Because of the internet, music geeks have finally stopped pestering friends about shit no one cares about, and have started talking to each other about shit no one cares about. But one thing that is still up for debate is exactly how good/bad Weezer’s albums are in relation to each other. You could ask 5 Weezer fans to rank the band’s albums, and you’d get back 6 completely different lists. So I thought I’d make a list because I’m a longtime fan, and definitely not because I rated Selena Gomez higher than Bon Iver earlier this month and need to buy back credit wholesale. Let’s begin!
8. Maladroit (2002)
Everyone has a least favorite Weezer album, and mine’s Maladroit. While other Weezer albums fell apart due to failed experimentation or for being too singular, Maladroit is pretty unfocused and not sure of what it wants to be. Weezer works best when all of their sensibilities are at least fairly even, but this album gives their heavy metal side way too much attention. And it makes me sad that I had to rank this album last, since it has two of my favorite Weezer songs on it (“Keep Fishin'” and “Burndt Jamb”), but it’s fair. Maladroit might have the band’s most technical playing, but the elements don’t come together right, and it’s all buried in bad production.
7. Weezer (The Red Album) (2008)
Much like our previous entry, Red is a mess, but it was designed that way. Red has gained a reputation for being something of a failed experiment; the other members wrote and sang songs, and everyone switched their instruments occasionally. The good-bad song ratio is a little more forgiving; “Pork and Beans” is vintage Weezer, and they may be different, but “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” and “The Angel and The One” are still good songs. But the album falls apart in the middle, and the good songs are nowhere near the band’s best, and the worst songs are just bland. With a bit more focus, Red could have been better, but as it is, it’s a mixed bag.
6. Make Believe (2005)
Ah, Make Believe, possibly the most infamous release Weezer’s ever had. Even nowadays, Make Believe gets trashed for being the first black mark against the band; I know fans who still consider “Beverly Hills” to be a personal affront. Between the glossy production and the occasionally hammy lyrics, Make Believe also felt really of its time, fitting Weezer in with the pop punk and budding “emo” scene. But despite that, it’s still a fairly well made album that tried a few things differently; the ballady “Perfect Situation” is still a good song, and “Freak Me Out” is bizarre, but pretty. Not my favorite Weezer album, but it deserves a second look.
5. Raditude (2009)
I can’t believe I’ve actually put Raditude this high.
But I played around with its placing, and the fifth rank just seems to click. Yeah, Raditude‘s got a painful clean production, and it has more dumb silliness than a 14 year old jacked up on Mountain Dew, but when you take it for what it is, it’s a surprisingly decent record. Aside from “Can’t Stop Partying” and “Love Is the Answer”, Raditude has a consistency not seen in Weezer’s lesser albums. The album finds Weezer running wild on power pop, and lead single “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” is one of their top 5 post-Pinkerton songs. Not exactly underrated, but damn.
4. Hurley (2010)
By the time 2010 rolled around, Weezer seemed to finally feel free. They were finally out of their major label contract, and Red and Raditude probably shed them of any fans who still clung to Pinkerton. Perhaps that’s why they made Hurley, their most freewheeling record in years. Hurley keeps Raditude‘s crazy energy, but is much rougher and louder. When this album’s hits, it knocks the ball out of the park; “Ruling Me” and “Smart Girls” are complete vintage zany Weezer, and “Unspoken” has a bitterness not seen since Pinkerton. Hurley works as a summary of what 00’s Weezer was about, and only suffers from some slightly uneven songwriting, otherwise it would switch places with…
3. Weezer (Green) (2001)
Coming back from the anxiety and depression of post-Pinkerton life, Weezer set controls for power pop and didn’t look back. I talked about Raditude being consistent, but it’s got nothing on Green; with 10 songs in less than half an hour, there’s not an ounce of fat on this album. Even ten years (holy shit) later, these songs still sound rejuvenating and fresh. The harmonies, the melodies, the music…Green is perhaps Weezer’s most underrated record, and of course “Island in the Sun” and “Hash Pipe” don’t hurt, either.
2. Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)
Ten seconds into debut album opener “My Name Is Jonas”, and you know this band deserved to go places. Weezer’s debut album left a huge impact on alternative rock; geeks could make up major bands, guitar solos were still cool, and fun was allowed back in a scene saturated in stone-faced grungies. Any band in the past 17 years that’s tried to get by on quirk owes their lives to this record.
And that’s not even touching the songs. These songs manage to sound like perfectly self-contained power pop and massive stadium shakers at the same time. The shout-along chorus of “Say It Ain’t So” is among the best of them, and opener “My Name Is Jonas” kicks expectations skyward. “Buddy Holly” is untouchable, and “Only In Dreams” manages to be heartbreaking and triumphant all at once. A classic. So what can top that?
1. Pinkerton (1996)
Pinkerton, as well as Weezer (The Blue Album) has gone down as one of the best albums of the 90’s. So what makes Pinkerton, to me, the better album? I love cathartic music. I love music that connects when someone is putting it all on the line. The songs on Blue have an emotional capacity, but none of them feel as isolated as “Across the Sea”, or as depressed yet exuberant as “The Good Life”. And then there’s tunes like “El Scorcho” and “Falling For You” that prove Pinkerton can have bright spots, too.
Of course, this would fall apart if the music wasn’t as great as it is. Distorted and raw beyond belief, part of Pinkerton‘s catharsis comes from how up close it sounds; there’s no polish at all on this album, and the band sounds like they could be playing in the next room. Factor in catchy riffs, great melodies, and solid musicianship, and you can’t top it. So there it is, Pinkerton: in my opinion, the best Weezer album.