The Definitive Ranking of Weezer’s Albums

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Oliver Rose takes us through the worst to best albums by American grunge foursome, Weezer.

9.  Hurley
Their eighth LP (2010)

Hurley is the only Weezer album I don’t currently own. This is due in part to the fact that the CD was still full-price when I was picking up the otherwise-bargain back catalogue from Amazon Marketplace. But that was some time ago. In the fullness of time, I’ve actually found it most repellent for the poor value it represents – it’s just never been cheap enough. Hurley, you see, is the most forgettable of all Weezer records – comparing it to the LP ranked #1 on this list renders it frankly embarrassing, from its dumb, lazy cover-art to its dumb, lazy songs. Chronologically, Hurley is also the least-forgivably childish Rivers Cuomo product going; after several albums of kids’ TV-standard tunes, this was the record that tipped the balance in favour of disinterest for me. I don’t know, maybe you disagree? There is, in fairness, a fun cut or two here: Rivers pulls a classic chorus out of the bag on Ruling Me, and the experimental Time Flies is nice too, utilising tape flutter and distortion to ‘age’ the track. Other than that though, it’s a real bummer listening to this thing – just look at the completely cumbersome Where’s My Sex? whose pseudo-rhapsodic middle-eight and horrible enunciation just suck. And the opening line too: “pissing in plastic cups before we went on stage”; it’s just juvenile. I’d give this LP a miss if I were you – go back for it afterward if you’re desperate, but don’t rush yourself, lest it should sully your CD-rack with its unrepentant mediocrity.

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8. Weezer (The Green Album)
Their third LP (2001)

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the Green Album – it’s just a huge disappointment in the grand scheme of things. Without giving too much away, expectations were high in 2001; the band had been on an extended hiatus and the extensive song-writing process became a mystified point of discussion for the band and fan-base. Strange then that the aura of album #3 is one of such missed potential. The tracks here are catchy and well produced – you can’t fault Don’t Let Go or Island in the Sun as generic pop-songs, but that’s pretty much all they equate to. There are no experiments here; it’s horrendously formulaic. Annoyingly, there are some stellar tunes hiding in the mix too – choruses that soar; lead vocal lines that traverse excellent chord progressions (that chorus on Smile, for example, is sublime). However, the album’s tonal consistency sells it short, and every song sounds the same – to the point that you could in fact listen to this LP as one big twenty-nine-minute song. There are some interesting moments: the stomping downbeat anthem Hash Pipe; the Green Day-indebted Knock-down Drop-out. The Green Album also serves as the first of Weezer’s true goofball records; from here on, Cuomo’s songs lack the conviction and integrity of albums one and two, paving the way for Rivers’ infamous trademark lyrical curveballs (e.g. the most awkward use of the word “knickers” ever on the melodically wholesome but over-ridingly weird Crab). Overall though, it’s just a bit…well…meh.

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7. Make Believe
Their fifth LP (2005)

This album got an absolute battering when it came out – NME rated it 5/10, Sputnikmusic called it “a whirlwind of mediocrity” and Pitchfork, infamously, handed out a 0.4/10 with Rob Mitchum concluding, “sometimes an album is just awful. Make Believe is one of those albums.” For my money, Make Believe is in fact a very listenable stepping-stone on Weezer’s yellow-brick road to the perfection of semi-cynical frivolousness. But step back from the sophisticated approach for just a moment – you’ll see this record has got some absolute bangers on it. Beverly Hills for example: a fun, self-aware track, brimming with silliness, from the breathy female backing to Cuomo’s hilariously confessional patter in the bridge – hey, there’s even a talk-box solo; you know, like Bon sodding Jovi. As album opener, it’s a track that also requires the listener to suspend their disbelief immediately – to ‘make believe’ if you will. And, unlike the other albums in this rundown, you can enjoy this LP if you just chillax a bit. Most of the tracks here are 100% pop, eschewing the half-serious vibes of Hurley and the green album, Achilles heels on those records for their half-hearted reaches toward profundity. Suddenly, with this in mind, there’s cheeriness everywhere – the overblown guitar solo on Perfect Situation; the jangly arpeggios and synths on This Is Such A Pity; the wide-eyed punky insomnia of We Are All On Drugs; the kiddish metaphors and romantic naïvety of Hold Me. See? Not that bad after all…

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6. Raditude
Their seventh LP (2009)

Where Make Believe mismatched its foolish heart with an overly-sincere audience, Raditude is a far easier beast to tackle. Its ridiculousness is so huge, its bombast so entirely bizarre, that one can’t help but cherish its banality. Our journey begins at the batshit cover, provided by a fan, and an ideal visual summary for what this LP contains – some mad, whack shit. Opener If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To) is a school-disco-defining moment of charming innocence, with such timelessly dopey lines as “Your mom cooked meat loaf, even though I don’t eat meat / I dug you so much, I took some for the team”. This feel-good screwball vibe carries on into I’m Your Daddy, whose somewhat creepy titular refrain refers either heartwarmingly to Rivers’ baby daughter, or frighteningly to a girl in a club – and again, the rhymes are nothing short of sensational (“I would like to give a demonstration of what it is I do / I’ll take you out to dinner at Palermo’s – we’ll split a cheese fondue”). Elsewhere, Lil’ Wayne rocks up on I Can’t Stop Partying for an absolutely hilarious guest verse (“Okay bitch, it’s Weezer and it’s Weezy”) and Rivers is “hanging out with [his] homies” on Let It All Hang Out, which explodes into being with a scorching lead riff. So yeah – Raditude is a bit stupid and more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, but, after the overwhelming negativity surrounding other post-2000 Weezer records, it sounds like Rivers Cuomo fighting back the only way he knows how – like a cool dude.

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5. Weezer (The Red Album)
Their sixth LP (2008)

For me, the Red Album represents the moment in which Weezer perfected the parody of themselves that began in 2001 on this record’s green cousin. Harsh words perhaps for the album ranked fifth on the list? Absolutely not – this third eponymous album is just as (if not more) lyrically stupid as its predecessors, however, unlike the LPs bookending it, its adventurous melodies, intelligent song structures and shamelessly sentimental homages give it a sense of integrity that most Weezer lacks. Take, for example, the multi-referential The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn); the track opens with a Billy Joel-esque piano twinkling before a chiasmic crowd and then, before you know it, Cuomo and co. are hurtling through passages that imitate a host of stars, from NWA, Slipknot and Nirvana to Jeff Buckley, Aerosmith and the Andrews Sisters. Pork And Beans is an anthemic stomper about growing old with fantastic mastering that notches the mix up to eleven for the chorus. Likewise, Dreamin’ is a deceptively complex, radio-friendly number with a lovely middle-eight in half-time. Admittedly, the band aren’t perfect on this record; there are some ill-fated experiments like the rotation of lead-vocal duties and an unnecessary ambient outro on the final track which, in pushing the run-time over six minutes, kind of scuppers the vibe. The Red Album is then, exactly what it is and little else – the best moment in Weezer’s more foolish discography.

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4. Maladroit
Their fourth LP (2002)

For my money, Maladroit, as well as being the most underrated Weezer album, is also the most anomalous. Post-2000, the band has little to offer that isn’t characterised by juvenile folly and lolloping goofishness. Their 2002 outing is then, somewhat mature for its incredibly dense production, heavy metal riffage and dark sense of humour, and from opener American Gigolo (containing one of Rivers Cuomo’s best choruses), it’s clear that Maladroit is going to be a heavy ride. We’re not disappointed. Track two, Dope Nose, is brimming with trailblazing lead guitar from Brian Bell; Keep Fishin’ is a tubthumping moon-boot-stomper with a chorus time-change to melt your heart; and Take Control, perhaps the most thickly-mixed track on the album, growls with muted picking and screeching lead. These hair-metal song-structures also give huge prominence to solos and instrumental passages – the riff that opens closer December for example is a gorgeous soaring sequence that is given an entire verse to roam free in the middle of the song; similarly, Death And Destruction is probably a 50/50 split between vocals and guitar, an unresolved battle for dominance across the oh-so-slow heavy-metal soundscapes. There are also some interesting experiments on this record, like the slick jazzy licks of Burndt Jamb, which lend a looser, relaxed flavour to the record’s otherwise hard textures. So if its hard-rock and superfluousness you’re after, look no further than Maladroit – it’s a banger.

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3. Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Their ninth LP (2014)

As the sixth post-Pinkerton Weezer record, no one was expecting very much from Rivers Cuomo a mammoth twenty years after the band’s debut smash. Incredibly, the band pulled something entirely unexpected out of the bag in the form of Everything Will Be Alright In The End, a record with all the elements rather than just some. Unlike previous records, there are no compromises here, and the sense of confliction that plagues records like Maladroit (heavy but goofy) and Make Believe (poppy but boring), finally evades the band. Rivers’ re-discovered sense of lyrical integrity, dealing with themes of women, fatherhood and fandom, is also, refreshingly, not that cumbersome; Back To The Shack breaks the fourth-wall to reference the Weezer of 1994 over a rockin’ two-chord sequence; Euology To A Rock Band profoundly pre-empts the popular death of music collectives with all the heart-swelling rock melodicism of My Chemical Romance; and Go Away is a fantastic duet between two ex-lovers, brought to life by Cuomo’s gorgeous harmonies with Bethany Cosentino of 90s drone band Pocahaunted. The references are everywhere on this album!
The band retain their capacity for silliness – Da Vinci utilises a hilariously poor set of metaphors to describe a beautiful girl as Cleopatra clumsily tackles emotional tyranny. Even with these bar-lowering moments however, I can say with absolute certainty that this is the best Weezer album this side of the millennium – check it out right away.

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2. Weezer (The Blue Album)
Their debut LP (1994)

So that the reader is plaintively aware, we may as well, from this point on, be discussing an entirely different band. Incredibly, in twenty years, it’s only the bassist that’s changed – listening to 1994’s blue album, you’d never guess. In their original incarnation, Weezer were absolutely fantastic – this album alone contains three hit singles, with the propensity for every other song to chart were it released as a single. Their energy represented a perfect amalgam of grunge, indie-rock, surf-rock, pop, metal and punk; their lyrics were emotionally charged adolescent odes; their polo-shirt/chino look was pre-emptively goofy and ridiculous, and yet it only because it came off the back of Nirvana’s flannel shirts, ripped jeans and heroin dependency. Weezer were just awesome – actual, proper, accessible alternative rockers. I shit you not, every song here is superb from My Name Is Jonas, an acoustic-tinged thrasher, to Only In Dreams, an epic poem propelled by meandering bass and a volume dynamic ripped straight off of Pixies’ Surfer Rosa. And what about In The Garage, a song about Rivers’ childhood den (“I’ve got a dungeon-master’s die”) opening idiosyncratically with harmonica and reaching the peak of references with a nod to the two-lesser members of Kiss. The songs you will know are Buddy Holly and Say It Ain’t So, complex pop tracks with catchy choruses and whose lyrics concern an identity crisis and alcoholism respectively. God damn, what happened to this band…

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1. Pinkerton
Their second LP (1996)

At the start of this record, guitar feedback rings in the left channel before roughly-produced drum hits introduce a skulking bass-line and distorted, crystalline synths; the dynamic builds and builds and then, the climax – a cacophony of overdrive, glistening saw waves and howling vocals. An incendiary guitar solo scorches madly, the song crashes into a false ending and, in a mere three minutes, you’re already 10% through Weezer’s greatest album. Pinkerton is the product of failed space-rock opera project Songs From The Black Hole, begun by Rivers Cuomo in a hospital bed as he recovered from surgery to lengthen his leg; instead of a scripted interstellar journey, the journey taken by this LP’s vaguer character set is one that parallels the confused and pregnable Lieutenant Pinkerton of the opera Madame Butterfly, to which this record’s closer, Butterfly, is a direct reference. The lyrics are incredibly age-defining, picking at the sincere insecurities and conflicted desires of teenage sexuality, from the desperate longing on Getchoo to the cynicism of Why Bother? only two songs later. Rivers’ lyrics, later the cornerstone of Weezer’s irrepressible asininity, are one of the record’s most enduring and captivating qualities – his candidness is both charming and frightening, confessing beautiful, unrequited admiration for a lesbian on Pink Triangle, but exploring sexual fantasies between himself and an unknown Japanese girl from whom he has received fan-mail in Across The Sea. My personal favourite here is Falling For You, containing Cuomo’s most complex chord sequences and a purposefully difficult chorus that seeks to throw the listener off-track with every note. Unfortunately, I haven’t a large enough allowance in words to describe what makes Pinkerton so utterly gorgeous – hopefully you know enough now to check it out, and ask just how a bunch of guys so completely carefree and punk managed to create something so sublimely winsome. It gets me every single time.

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