s loveless despair.
3. Everything Will Be Alright in the End (2014)
Everything Will Be Alright in the End is to Rivers Cuomo like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is to Kanye West. (“Kanye West in Weezer review, man this guy is weird.”) In that sense, Blue and Pinkerton are just like Kanye’s first two records: emblematic classics that define the artist’s sound. Albums like Everything and Fantasy are bigger, conceptual. Cuomo took Weezer’s sound and style and pumped every bit of creative eccentricity into it. Why stop at nerdy references to Dungeons and Dragons in The Blue Album when entire songs can be about Egyptian pharaohs and Paul Revere? I’ll contend that musically, Everything is Weezer’s maturest. Cuomo returns with what had up to this point become his forlorn guitar solos, falsettos and anthemic hooks, each so in your face it’s as if he shot adrenaline into all facets of his songwriting to overload and silence his critical fans. One misfire, lead single “Back to the Shack,” preserves Weezer’s 21st century knack for out-of-touch cringe in its self-acknowledging lyrics apologizing for—and here’s the kicker—Weezer’s 21st century knack for out-of-touch cringe. In typical Weezer fan fashion, that one bad song among an otherwise masterpiece is enough for me to discredit Everything from the highest ranks of Pinkerton and Blue.
4. Weezer (2016)
At long last, Weezer done did it: a return to form. The White Album has the spirit of the The Blue Album. “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” and “L.A. Girlz” genuinely sound like they were recorded 20 years earlier. Others take time to condition, which sets apart White from the top, but I appreciate every track. That distinction, in turn, separates White from the bottom, where albums are sunken by train wreck songs. “Thank God for Girls” is probably most alarming with its neo-Rivers rap verses, but its deviant and scatterbrain lyrics are wonderful: “God took a rib from Adam, ground it up in a centrifuge machine / Mixed it with cardamom and cloves, microwaved it on the popcorn setting / While Adam was like ‘that really hurts’ / Going off into the tundra, so pissed at God / And he started lighting minor forest fires, stealing osprey eggs / Messing with the bees who were trying to pollinate the echinacea.”
5. Maladroit (2002)
For 12 years and four subsequent albums after its release, Maladroit held the coveted third ranking on this fan’s list. Many Weezer fans are divided on Maladroit: it’s a departure from the band’s ’90s rock sound and a one-time flirtation with metal. This style change was sin at its release. But with the records that followed, Weezer reset the bar of sin. When it comes down to it, Maladroit is a good hard rock album. Sure, it doesn’t really sound like Weezer, but quality-wise in its own right, it is solid.
6. Weezer (2001)
The Green Album is a concise (28 minutes total) assortment of bland lyrics and generic pop rock. Without any risks, none of the songs are particularly bad—they’re just not (for the most part) particularly good, either. On the other hand, this consistency of moderate quality provides for an especially pleasant album-flow. In the end, however, consistency and comprehension are not enough to save this album from being boring. Highlights are: “Photograph,” “Island In The Sun,” and “Simple Pages.”
7. Weezer (2008)
No matter how good The Red Album’s highs are, they do not compensate for the record’s lows. This is a textbook case of bad outweighing good. Red is wildly and unsuccessfully experimental—it just doesn’t feel Weezer when supporting bandmates Brian Bell, Scott Shriner, or Pat Wilson sing instead of Cuomo, whose vocals very much embody the band’s sound. In addition, these songs (with the exclusion of Wilson’s “Automatic” and the inclusion of Cuomo’s painfully corny rap-rock “Everybody Get Dangerous”) are just generally weird and unsettling—”Cold Dark World,” Shriner’s creepy girl-stalking anthem (seriously), being the prime example. That said, the highs are really good. “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” for instance, demonstrates the breadth of Cuomo’s songwriting diversity while “Pork and Beans” is as catchy as Weezer gets.
8. Make Believe (2005)
Make Believe marked Weezer’s shift from respectable to embarrassing. For the first time, the flops weren’t just inoffensive, they were bad. The monotonous and hollow “Beverly Hills” announced this shift to the world, and a handful of others are just as devoid of dignity and craft. Highlights, however, call upon Pinkerton‘s transparency in “Hold Me” and “The Other Way,” but when all is said and done, this record sucks.
9. Hurley (2010)
Hurley was a step in the right direction after 2009’s Raditude in that instead of its trash being overt (atrocious name, artwork), Cuomo tried masking the record’s baggage by placing the character Hurley from Lost on the cover in hopes that no one would find out its title was actually payoff for selling out to the surfer bro brand. As expected, the music is equally lame.
10. Raditude (2009)
This album features songs called “I’m Your Daddy” and “The Girl Got Hot,” a rap verse from Lil Wayne, drum machine beats, a sitar, and lyrics about riding an escalator at the mall. ‘Nuff said.
Ultimately, Weezer is worth it. Rivers Cuomo will wrench emotions out of you that you didn’t know you had. Go listen to Pinkerton and cry. =w=