The Best Of Post-Pinkerton Weezer
Posted on August 11, 2014
August 11, 2014
by Bryne Yancey
The notion that Weezer haven’t released a good album since Pinkerton—which came out 18 years ago—is an opinion so near-universal at this point that it’s rarely regarded as opinion. The wave of goodwill the band have ridden based on Pinkerton and 1994’s self-titled debut that everyone calls “The Blue Album” still hasn’t come even close to cresting, despite incontrovertible evidence suggesting that Rivers Cuomo and the gang lost the plot before many of you were even born. They’re the Metallica of fuzzy pop-rock, stringing along nostalgia-hungry fans with album tours, cruises, and implied returns to form but in the end, never quite getting there (although Death Magnetic was pretty good). No, for every “My Name Is Jonas” or “El Scorcho,” there’s a “Can’t Stop Partying” or a “Where’s My Sex?” or a “We Are All On Drugs” or a “Everybody Get Dangerous” or a “I’m Your Daddy” or a “Beverly Hills” or a…you get the idea. At this point, the missteps outnumber the stone cold classics by a wide margin.
Weezer’s new album Everything Will Be Alright In The End will be out Sept. 30 via Republic, their first for the label after a one-record stint with Epitaph for 2010’s Hurley. Producer Ric Ocasek, who turned the knobs for albums Blue and Green, is back in the fold. Pop song co-writers, we think, will be completely absent from the album’s credits. First single “Back to the Shack” is a cloying self-referential piece of on-the-nose nostalgia in which Cuomo croons like a dad about “rockin’ out like it’s ‘94.” The guitar melodies are strong, but hooks have never been Weezer’s problem—hate “Beverly Hills” all you want, but don’t deny its frustrating catchiness—the reason their music resonated with so many weirdos in the mid-’90s was Cuomo’s ability to take starkly personal, incisive lyrics and make them sound fun and inviting. Often, an uncomfortable feeling loses its uncomfortability if shared, and that’s what Cuomo was so great at conveying to his audience. The fun is still there on the band’s later work, but with a lot of it comes an emptiness that didn’t used to be there.
Time will tell if Everything Will Be Alright In The End really does take Weezer back to the shack, or garage, or whatever. But if one is willing to dig, occasional gold nuggets can be found in the band’s post-Pinkerton discography. Here’s a playlist of them.
”(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” (Raditude, 2009)
Raditude is on the whole best forgotten and left to the dollar bin scrap heap, full of half-baked-too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen collections of vaguely Weezer-like noise thanks to the interjections of co-writers like Butch Walker, Jacknife Lee and Jermaine Dupri. But opener and lead single ”(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” endures through sheer will and a near-perfect distillation of crisp, bright and evergreen power-pop tropes: Quickly-strummed acoustic guitars, quiet refrains that lead into soaring choruses, and a spirited vocal performance from Cuomo. This song comes on the radio, and while you’re definitely like, “This isn’t ‘Say It Ain’t So’” when it does, you aren’t mad about it or anything.
”Space Rock” (Maladroit, 2002)
Maladroit was concocted by Weezer through an interactive method way ahead of its time in 2002: The band recorded demo after demo after demo, uploaded them for free download at their website, and solicited fan feedback to help mold the finished product. Perhaps as a result, Maladroit is easily Weezer’s strongest post-Pinkerton work, full of metal-goes-pop riffs, huge choruses and enough occasional weirdness to keep listeners on their toes. “Space Rock” is one of the album’s most interesting songs, one that throws verse-chorus-verse format out the window in favor of repetition, brevity and juxtaposed riffs and solos over soaring hooks.
”Perfect Situation” (Make Believe, 2005)
The third single from Make Believe has many hallmarks of Weezer’s most affecting era: Cuomo’s wailing lead guitar converging with Brian Bell’s crunchy rhythms; Pat Wilson’s rising and crashing drums; and lyrics that, while a little clunky, portray a palpable bleakness. “Perfect Situation” is the song that caused many fans to proclaim that Weezer were “back” when they first heard it. That turned out to not really be true, but compared to “Beverly Hills” it’s basically “Purple Rain.”
”Dope Nose” (Maladroit, 2002)
Maladroit’s lead single, “Dope Nose” is one of Weezer’s best takes on a quick, catchy rock song that doubles as a vessel for one of Cuomo’s best-ever guitar licks. It was so good, in fact, that Motorhead (accidentally, maybe) lifted it for “Crying Shame” from 2013’s Aftershock. Lemmy’s (accidental, maybe) stamp of approval goes a long way ‘round these parts.
”Don’t Let Go” (Weezer aka The Green Album, 2001)
The five years between Pinkerton and The Green Album were, without a doubt, the most tumultuous in Weezer’s history. Though it’s now heralded as a classic, Pinkerton at the time was considered a creative and commercial disaster, and the fallout very nearly destroyed the band. Bassist/founding member Matt Sharp departed Weezer in 1998 to focus on the Rentals (Sharp then sued the band for unpaid royalties in 2002, though he and Cuomo would eventually publicly reconcile). Cuomo, meanwhile, had returned to Boston to attend Harvard (and find himself, maybe) and perform live in the Rivers Cuomo Band with local musicians, including Sharp’s eventual replacement Mikey Welsh. Weezer eventually reconvened in the summer of 2000 to begin writing new material, and the finished product ended up a terse, by-the-numbers collection of throwback power-pop, with no wasted movements, and plenty of vocal melody-aping guitar solos. Opener “Don’t Let Go” is so stupidly simple, calculated and catchy—yet so markedly different from what the band had been doing before—that its formulaic nature felt fresh. It still does.
”Heart Songs” (Weezer aka The Red Album, 2008)
The Red Album, for those keeping track, was the third time Weezer had self-titled an album in their career and the second time many fans thought aloud, “They’re self-titling an album and assigning it a primary color! Maybe it’ll be a return to their Blue roots!” It was also the second time those fans would be let down. Still, while Red has its fair share of missteps (“Everybody Get Dangerous” was hardly the call to action it could’ve been), there are a few bright spots including “Heart Songs,” in which Cuomo’s appreciation of his musical heroes becomes infectious in a way only he can muster. The song’s stripped-down approach is a nice contrast to much of Weezer’s bloated latter-era material as well.
”Photograph” (Weezer aka The Green Album, 2001)
Much like “Don’t Let Go,” “Photograph” is a quick punch of fun power-pop augmented with hand claps, ardent backup vocals, and huge melodies. Cuomo’s lyrics sound as if they were written in five minutes, but it doesn’t really matter; it’s intended as a throwback much like the rest of the album and works well in that context.
”Troublemaker” (Weezer aka The Red Album, 2008)
The lyric “Marrying a biotch and having seven kiods” is patently stupid, but on the whole “Troublemaker” seems to be a wry commentary on the fallacy and delusion of desired celebrity, especially by the time Cuomo croons the final lyric “I’ll party by myself because I’m such a special guy”. It’s clear that he, or whoever the subject of the song is, is not meant to be idolized and if anything, deserves ridicule. So it works. The music itself, with its simple mid-tempo plod, is eminently catchy, too.
”Death and Destruction”
”Keep Fishin’” (Maladroit, 2002)
Moody, varied and heavy, ”Death and Destruction” finds Weezer using empty space in a way they hadn’t done since Pinkerton. Cuomo’s voice nearly shrinks to a whisper, before elevating along with his and Bell’s crunching guitars. Contrastingly, “Keep Fishin’” is about as close as the band ever got in the 21st century to crafting a perfect pop song.
”Freak Me Out” (Make Believe, 2005)
Make Believe is full of curveballs, from the dumbed-down-boom-boom-clap schlock of “Beverly Hills,” to the new wave sheen of “This is Such a Pity,” to the way Weezer most definitely repurposed the vocal melody of “The Diarrhea Song” for “We Are All on Drugs.” Unlike those curveballs though, which miss the strike zone, “Freak Me Out” goes right down the heart of the plate. It’s a quieter affair, with Cuomo whispering over unique guitar harmonics about, well…a spider, according to Brian Bell There’s a harmonica part too, and hey, remember when they did that on “My Name is Jonas?” That’s one of the best songs ever.
”Time Flies” (Hurley, 2010)
The closer to the otherwise forgettable Hurley is Weezer’s take on Neutral Milk Hotel-esque distorted folk, and they wear it surprisingly well. The song’s lyrical message seems to be, well, that time does indeed fly, and who can’t agree with that? Ultimately, a topic such as that may be superficial but one thing Weezer has seemed to want to achieve with their later work is relatability. Mission accomplished.