Weezer: Worst to Best

As one of my favourite bands, Weezer are tough to evaluate. All of the bigger things that might disenchant me with one of their records may well become the overarching sentiment that attracts me to it after some time — this has been the case for maybe three items on the list. Equally, the opposite can be true. I am content with the strict ordering of this list being something I don’t take too seriously; I want to enjoy the band for what they are, free of my preconceptions or the number placed in front of the list entry for any one of their albums. This writing comes from a place of admiration and love of the band, and genuinely any one of these could move slightly or significantly in the years to come. I’ve excluded compilation albums (such as Death to False Metal), deluxe editions (as are available for Blue and Pinkerton) and the recent Teal covers album — it felt disingenuous to rank it alongside albums that feature original material. I slightly lost myself in the process of writing and revising for this project, so, uh… enjoy.

12. RADITUDE (2009)

Look – It starts off well enough. ‘I Want You To’ is an absolute gem and ‘I’m Your Daddy’s hook is annoyingly infectious if the cringe-inducing lyrics can be overlooked. ‘The Girl Got Hot’ is a lull; unmemorable, if irritating. Fine, whatever: so far, so OK. Then, fourth, comes the offensive synth of ‘Can’t Stop Partying,’ the fan experience of listening to which is comparable to watching your closest friend stab themself repeatedly. It is Weezer’s lowest low, as well as the longest song on the album because of course it is. The lyrical hook of ‘Let it All Hang Out’ speaks for itself: “I’m going out with my homies and we going to let it all hang out.” Yes. I know. I still haven’t worked out what ‘Love is the Answer’ even is, but its shaky-at-best attempt at a genre-blend is head-scratching. ‘I Don’t Want To Let You Go’ is a banal – perhaps pleasant – finisher, made more tolerable by the preceding cut, ‘In the Mall,’ whose riff and melodies are energetic (and under 3 minutes!); the song might remind of Maladroit if the production weren’t so crippling. Raditude is not egregious, but it’s certainly cocky, phoned-in and frequently annoying. Whether tongue-in-cheek or not, it succeeds as Weezer’s worst work.

11. MAKE BELIEVE (2005)

Image result for WEEZER MAKE BELIEVE

Make Believe is mainly just really boring. For a band so noteworthily adept at catchy, sweet melody, this is a problem; the album does not play to the group’s strengths in the least (the 45-minute running time doesn’t help — this is a Weezer album!). ‘Perfect Situation’ is a band favourite and ‘This is Such a Pity’ is enjoyable with shimmery chords and drums that are driving enough. ‘Beverly Hills,’ though far from their best work, is not the car-crash that some fans make it out to be – I can enjoy it as a fun diversion. ‘We Are All on Drugs,’ on the other hand, can be a hard listen (those bloody lyrics) and is one of band’s only songs — ever — that makes me dread the eventual inrush of crunchy guitars thanks to a diabolically grating hook. Side B is bland; ‘My Best Friend’ is remorselessly bathetic, and the lyrical hook to ‘Freak Me Out’ reaches a point of self-parody. Closer ‘Haunt You Every Day’ is enjoyable enough, but one that’s injured by the preceding formula of the album; it very much becomes the same noise as the previous forty minutes. Make Believe isn’t laughably bad, but nor does it have enough good moments to really warm to – it’s the sort of thing whose songs might mildly annoy, or bore, or serve as nothing more than a mindless “I can’t recall anything I just heard” venture. It is a far-cry from the band’s talents.

10. THE BLACK ALBUM (2019)

iTunes Artwork for 'Weezer (Black Album) (by Weezer)'

I seem to like this record more than most fans – ‘High As a Kite’ is a euphoric slice of dream-pop and another treasure from the band, and ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ is a swaggering lead-single that sees Weezer successfully (finally) blend with that faux-hip-hop sound they’ve been toying with for years, even if the result approaches staleness after a couple of listens. I even enjoy the sugary island-pop tune ‘Byzantine.’ Also lining the tracklist is the woozy piano verse of ‘Piece of Cake’ and acoustic-led ‘Zombie Bastards,’ which, along with ‘Too Many Thoughts in My Head,’ act as relatively pleasant, inoffensive slices of pop to fill out the run-time. ‘The Prince Who Wanted Everything,’ though, is dry and plodding, and ‘Living in L.A.’ is an over-produced “whoa, whoa!”-style cut – you know, the type we thought the band was done with. ‘I’m Just Being Honest’ features big-enough chords and melody in the chorus, but is burdened with agitating, innocuous lyrics that feel like they never get to the heart of anything that they try to poke at. ‘California Snow’ is a fine closer; I like the unabashed silliness of the introductory section (“walk soft with a big stick / woo!”), but the song as a whole doesn’t do a great deal for me – something about those synths just doesn’t quite draw my ear. If nothing else, this album is consistent, but its regression of Weezer’s sound – affirming their recent tendency to compile unexceptional cuts that only come together as list items that footnote an album – is regrettable; only a single track here really transcends this mediocrity. Black’s mostly OK, and pleasant, but nothing more.

9. PACIFIC DAYDREAM (2017)

iTunes Artwork for 'Pacific Daydream (by Weezer)'

Pacific Daydream is a mixed bag. The band’s attempt at emulating millenial pop generally struggles to come together convincingly, but the songwriting illuminates several highlights; ‘Get Right’ joyously embraces a folk-rock influence, and ‘Sweet Mary’ and ‘QB Blitz’ are noteworthily emotive, the latter a lovely ballad with an entertainingly quirky lyrical hook and satisfying bridge section. Complementing the tracks mentioned, though, is the skin-crawling ‘Beach Boys,’ and ‘Feels Like Summer,’ which really merits no further mention. The sound of the album in general – sugar-sweet and summery, sometimes to a fault – kills a few songs; ‘Mexican Fender’ might be a favourite if the snare didn’t sound so dead or the chorus weren’t so oppressively dense, and the same could be argued for the hook of ‘Weekend Woman,’ an otherwise-lovely cut (though nothing on unreleased Green B-side ‘Burning Sun’ from which the song takes its verse chords and melody). The harmless ‘La Mancha Screwjob’ avoids these sonic trappings, however, and ‘Any Friend of Diane’s’ is a catchy closer that ends things on relative high. Handful of good tracks on this thing. Eh!

8. THE GREEN ALBUM (2001)

iTunes Artwork for 'Weezer (Green Album) (by Weezer)'

I know that a lot of people like
Green a lot, but, for me, it features some of the band’s most bland and uninteresting material. It will always hold a place as the Weezer album that introduced me to the group (I loved it at the time), but with the full picture of their discography, it doesn’t hold up nearly as well as I’d like it to. ‘Don’t Let Go’ is a fun, straightforward opener, and ‘Hash Pipe’ is a good burst of energy; as well as this, ‘Island in the Sun’ is a pleasant ride and I like the chords in ‘Smile’ – the album as a whole, though, fails to be compelling. The production is laid on thick to the point of being over-dense, and the songwriting uniformly follows a pointedly structure. Clearly, though, it isn’t straight bad (especially for Weezer); it’s at least consistent in delivering fine songs. It just lacks texture, depth, and personality, and is smoothed to consistency in a way that doesn’t strike me all that much. Sorry!

7. THE RED ALBUM (2008)

iTunes Artwork for 'Weezer (Red Album) [Deluxe Edition] (by Weezer)'

Red
is an absolute mess, but this is largely why it’s compelling. The band pull from copious musical corners, assembling a patchy collage of their various influences that never quite comes together but succeeds as generally interesting regardless. The opener ‘Troublemaker’ ramps up the silliness, with intentionally witless lyrics (some of which consistently get a chuckle out of me). ‘The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived’ continues in the prior-cultivated pop-oddball feeling of the record with one of the most experimental and successfully aperiodic Weezer tracks to date, jumping to a new sound every several bars but retaining a melody to draw them together. It’s a band favourite for me, each section quite compelling in its own right (my favourites are 0:35-1:00, 1:26-1:51 and 3:08-3:33). ‘Pork and Beans’ is a band classic at this point, and ‘Heart Songs’ is an instrumentally arresting ballad with charming lyrics that reminisce Rivers’ experience with various musical influences. It’s quite sweet. This enjoyable streak of songs is kneecapped, however, with the dreadful ‘Everybody Get Dangerous,’ an unholy Red Hot Chilli Peppers impression with a grating guitar lead and an equally annoying hook (“BOO YAH!”). ‘Dreamin’ is a compelling, swaggering tune, though, but with a bafflingly choppy, unfitting bridge section that derails the track. ‘Automatic’ boasts nice verse chords, as well as some plucky guitar leads that intersperse the song’s hook, but poor Pat sounds like he has something stuck in his throat. I thought we knew that letting the drummer sing was a bad idea! ‘The Angel and the One’ drips with melodrama and supplies a certifiable ‘big finish’; it’s an odd turn for an album that been so joyously crackpot — but perhaps not surprising for Red’s such spastic spread of songwriting.

(Also: there are some great bonus tracks on this thing. ‘King,’ ‘Miss Sweeney’ and ‘Pig’ are wonderfully oddball and probably deserved a spot on the core record.)

6. HURLEY (2010)



Hurley
is the great example of late-2000s ‘pop’ Weezer, with streamlined songwriting, big production and no-bullshit power-choruses. ‘Memories’ and ‘Ruling Me’ are wicked singles, and ‘Trainwrecks’ has been a massive grower; I love the chugging guitars and Rivers’ more strained, drawl-like delivery (consistent on this record). ‘Unspoken’ is a lovely fireside acoustic break and one of Weezer’s best ballads, easing into the outrageous ‘Where’s My Sex?,’ an appropriately ridiculous cut that manages to make the dumbest lyrical crux of Weezer’s career work. The transition back from the bridge is noteworthily dreadful, but it doesn’t do a great deal to kill the song. The introduction (and later bridge) to ‘Run Away’ reeks of Pinkerton’s ‘Butterfly,’ and tinges the track with nostalgia. It sounds as though a sadness is being fought off between these sections and the enveloping verse hi-hats and wistful chorus. It’s an album highlight. Even the terribly cheesy ‘Smart Girls’ just-about gets away with some of its songwriting (those verses, man!). ‘Brave New World’ is expansive, the chorus featuring one of the most exciting chord changes of any Weezer song, and ‘Time Flies’ is a neat little closer that aptly caps-off an album that knows exactly what it is and tries to be nothing more. Hurley is still overlooked; an exciting, no-nonsense pop record that finished the band’s turbulent time in the 2000s on a high. I like it a lot.

5. MALADROIT (2002)

iTunes Artwork for 'Maladroit (by Weezer)'

Maladroit
is frequently cited as the band’s most underrated work, and for good reason. Thicker in sound and less commercial than Green, it commits itself to short spells – only two tracks of thirteen exceed three minutes – and condenses Weezer down to the bare core of what the band does so lovingly; thick guitars and twisting, catchy hooks. Missing here in comparison to the band’s other, better work is a thematic intactness to underscore the songwriting with that sense of sadness or nostalgia that’s so tied to Weezer’s prime material. It does little to detract from the experience, though, and the record’s clumsy, B-side feel works greatly in its favour. ‘Keep Fishin’ is, I feel, still overlooked, and ‘Burndt Jamb’ persists as the band’s great underrated track.

4. EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END (2014)



Forever beloved as the comeback album who introduced Weezer’s 2010s renaissance phase,
EWBAITE remains an absolutely solid pop-rock album – one that gestures heavily to the band’s 90s sound (the looping melody of ‘Lonely Girl’ and familiar harmonica of ‘Cleopatra,’ as well as the pounding guitars of opener ‘Ain’t Got Nobody,’ absolutely hint to a Weezer thought long-gone) but expands sonically to leave it tastefully in the dust, developing their old-school grease into something cleaner, slicker, more mature — and more reactionary. ‘I’ve Had it Up to Here’ features a slicing guitar lead and shimmering chorus, whose lyrics sensitively reflect on the band’s less-than-spotless critical run and Rivers’ personal frustration with how fans have come to view his work, and ‘Back to the Shack’ flagships the “return to form” characteristic that’s tied to this record’s release with a big, choppy hard-rock riff and appropriately melodic chorus and victorious bridge that champions the band’s earlier sound (“we belong in the rock world”). These songs are really enjoyable stuff, with ‘Cleopatra’ acting as another great footnote, its lyrics discussion of going free furthering the album’s ideas of breaking from the past, with an awesome bridge section tastefully sanitary chorus. The sound of the record is fleshed out by ‘Eulogy For Rock Band’ and personal favourite ‘The British Are Coming,’ which see Rivers embrace some higher-concept stuff more directly than before. The production, though inconsistent, tends to embrace a squeaky-clean, undefiled sonic approach, with ride cymbals that dial up the brass and guitars that act only as a backdrop to Rivers’ generally-undisturbed vocal delivery. This really works, and feeds into a feeling of maturity, something replicated within the lyrics of a handful of tracks (‘Foolish Father’ stands for this like no other song). The 90s Weezer crunch breaks the polished sound in a few places, of course, though, most notably on the ultra-sweet ‘Da Vinci,’ whose chorus hits like a ton of bricks (in the best possible way!). The album ends with the Futurescope Trilogy, an unstoppable triptych of guitar work and explosive performances (Pat bloody Wilson, man) — it is the most triumphant closer of Weezer’s career, and warrants listen after listen after listen. EWBAITE is joyously solid, and saw a development into maturity that Weezer’s 2000s efforts had been sorely lacking. Its themes of self-mediation and future are still poignant, and its production and sonic approach is still compelling, cogent and convincing. It secures a high-ranking spot on this list.

(P.S. Kudos to those responsible for the amazing album title and cover art. Look at that thing!)

3. PINKERTON (1996)



Yeah, I know. Listen,
Pinkerton absolutely deserves its place as an emo-before-emo masterpiece. The intentionally sloppy production is great – I love those ringing, tuned-way-too-low toms and the unsynchronised vocal harmonies – and the lyricism under Cuomo’s delivery has a poignant duality; are we supposed to find these things amusing, or terribly sad? (It becomes clear pretty quick.) Pinkerton never quite comes together for me in the ways of the two higher-ranking albums on this list, but this is not a redaction of praise. The album’s exercising of pent-up sexual and romantic frustration is profound and made even more compelling when keeping in mind the circumstances surrounding the album’s production as well as its widespread critical panning on release; its growth into cult status is quite the wonderful thing. All this is fronted by some of Weezer’s best tunes – ‘El Scorcho,’ ‘Why Bother?’ – tunes which possess more ingrained loneliness than any modern emo band could dream of. It is bleak, but an endlessly emotive glimpse into life following sudden stardom and fascinating characterisation of the loneliness of romantic deprivation and its fantasies. Enough has been written about its influence; if you haven’t stumbled onto yet, it is the opinion of mine and many others that the record is incredibly worth your time – if for no other reason, to say that you’ve heard it.

2. THE WHITE ALBUM (2016)



The band’s second concept album after
Pinkerton, White bleeds absolute personality – it seeps summer sadness, nostalgia and heartbreak. It is warm turned cold, the sobering of fantasy and the reconfiguration of hope; that feeling of evening melancholy but a simultaneous surge of aspiration. I deeply love this record, for these personal reasons – ones that would need an essay to explore – but as well as its consistency in delivering perfect pop-rock tunes. It gives hit after hit after hit, underscored by endlessly endearing, charming lyricism, with wicked hook after wicked hook and a shocking amount of excellent performances (it’s worth noting the sly bass homage to Blue’s ‘Only in Dreams’ in the bridge of ‘King of the World’). Favourites include the shimmering ‘L.A. Girlz,’ soaring ‘Wind in Our Sail’ and painfully bittersweet closer ‘Endless Bummer.’ Pretty well every track here is a wonderfully executed burst of Weezer at their best, though, and the record is kept to a tight 34 minutes that only adds to the addictive experience of the tracklist. Jake Sinclair’s enhances this – the shining ride cymbals and expansive power chords (working to fend-off, at least a little bit, Weezer’s trademark crunch, but with appreciable results) only aid the glistening, warm portrait of summer heartbreak. It is a wonderful album, and encapsulates what I find so damn special about this band. I’ll always hold a unique personal connection to this one, more than any of their other albums – even this list’s #1.

(P.S. The bonus track ‘Friend of a Friend’ and Fan Club exclusive ‘The Last of Days Summer’ are sweet as hell and you should listen to them!)

1. THE BLUE ALBUM (1994)



Of all the debuts of all the world… this one takes the cake. It is a masterclass in writing a pop record; it is sly, witty, pounding, sincere, slick, clean, dirty, joyous, melancholy and hopeful – one delicious package of everything that can be right with music when a songwriter simply wishes to write a handful of evocative, playful tunes. So much about its approach justifies its position as a classic; the cyclical, chugging guitars of ‘The World Has Turned,’ or the irresistible hook of ‘Say it Ain’t So’; the doo-wop-infused charm of ‘Holiday’ or the addictive, inspiring opener ‘My Name is Jonas’; the endearing, miserable wit of ‘Surf Wax America’ or the romantic buoyancy of ‘Buddy Holly.’ This isn’t mentioning the nerd-rock pleasure of ‘In the Garage,’ or the scrumptious weirdness of ‘Undone – The Sweater Song,’ or, indeed, the glorious, glorious, glorious masterpiece ‘Only in Dreams’ – surely, one of the best album closers of all-time. Description really grants these songs no justice.
Blue succeeds as the band’s best work, as a driven and arrestingly produced record – one that oozes personality from all of its corners and crevices, all of its excellent performances (Cuomo, Sharp, Wilson, Bell), and all of its superbly placed influences. A perfectly executed, beautiful pop-rock, power-pop, alt-rock album. I don’t know what else I can say – you really just have to listen to it.

Header image: Lance Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson.

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