Note: This feature was originally published in October 2014. We’ve updated it with the release of The Black Album.
Put this in your hash pipe and smoke it: Weezer doesn’t have a bad album. No, not every record of theirs is great, but even the misfires get brownie points from us for having a point of view. And yes, that includes Raditude (more on that ahead). It’s hard to call a piece of art a failure if it’s at least trying to get at something. Of course, fans, critics, and casual listeners are all entitled to their opinion, but after 25 years, it’s worth evaluating some of our harsher criticisms, especially if the band in question has been on a roll with their more recent output. So, let’s go back, back to the shack (no more puns, we promise) to rank Weezer’s output from worst to best. Just don’t get stuck in the past like many of us have (including myself) when reviewing their work. Something tells us there’s still a lot to look forward to.
Senior Staff Writer
13. Raditude (2009)
Just look at that goofy-ass dog on the cover. It’s a sign of self-awareness, not ignorance. Weezer knew damn well what they were doing when they decided to record their proverbial “fun” album. Still, you can’t blame fans for getting burned out on the adolescent celebration after a few tracks. After all, first-generation Weezer fanatics were all grown up by this point. But just like they weren’t obligated to like Raditude, Rivers Cuomo wasn’t obligated to write about being ostracized and heartbroken, probably because he wasn’t feeling that way anymore. As for me, “Trippin’ Down the Freeway”, “In the Mall”, and “Let It All Hang Out” take me back to the more carefree times of high school in the best way possible, and — God help me — I kind of love “Can’t Stop Partying” when played back-to-back with its more sobering demo version. My breaking point comes with the gooey world music inspiration of “Love Is the Answer”, which I wish I could say was a cover of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. Anyway, look at that dog again. I’d hang out with him. Wouldn’t you? –Dan Caffrey
12. Make Believe (2005)
Make Believe doesn’t sound like such a half-assed slap in the face in the context of the three albums that came after it, but in 2005, that was pretty much the only way a Weezer fan could interpret it. Having followed the band’s second three-year-plus delay and a Rolling Stone article that reported Cuomo had been celibate for two years while making it — just about the most promising glimpse that the guy who made Pinkerton could offer — Make Believe compounded its own cash-grabbing depravity by doing it with real expectations on its shoulders. This was a band that was, at worst, two for four in great LPs at the time, and arguably batting 1.000. An honest strikeout on their fifth would have stained the name far less than deliberately whiffing as at least half of these tracks did. –Steven Arroyo
11. Weezer (The Black Album) (2019)
Listening to The Black Album feels a lot like watching a close friend make a bad decision. While you love your friend and earnestly want to support their pursuit of difference and change, watching them meander down a path that may not serve them well can be dismaying. The Black Album sees Weezer dabble in some sort of concoction of pop, electronica, and light rap. It’s not inherently bad when a band ventures out into new sonic territory, but it can be when it results in a loss of quality — and this is precisely what The Black Album brought to fruition. Weezer delivers a batch of songs that are far more two-dimensional than the kind of work they’re capable of producing. A combination of perplexing lyrical decisions and uninventive arrangements leaves the listener craving substance, and that’s only because Weezer has long been creating work of a much higher caliber than what they deliver here. This is precisely where the letdown lies: we know Weezer is able to create rich and exciting work, so to see them release anything else feels disappointing. –Lindsay Teske
10. Weezer (The Red Album) (2008)
Weezer (The Green Album) is only 35 minutes. If you omitted tracks 7, 8, and 9 from Weezer (The Red Album), it would be the same length, not to mention damn-near perfect. And while our cowboy hats (or fedoras, if you’re a Brian Bell fan) go off to Cuomo for letting his bandmates take the pen and the mic on one song apiece, it was still a little jarring to hear a different lead voice that far into Weezer’s career. Also, all of the songs written solely by Cuomo dealt with some form of nostalgia, giving Red a fairly strong concept that got broken up by the three cuts in the middle. And that’s not just nostalgia for friends or relationships either. “Heart Songs” bittersweetly rattles off the musical influences of his youth, and the genius epic “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn”) finds Weezer emulating some of those very same bands, including Weezer. –Dan Caffrey
09. Hurley (2010)
Troll us once, shame on Weezer; troll us twice, maybe it’ll actually be a great troll the second time. “Mom made my sex, she knitted it with her hands/ Sex-making is a family tradition/ Going back to the caveman days/ They were walking around in a haze/ Until they figured it out and they said, ‘Gosh dang this is great!’” That’s Cuomo on “Where’s My Sex?”, a masterpiece of self-flagellation and pretty much all you need to know about the album on which it appeared. Hurley’s predecessor and counterpart-in-transparent-cheekiness, Raditude, gave so few fucks about the Weezer legacy it was offensive; Hurley was so thoroughly devoid of them it was almost seriously impressive. –Steven Arroyo
08. Weezer (The Teal Album) (2019)
For maybe the first and last time in history, tracks from TLC and Ozzy Osbourne have found a home on the same record thanks to The Teal Album, where Weezer assembles an eclectic mixed bag of songs and covers them with an impressive attention to detail. The level of care they undertook in covering each track is apparent through the fact that each musical element that made the original versions so beloved is thoroughly replicated — whether it be the signature jaunt of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky”, the sharp sting of Ozzy’s “Paranoid”, or the warm, resonant charm of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”, Weezer paid expert homage to all that made each track special. Yet, the songs on The Teal Album stand out because they also surpass mere carbon-copy status. The tracks are personalized enough to make it distinctly identifiable as a Weezer album and do so while simultaneously upholding the sanctity of the original tracks. Weezer’s ability to walk that line, even though it is certainly a difficult line to walk, makes The Teal Album a worthwhile curiosity in their discography. –Lindsay Teske
07. Pacific Daydream (2017)
Holistically, there forever remains a razor-fine divide between Weezer’s most enchanting work and its most humdrum output, a kind of Weezer-specific horseshoe theory where a praising description of their finest record doesn’t sound all that different from a critique of their least interesting. But if you ever wanted to hear Weezer at their professionally sharpest, this is surely it. It’s no surprise that Cuomo is a fan of pop smashes like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, as Pacific Daydream might be more Train than Ozma. Cuomo doesn’t owe anything to the alternative scene, if such a thing can even exist anymore in the era of everything all the time everywhere. After two albums of chumps like me exaggerating sighs of relief, churning out self-satisfied think-pieces of “oh, thank goodness, the boys have finally come home,” it might be that Cuomo gave us the damn records we wanted, so he could just go back to writing fun pop songs about summer. I doubt it, though. Given the two-step, this might be the record that definitively proves there’s simply a duality to Weezer that’s long been mistaken as before and after. This is who Cuomo and crew have always been, and it’s not their fault we decided to make them gods of the garage. –Jake Kilroy
06. Weezer (The White Album) (2016)
After winning over critics with 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Weezer wasted little time in following up their success, delivering another solid entry and yet another self-titled album. Produced by Jake Sinclair, who previously engineered a couple of the band’s past singles, The White Album similarly revisits Weezer’s glory days, only Cuomo is less fantastical with regards to his metaphors this time around. He’s no longer sharing lullabies and bedtime stories, but working from his sandy journals as he pays homage to the great state of California. As usual, Cuomo’s at his best when he’s singing from his heart (“California Kids”, “L.A. Girlz”) as opposed to the radio (“Thank God for Girls”, “King of the World”), but that inner struggle has come to define him — he’s always looking for the right hook, the right melody, and the right rhythm. He certainly doesn’t come up empty on The White Album; he even strays off the beaten path a little (see: closing, gorgeous seashore ballad “Endless Bummer”), and that’s a good thing for him and an even better thing for us. –Michael Roffman
05. Weezer (The Green Album) (2001)
Where as Weezer’s first two records are deceptively simple, The Green Album is just simple. Nearly every song goes verse, chorus, verse, guitar solo (usually the same notes as the lead vocal line), chorus, last verse. And that’s what’s great about it. It’s, for lack of a better word, a relatively happy record. It’s a stable record. And in 2001, it was nice to see Rivers Cuomo happier and more stable than where we last left him. There’s some romantic pining, sure, but it’s as straightforward as a title like “O Girlfriend” would suggest, a far cry from the self-loathing and maternal issues of “Across the Sea”. Historically, the album does take on a tinge of darkness with the subsequent mental breakdown and drug overdose of bassist Mikey Welsh — he only played on this, the band’s sunniest record — but that doesn’t take away from the delightful surprise element of The Green Album when it was released. Weezer sounded as catchy as ever, yet uncomplicated as never, something not a lot of people expected after their three-year radio silence. –Dan Caffrey
04. Everything Will Be Alright In The End (2014)
It’s no coincidence that Weezer’s longest-labored-upon album in over 13 years ended up being their best of that timespan. Everything Will Be Alright in the End is no magnum opus, but still feels huge because it involves a subtle breakthrough: it sounds like Weezer’s first-ever album that doesn’t try to be the most anything. Not the poppiest, not the most punk, not the most pop-punk, and not even the funniest — even if “Back to the Shack” is the third funniest thing the band has ever done behind the “Pork and Beans” video and this. Rather, Cuomo hunkers down and takes legitimate measures towards creating something with a chance at some real shelf life, like reuniting with an old producer in Ric Ocasek, making room for collaboration with some of this decade’s top Weezer disciples (Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast and Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus), or even recycling an occasional trusty, signature dopey rhyme like “dance/take a chance.” –Steven Arroyo
03. Maladroit (2002)
As if to prove they still had some issues to sort out as human beings, Weezer followed up their simplest LP with their strangest — in just a little over a year, no less. It’s fascinating to think that when Rivers Cuomo was writing about escaping to an island in the sun with his girl, he was probably also getting lost in space rock, encountering gigolos, and fantasizing about Gothic architecture. The instrumentation on Maladroit is unpredictable as well, while never losing the band’s unshakable hook-writing abilities — “Death and Destruction” constantly starts and stops, “Possibilities” is pure off-tempo punk, and “Keep Fishin'” looks and sounds like a Muppet. Actually, in revisiting this and The Green Album, I’m reminded that “Hashpipe” is indeed about a transsexual prostitute, meaning that Weezer possibly wrote two songs about hookers in 365 days. Maybe they never lost their strangeness in the first place. –Dan Caffrey
02. Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)
In his Producer’s Chair column, Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman said that “in an alternate universe, Weezer followed Pavement’s route instead of Green Day’s,” but I reluctantly disagree. I don’t think there is any world in which Weezer could possibly keep up the fresh air they breathed into alternative rock radio when they first emerged for more than two albums at most, and I don’t think that’s by any fault of their own. Weezer 1.0 were always as good as their highest praises claimed; they simply had a great idea that wasn’t a sustainable one, unlike Stephen Malkmus’ confine-less canvas of the entire English dictionary crossed with every noise a guitar can make. The tragedy of the post-2000 Weezer 2.0, if any, is that it meant they never got due credit for striking twice – instead, they had “only two” great albums.
This idea, born alongside D&D paraphernalia in the garage of a Harvard student, was too perfectly of-its-moment to not die hard. It argued that no chords belong only to men with hobbies involving needles or band names that are double-entendres for semen. What if some dudes came out champing KISS instead of Daniel Johnston, bowl cuts instead of facial hair, four chords instead of 14, tortured by their own beta-male frustrations instead of their own genius — and what if their songs still out-shredded, out-hooked, and out-wide-screened the rest of the music video block sans pretense? This idea was The Blue Album, a totally necessary anti-alt statement by way of being a non-statement, even if it led to the wrong expectations for Weezer, the band, and not enough respect for Weezer, the scripture. –Steven Arroyo
01. Pinkerton (1996)
The first time I heard a song from Pinkerton was in a middle school drama class. We had to perform a lip-sync with some kind of story, and another kid who was a little bit older than me chose “The Good Life”, hobbling onto the stage as an old man, then straightening his spine and throwing off his cardigan once the chorus exploded. By the end, he was young again and gleefully dancing with a female student. Besides thinking this was a completely accurate depiction of the song’s lyrics and a pretty good idea for a teenager, I was taken by how goddamn poppy and muscular the song was. I had only heard a couple tracks from The Blue Album, so I assumed “The Good Life” was from that same CD (the only Weezer record I was aware of at the time). I saved up for a couple weeks, then bought it at Circuit City.
As much as I eventually ended up loving The Blue Album, I was pretty pissed off to see “The Good Life” was nowhere to be found. I thought it might be a hidden track, but alas, nothing. I was in for a similar surprise when I scrounged up enough cash to buy Pinkerton a few months later over spring break, expecting to find 10 perfectly punchy pop rock gems like “The Good Life” but instead finding lots of fuzz, sadness, and women issues. Of course, we all know that that’s what makes Weezer great, these kind of contradictions. I’m not the first person to say that, and I certainly won’t be the last. But are they really contradictions at all? We all have our quirks, our kinks, our days of sad-bastard strumming and others of exuberant guitar solos. Pinkerton was the first album that showed me even pop music could be simultaneously deep and silly, just like life. Yeah, I know that’s corny. But humans are corny, too. —Dan Caffrey
Buy: Pick up copies of all of Weezer’s albums from Reverb LP.