Weezer: From Trash To Classic

Weezer: From Trash To Classic

A turbulent discography, a slew of slumps and classics. Weezer's discography ranked worst to greatest.
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Weezer is a divisive force among rock music fans. The band has produced some of the genre's most defining soundscapes, but in recent years, the group has become a bit of an embarrassment. Some albums will stand the test of time, and others beg to be buried. So I've taken it upon myself to rank Weezer's albums from worst to best. A band of such controversy has got to be worth talking about, right?

Note: I've chosen not to include the B-sides collection "Death to False Metal" and the unfinished concept album "Songs from the Black Hole." They're worthy of discussion in their own right, but I think it's most important to focus on unique, complete records.

Now let's get to it.

10. Raditude (2009)

No.

9. Red Album (2008)

Weezer's self-titled records offer some of the best and worst songs in the band's repertoire. Unfortunately, "Red Album" falls short of the pack. The lead single, "Pork and Beans," had all the charm of classic Weezer, with just enough sprinkling of self-deprecation to remind you of Rivers Cuomo's involvement. The video first appealed to my young, wistful personality and meme-centered sensibility. The tune itself is a perfectly fine Weezer song. And the record as a whole is probably the most ambitious post-"Pinkerton" release—each member contributed lead vocals at least once on the overstuffed album.The biggest issue is that the album itself just isn't that good. The other singles couldn't capture even the modest success of "Pork and Beans," and the album overstays its welcome by at least four tracks. Beyond "Pork and Beans," this self-titled is some of the worst shlock late-2000s Weezer could give us.

At least it isn't "Raditude."

8. Make Believe (2005)

The first time I ever became conscious of Weezer as an entity was when I first heard "Beverly Hills." I was young, I was learning to play drums, and I was still developing my own music tastes. This was a perfect song for my impressionable mind to latch onto. It's a thin, flaky pop song on a thin, flaky pop album. Perfectly digestible, sickly sweet, and ultimately bad for you.

This album's saving grace is Weezer's unwavering ability to showcase their talents as musicians. The guitars shred as they would on any Weezer record, and the solos seem to be crafted more deliberately. By all accounts, "Make Believe" is a more carefully constructed album than previous efforts. I still defend "Perfect Situation" as a fantastic track—the perfect blend of cheap pop melodrama and classic rock showmanship.

Unfortunately, the album as a whole was woefully disappointing. "Make Believe" is a lopsided effort to cement Weezer as a pop-rock staple, and it resulted in some of the band's most monotonous, uninspired writing to date. The album marked the finite beginning of the Great Weezer Debate: are they capable of releasing consistently good music, or are they just focusing on all the wrong things?

Still, it's got a handful of good tracks. And also it's not "Raditude."

7. Hurley (2010)

Okay, honestly. How seriously were we supposed to take this album? After a string of less-than-stellar albums, we're gifted with this artwork:

That's actor Jorge Garcia, best known for playing Hurley on the television show "Lost." Weezer and Garcia are longtime friends. He's even joined them onstage to perform "Perfect Situation." What a pair!

All jokes aside, "Hurley" is a shockingly solid record. Most of the tunes unashamedly boast powerful power-pop hooks. There's a real heart to this album, and it doesn't feel at all like a desperate cash/fan-grab like previous efforts. "Hurley" is a meticulous record, and every song feels appropriate to its place.

Although this is a consistent album, it's just consistently sub-par. "Hurley" rarely wows, but it also rarely slumps. Each track feels like a less impressive cut from a more impressive album.

Maybe it was just the lowered expectations after "Raditude." Who knows?

6. Green Album (2001)

This is that self-titled with a sickly green cover. The hue, the poses, the uncanny symmetry between garish aesthetics and self-aware jabs—this is Weezer at their Weezer-est. This is a middle-of-the-pack album by the band's standards, but it is a great album regardless. This is one of my favorite melodic Weezer records, and it features some of the band's greatest choruses and hooks. "Green Album" carries a handful of powerhouse singles with everlasting appeal. "Hash Pipe" absolutely shreds. It's a greasier, darker track than the rest of the album. The verses brood over a sinister riff, and the chorus soars through a riding rhythm. "Green Album" most resembles "Hash Pipe" at its peak, and the grimy, grungy soundscape is its baseline. "Island in the Sun" is the ultra single forever embedded in the post-2000 pop music lexicon. Those precious opening chords still reverberate over cheesy commercials even today. It's the one sugary pop single the band needed, even if we didn't necessarily want it. The track loses its luster with every listen, and it's easily the weakest on the album.

If an album is only as strong as its weakest part, "Green Album" is a solid, listenable, and well-developed record, if a little too clunky at points.

Thankfully, this album is a far cry away from "Raditude."

5. Everything Will Be Alright In the End (2014)

Even though "Hurley" was a solid release, I entered 2014 with virtually no expectations for the new Weezer album. Then I heard "Back to the Shack." Fearing another "Pork and Beans" situation, I had my reservations. I wanted the album to be good, but I certainly didn't expect it to be.

"EWBAITE" was Weezer's return to solid, simple rock songwriting in lieu of grandiose pop shenanigans. It's such a tight, focused release. The front end of the album drags a little bit, but tracks like "Lonely Girl" and "Eulogy for a Rock Band" hearken to the band's '90s heyday.

The back end of the album, however, is absolutely unskippable. The album is both historic in context and historical in content. Every song fits so well together, and Rivers Cuomo's lyrics are as enticing and goofy as ever. Only "Go Away" threatens to weaken the album's back end, but it still ends up as a rock solid beach-pop cut.

The crux of the album is the mostly instrumental closing meta-track, "The Futurescope Trilogy." The mid-2000s made everyone forget that Weezer is a band of wickedly talented musicians, and these three songs are a resounding slap to all the doubters' faces. I'm not much of a fan of instrumentals, but this trilogy is a reward for years of waiting.

This album truly is the first real apology for "Raditude."

4. Maladroit (2002)

Following "Green Album," Weezer placed themselves in a difficult position, needing to appeal to longtime fans, new listeners from MTV, and industry executives. Most would consider "Maladroit" to be a failure across the board, but I would disagree wholeheartedly.

You would expect an album composed and released while "Island in the Sun" was still a top 40 smash would follow along the same lines. But "Maladroit" is a protest album. It defies all expectations. It's the true black sheep in Weezer's repertoire.

The album is wildly experimental, and it approaches progressive rock levels of songwriting trickery. From the arena rock powerhouse "Dope Nose" to the funky "Burndt Jamb," every single track offers something new and interesting. The variety makes it impossible to skip any song in good conscience.

"Maladroit" features one of my favorite Weezer tracks of all time, "Slave." It hooks you right from the jump with an explosive introduction, and the verse slips in from the blindside. On an album missing a true pop single, "Slave" is one of Weezer's most melodically proficient tunes. The chorus has a carefree quality to it, and the song rounds out with one of the most satisfying endings to a track imaginable.

Instrumentally, this album is Weezer's most interesting. Few songs push past the three-minute mark, and every inch of the record begs to be heard. This is Weezer pushing their capabilities to the breaking point and coming out with an incredible album.

I still can't believe this same band released "Raditude."

3. White Album (2016)

"EWBAITE" promised the return of true Weezer, and 2016's self-titled delivered on that promise. If you've already read my review, you'd already know that this ranks among my top Weezer albums. Every track is a wicked summer smash, and its loose narrative reminds me of Weezer's early, story-based records. Every one of the singles so far from the record showcases the band's evolving talents and songwriting expertise. "Thank God for Girls" could have found itself lurking on "Red Album," but it provides a profusely entertaining romp through the psyche of a troubled protagonist. "Do You Wanna Get High" is a grim cut plucked from "Pinkerton's" cutting room floor. "King of the World" lyrically paints a portrait of a relationship Weezer has very rarely approached in songwriting. Finally, "L.A. Girlz" is without a doubt the band's best single since "Island in the Sun." From every angle, this is a quintessential Weezer album. Time will place this one above almost any post-"Pinkerton" release. And it's almost enough to wipe the taste of "Raditude" from my mouth.

2. Blue Album (1994)

Don't be mad that it's here and not at the top. At this point in the countdown, every album is a treasure and gift to humankind. I really battled with where to place this in the countdown, because I truly believe this is Weezer's most enjoyable and listenable record.

"Blue Album" is less a collection of songs and more a collection of timeless jewels. It's as if someone took Brian Wilson and fed him through a distortion channel—every tune is wildly melodic but grimy enough to fuel some ancient rage buried in our genetic code.

The album is a songwriting clinic. "My Name Is Jonas" takes us on an adventure we can't quite understand, but we feel deep in our gut. It sets the album up as more than just a musical venture, but a true creative adventure.

Of course the singles "Buddy Holly," "Undone - The Sweater Song," and "Say It Ain't So" are beyond just classics, but every tune demands a listen. "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" bustles about with looming melancholy. "Surf Wax America" rips through surfer rock licks and features possibly the greatest Weezer bridge ever. "Holiday" is one of the most musically rich tunes the band has ever written. Truly every track is a golden bar in rock history's vault.

This is the record that started a revolution in pop-rock. "Blue Album" defined a generation of sound, and it gave these nerd-kings a podium to scream from. It's a cornerstone few bands have even approached.

I'm just saying that we deserve another album like this to apologize for "Raditude."

1. Pinkerton (1996)

There's only one album left, and you probably knew it'd be here. Look, it just has to be. "Pinkerton" set the standard for every record of its type. It's emotive, gritty, layered, and transcendent. It's brief at only 10 tracks, but there's substance at every corner.

The bald truth is that every song is a verifiable classic. From the abrasive "Getchoo" to the bouncy "Why Bother?" to the perversely goofy "El Scorcho," this is an album only as playful as it is morbid. This album is already embedded into rock music's canon as one of the most personal albums conceived, littered with over-the-top internal dialogue and musings. It's as much a snapshot of one man as it is an embodiment of an entire culture of misguided men.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this record's impact is its retroactive critical response. Upon release, "Pinkerton" was panned by critics left and right for the very reasons it's currently praised. It was criticized for being too on-the-nose, too personal, too open, and too raw. But its resounding influence on indie rock culture begged for retrospection. Its flaws define its perfection.

On top of everything, "Pinkerton" features my absolute favorite Weezer song of all time: "Butterfly." The album closer is an acoustic hymnal apology. It is the most deeply intimate track the band has ever collectively conceived.

Rivers Cuomo's heightened ability to paint vivid images is on full display, and he manages to imbue simple phrases and postulations with impossibly rich meaning. It is a profoundly somber closure to an equally somber record, and it tickles the heartstrings as cruelly as whomever broke Rivers' heart.

F#$% "Raditude."


So there you have it: one superfan's top list. Leave a comment and let me know your ranking, and be sure to tell me how I'm wrong.

Cover Image Credit: Michal Czerwonka for The New York Times

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