In honor of Weezer’s brand new album, Pacific Daydream, a ranking of their now 11 studio albums from weakest to best.
#11: Hurley – Hurley marked the end of a particularly fruitful period for Weezer (3 albums in 3 years!) and despite the raw, sometimes frantic tone of the album, I couldn’t help but feel like they were out of good ideas. “Memories,” the opening track and lead single, is the only song that I could remember, even after several listens through. The critical consensus was that this was a 60s album and that’s not a narrative I could not hear at all. Perhaps I just don’t understand this one. Also the terrible album cover is an instant turn off even before I heard a note.
#10: Everything Will Be Alright In The End – Weezer brought back producer Ric Ocasek (Blue & Green Albums) for Everything Will Be Alright In The End. This is a return to the more introspective Rivers Cuomo – including the self-referential “Back to the Shack,” the aching “I’ve Had It Up To Here,” and perhaps his most earnest lyric ever in “Cleopatra.” The critics like this Cuomo much better and it got them their best critical reviews in years but to me this album is too much at a similar level in tempo and style, so much so that by each time I reached the three part finale I was entirely ready for the album to be over. I’d advise listening to these songs two or three at a time rather than the whole album.
#9. Maladroit – From this point in the countdown on, none of these albums are weak. Just a matter of my personal preference. Maladroit is an important moment for Weezer. After sounding like they were trying to figure out their identity on The Green Album, Maladroit exudes confidence through its heavy riffs and rhythms. And the band has pretty much never looked back since. It’s even got a tinge of metal influence which I enjoyed. “Dope Nose” is still one of the best songs they’ve ever written.
#8. Ratitude – This is not a popular album among many Weezer fans but to me it provides a crucial element that many of their albums sorely lack – sonic variety. There are subtle choices (love the clanking glasses on “If You Wondering If I Want You To”) and less subtle (Hello, Lil Wayne..?!) that give it some nice depth. One of the few Weezer albums that I felt like I had more left to grasp onto after the first listen.
#7. Weezer – The Red Album : Speaking of variety, no doubt The Red Album’s calling card among Weezer’s discography is that it changes lead singers far more than any other of their albums. It’s a rather experimental work for them. Conventional song structures are loosened, (”The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” and “The Angel And The One”) and the rhythm section is swampier (”Cold Dark World”). Too often Weezer stays in their box and on The Red Album there’s some genuine risk taking which makes it an enjoyable listen.
#6. Weezer – White Album: This album’s distinctly summer theme has the most decisive, universal tone of any of Weezer’s albums. Its songs are anthemic and perfect for windows down driving. “California Kids” and “King of the World” are downright war cries. For a power pop band to finally have an album that’s sole purpose is to blast and have fun to makes White a more-than-welcome addition to their canon.
#5. Pacific Daydream: With similar themes of California and adolescent coming of age, White and Pacific Daydream feel like a double album. Pacific Daydream gets a slight edge for digging deeper emotionally and taking more risks overall. I’m not sure how I feel about those risks, as the super glitzed production on tracks like lead single “Feels Like Summer” really turned me off initially. But this is one of Cuomo’s hook-iest albums beginning to end and the sweet nostalgia makes it an endearing record. “Happy Hour” and “Weekend Woman” are two particularly strong songs. It’s also their best album cover since Pinkerton.
#4. Weezer – The Green Album: Weezer’s first album after an extended hiatus where Rivers Cuomo casually went to Harvard. It’s noticeably tentative and Cuomo sounds like a neutered version of himself at points. Nonetheless it’s a tightly constructed power pop piece that might be the easiest Weezer album to pick up and enjoy without condition. Worth mentioning too that this album is where “Island In the Sun” came from.
#3. Make Believe: Their best effort at trying to be a radio band (*sings* “Be-ver-ly Hills!”). Cuomo’s writing is by far at its most poppy and his voice at its least quirky. Not to say this is a sell out by any means – “We Are All On Drugs” and “Haunt You Everyday” could find a home on any other album, but there is no denying that Make Believe is a departure of sorts. I really dig it, but its polish betrays many of Weezer’s calling cards.
2. Pinkerton: Sonically speaking, there are two groups of Weezer albums: Pinkerton and everything else. There is simply nothing else in their catalogue that sounds remotely like it. It’s a punk album where the drums jump off the mix (maybe my favorite recorded drums EVER by anyone) and the guitars are raw and dirty. I couldn’t wait to dig into Pinkerton as it’s known as this misunderstood masterpiece that was initially lambasted, ala Pet Sounds. Coming off the crafted suburban odyssey of The Blue Album, I can see where Cuomo bitching (almost atonally at points) about groupie sex and celebrity status would be more than a little off putting. But time has softened its hard edges. While it’s still an album to be admired more than enjoyed, it’s an undeniably damn good piece of work.
#1. Weezer – The Blue Album: Asking someone who enjoys Weezer whether they prefer Pinkerton or The Blue Album is one of those “whose side are you on?” arguments that can go on forever. My case for Blue is this: Pinkerton is a mood album. But The Blue Album is timeless. Just about everything Weezer has done since has been an attempt to re-claim Blue’s magic. At least a quarter of a Weezer’s greatest hits would be songs from this album; “My Name is Jonas,” “The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So.” Rivers embraces his oddball status here with no inhibitions. Above all secondary layers (theme, sonics, etc.) great songs are what makes for a great album. Check.
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