Remember when you first heard “Island in the Sun” through the car radio and every lawn you passed seemed like the perfect place for a pastel backyard barbecue? That’s when you realized what the perfect melding of pop and alt-rock sounded like.
Weezer’s the musical equivalent of Grey’s Anatomy. It feels like it’s always been there, but it only takes one quick fragment of a song from the mid-2000s to make you remember how much you once loved it. This is the band that your older brother listened to when he was in middle school, then passed down to you. It’s a generational nostalgia, singles that have been handed down from their humble 1994 inception.
With the kings of power-pop releasing a new album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, on October 7th, it’s time to take a look back at the band’s long and hit-ridden career.
8. Maladroit (2002)
Although Maladroit features songs that sound great live, the metal-influenced power chords and palm-muted chuh-chunks add up to an overwrought listening experience for anyone not in the center of a mosh pit. The problem is that there’s no subtlety; one of the only times the album gets interesting is on “Keep Fishin’,” a song that remains true to the four-chord template of the rest of the album but injects a swinging rhythm. Some blame the involvement of the fans for the unevenness of Maladroit, since Rivers Cuomo posted demos on the band’s website during recording and fans gave real-time feedback. We can’t go back to see a Maladroit-focused Weezer show, where these songs might have actually been fun, but that might not be an entirely bad thing when you consider the rest of the band’s much-improved catalogue.
7. Hurley (2010)
Hurley confuses me. The first time I saw it I thought it was a joke or a hoax—what the hell’s up with that album cover? Why isn’t it a photo of the band against a solid-color background? This is the most recent release from Weezer, and although it was received to positive(ish) reviews, it’s just not as fun as the self-titled albums or even Raditude. AP Magazine said that the “lead single “Memories” sounds like Andrew W.K. covering the Killers,” but I’d argue that it falls prey to the clichés of both act—it’s Andrew at his least manic and The Killers at their most predictable.
6. Make Believe (2005)
“Beverly Hills” was one of the first songs I owned as an .mp3, but it wasn’t a shiny and new one from iTunes. It was a rumbly low-quality internet stream rip that sounded even worse through my cheap headphones and burned CDs. This is one of Weezer’s most fun singles (even if it’s a bit repetitive) but it straddles a strange midground between irony and earnestness. Does Cuomo really want to be in Beverly Hills? Or is this satire? This vagueness plagues the rest of the songs, especially the PSA-like “On Drugs.” Make Believe’s cover doesn’t help; Somehow the artwork takes cues from both late U2 and Avril Lavigne. It’s overall a fun album despite the wishy-washiness, and deserves its Platinum certification.
5. Weezer (The Green Album) (2001)
At the release of The Green Album, their third record, Weezer hadn’t put out any new material for five years—almost an eternity in the music scene. In those five years, not only did Rivers Cuomo have adult braces, but the band also returned to the songwriting basics that succeeded on their debut. “Hash Pipe” and the mega-hit “Island in the Sun” make sense here, perfect pop songs encapsulated in the diction of alt-rock. What made Weezer so successful at the time was that they were the best ones making this brand of music. They owned power-pop. Later albums struggled because other bands had taken the Weezer formula and put their own spin on it, making the genre’s giants seem unoriginal and tired. The Green Album is before all that, one of the records that started the trend, and therefore it holds up as a solid album.
4. Pinkerton (1996)
Ask most older die-hard Weezer fans what their favorite album is, and you’re probably going to hear a long explanation about Pinkerton. Although not initially a commercial success, the album picked up fans slowly and organically, becoming a cult classic. The songs on this Japanese-inspired venture are darker and more angry than the rest of Weezer’s catalogue, with songs like “El Scorcho” that sound like what might happen if The Pixies had little brothers who grew up listening to Fountains of Wayne. The Deluxe Edition re-issue was released in 2010, revealing the demos and inspirations for one of the band’s career highlights.
3. Raditude (2009)
Nobody back in 1994 would have believed that Weezer would eventually write a song featuring a rapper named Lil’ Wayne. That song miraculously works though, which is the embodiment of Raditude in a nutshell. Songs ooze mindless fun, like the delightfully goofy “(If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To.” The album feels manufactured for optimum youth and enjoyment, like the record label told Rivers that he’d better make a summer album, dammit, but the overall net effect is positive. It’s digestible when it’s not sickly sweet. As long as you’re not expecting another Pinkerton outing, this is an enjoyable piece of Weezer’s poppier history.
2. Weezer (The Red Album) (2008)
The final self-titled album is one of Weezer’s best, and features a single that reminds you why you fell in love with these four goofy boys in the first place. These Weezer “color” albums somehow form a loose trilogy; one where Cuomo seemed to perfectly know when to get personal or quiet and when to crank up the noise. The vocal harmonies across these albums just feel right, too. The multiple layers in “Dreamin’” make the listener really consider the Beach Boys comparisons Weezer has garnered throughout their career. The smooth harmonies, the lack of cursing, and the radio playability all add up to a band that just wants to make music you’ll sing along to in the car with your friends.
1. Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)
It’s fitting that the album that started it all is actually Weezer’s greatest — a record from twenty years ago that shines through as the greatest example of the band’s songwriting. If you’ve never shouted along with “Say it Ain’t So” or “My Name is Jonas,” it’s time to remedy that. Weezer’s greatest song to date originated on this record: “Undone – The Sweater Song” moves from spoken dialogue to chill 90s pop-rock to the punk-influenced chorus we’d hear more of in coming years. Even the demos from this recording session are gold, like “Only In Dreams,” which may be even better than the finished song. This is the collection of choruses perfect for the mixed CDs you carefully crafted for your friends in high school—and isn’t that exactly what every band should aim to achieve?