Weezer – and frontman Rivers Cuomo in particular – are masters of the perfectly crafted pop rock song. Pick their 10 best songs and it’d be quickly filled up with the tracks that make up their classic 1994 self-titled debut (aka ‘The Blue Album’), its darker follow-up ‘Pinkerton’ (1996) and their second self-titled album – aka ‘The Green Album’, released in 2001. It would be too easy and of benefit to no-one.
So what about concentrating on their career post 2001? The albums where they’d slightly lost their way? There’s some gems to be heard on the likes of 2002’s Maladroit and 2010’s Hurley. We posed the challenge to Weezer obsessive Matt Stocks, who duly tied himself up in knots. Here’s the definitive list of their 10 best album tracks recorded from 2002 onwards…
**10. TURNING UP THE RADIO (Death To False Metal, 2010) **Death To False Metal is a compilation of Weezer recordings from the mid-90s to the time of its release. By singer Rivers Cuomo’s own admission, it was a collection of “great songs” that “for some reason didn’t make final the cut for a record.” Ironically, many of the songs contained are better than some of the ones that did make the cut, and as a collection of outtakes they hold up better than some of Weezer’s actual albums. Turning Up The Radio is a delightful ode to the medium that’s given Cuomo so much inspiration over the years. The classic guitar shredding, keyboard flourishes and impassioned vocals make the band sound like a supercharged Pavement as they pay ultimate homage to FM radio, and the result is a triumphant celebration of the power of music.
9. SLOB (Maladroit, 2002) Maladroit is to The Green Album what Pinkerton was to The Blue Album. That’s not to say it’s as iconic or noteworthy as Weezer’s sophomore release, but that the brighter, lighter mood of its predecessor was replaced with a darker, more aggressive sound. Self-financed by the band, the tracks were compiled with the help of fans and one of the songs people requested for inclusion was Slob, which dated back to the summer of 2000. “I never would have thought to put Slob on the record if the fans did not request it”, Cuomo confirms. We’re glad they did, because the self-loathing on this grunge-tinged rocker wholly encapsulates the solemn tone of Maladroit, and the riff is as heavy as it gets for Weezer.
**8. EVERYBODY GET DANGEROUS (The Red Album, 2008) **Weezer have always inhabited a perpetual state of puberty. They sum up teenage feelings of anxiety and sexual alienation better than actual teenagers, in fact. But with The Red Album the band were forced to address the fact that they’d finally grown up. They reasserted their identity – as all the self-titled coloured albums do – by throwing everything at the wall in the quest for a career-defining epic. The result is a certifiable mess, but an incredibly fun listening experience, and the faux-rap-metal Everybody Get Dangerous is a definite highlight. It’s an entertaining reflection on the follies of youth, and stylistically it’s such a departure for Weezer that it’s strangely refreshing - the band is in full-blown musical experimentation mode, and clearly loving every minute.
**7. THE GIRL GOT HOT (Raditude, 2009) **Weezer’s seventh studio album is arguably their weakest, and the title and cover are absolutely awful. But even during a career-low such as this, there’s still high calibre power-pop songs of eternal puberty to be enjoyed, proving even on an off-day Weezer are still the kings of melodic sing alongs and fuzzed out stadium rock riffs. The Girl Got Hot is knowingly cheesy, but the melodies are so perfectly put together you can’t help but like it – the call and response chants, the glam stomp… they even sing about English singer Kiki Dee. It’s steeped in retro rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia, and Weezer’s love of 1950s American culture can be traced back to the Spike Jonze-directed music video for their debut single Buddy Holly. This doo-wop pastiche continues that tradition in glorious fashion, and we’ll be damned if you’re not left humming it for weeks.
**6. BURNT JAMB (Maladroit, 2002) **Burnt Jamb revisits the tropical flair of Island in the Sun from The Green Album, but with added dual riffage from Cuomo and Brian Bell (guitar). Mikey Welsh’s replacement Scott Shriner (bass) more than earns his stripes with the slinky basslines he plays throughout. Factor in the funky drumming of Pat Wilson, and you’re left with one of Weezer’s most sonically pleasing songs to date. God knows what it’s about (our guess would be a girl), but who the hell cares? As one of the rare upbeat moments on Maladroit it makes you want to move, and that’s what music is all about.
5. PARDON ME (Make Believe, 2005) By the time Weezer got round to recording their fifth studio album, meditation had replaced medication and tequila shots as the inspiration behind Cuomo’s songwriting process. He’d been studying the ancient techniques of Vipassana and Metta, and Pardon Me was written after a 10-day guided meditation course. This song is a masterclass in patience and restraint, and features some sublime guitar licks from Cuomo, who’s perhaps one of the most underrated guitar players in rock. His instrument and voice sound organically intertwined, extenuating each other emotionally, and during the heartfelt lyrics Cuomo seeks pardon for the people he’s hurt along the way: “So I apologise to you / And to anyone else that I hurt too / I may not be a perfect soul / But I can learn self control.” It might not sound as raw as anything off Pinkerton, but the sentiment is 100% as genuine.
4. I’VE HAD IT UP TO HERE_ (Everything Will Be Alright In The End_, 2014) Weezer led off the campaign for their latest album with the single Back To The Shack, in which Cuomo promised to silence the critics by taking the band’s sound back to the style of music that put them on the map back in 1994. Whilst they may not have delivered on all promises, there was certainly clear signs of the Weezer of old on Everything Will Be Alright In The End, and nowhere more so than on this scathing critique of an audience that the singer feels has taken his labours for granted over the years. Killer lyrics, a biting falsetto vocal, and a defiant riff combine to make I’ve Had It Up To Here a song to be reckoned with, and the ultimate elegy to integrity and creative freedom, which is what Weezer have always represented – for better or worse.
3. THE OTHER WAY (Make Believe, 2005) People have criticised Cuomo’s lyrics for being too literal, simple and lazy in recent years, but you only need to listen to the way he sings The Other Way to know that he means it. This plaintive, heartbreaking tour de force was written for Cuomo’s former girlfriend Jennifer Chiba after her then boyfriend Elliott Smith passed away, and in truly confessional style sees the songwriter wanting to console her, but feeling conflicted and suspicious of his own motives. After laying his feelings bare in excruciating detail, he ultimately decides, “I have always hurt the one that I love / So I’ll turn and look the other way.” This is pure Cuomo – the tortured pop genius. Like anyone, he just wants to be happy and loved, and The Other Way is his way of trying to make things right. Producer Rick Rubin helps gives the song a slick, layered feel that makes the band sound more new wave than Ric Ocasek (The Cars) ever could. And the overall production of the record adds to the palpable sense of optimism, hope and positivity throughout Make Believe, which is arguably Weezer’s most underrated album.
**2. RULING ME (Hurley, 2010) **Like Raditude, the Hurley album falters from an awful title and cover. It also features several collaborations with songwriters outside of the band, which didn’t exactly work out well the last time around. Thankfully the songs on Weezer’s eighth studio album have more in common with the vintage Weezer sound of the first three records than the pop-inspired departures of Hurley’s misguided predecessor. Opening track Memories sets the tone, and the song that follows (Ruling Me) is another undeniably catchy Weezer track. If another lesser band released this song as a single it would’ve been a huge hit, but because it’s Weezer it was either ignored or compared unfavourably to the band’s existing material. The idea of calling a Weezer song after a half-assed cover version of Weezer is absurd, since Cuomo and his band invented that sound, but in that sense perhaps they’ve become victims of their own success. Either way, we doubt Cuomo cares at this stage in the game, and on Ruling Me the band sound as tight, vital and dazzling as ever, and Cuomo vocals are outstanding: “You shut me out / But it turned me on.” Classic.
**1. HEART SONGS (The Red Album, 2008) **The Red Album was the first Weezer album to feature co-writes with other band members since their debut record, and the first Weezer album ever to have all four band members sing lead vocals. This was undoubtedly an attempt to show that the failure to replicate the success of the first three, generally considered classic albums was not solely down to the band’s leader and chief songwriter. All it did was bring home just how integral Cuomo is to the core sound of the band, however, and reinforce his skills as a composer of superior talent to those around him. On Heart Songs – one of the finest songs Weezer have ever recorded – Cuomo left the competition in the dirt. The three-minute single has always been his preferred playground, and with this track he took the template to another realm. No amount of praise can do the song or the feelings of nostalgia and passion for music that it inspires justice, so just stick it on now and revel as Rivers Cuomo takes you on a journey through the chart toppers from his youth to a seminal release by a little known band called Nirvana, that ultimately inspired him to pick up a guitar and start writing Heart Songs of his own. If you’re someone who appreciates songs about the mythology of rock and pop music, this song’s guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.