Today is the 20th anniversary of Weezer’s The Blue Album, so once you’ve finished reading the Smoking Section’s fascinating story behind its iconic cover, come back here for all of Weezer’s album, ranked from worst to best. Try to guess what #1 and #2 are.
Here’s a hint for the rest of this list: the worse the album cover, the worse the album. No offense to jumping dogs, but when a jumping dog is the most indelible thing about a release from the band that once wrote “Across the Sea,” there’s a problem. And Raditude is full of problems: the cringeworthy “I’m Your Daddy,” the juvenile “The Girl Got Hot,” the WTF “Can’t Stop Partying” with Lil Wayne — it’s not so much an album as an uncomfortable document of Rivers Cuomo’s inability to act like someone other than a possible-creep who you’d make your kids avoid if you saw him walking around the mall.
I’m not gonna lie: I’ve only listened to Hurley all the way through three, maybe four times. It’s not that it’s a terrible album so much as it’s total pop fluff. “Where’s My Sex?” and “Trainwrecks” come and go, and you don’t remember they happened in the first place. Hurley was widely hailed as Weezer’s comeback album when it was released in 2010, but all that means is that it’s better than Raditude. Otherwise, it sounds like it could have been made by any ol’ Killers cover band trying to write a Weezer song.
6. Make Believe
After the cry for help that is “Beverly Hills,” Make Believe gets really good. For one song, at least. The crunchy “Perfect Situation” wouldn’t be an embarrassing edition to any Weezer mixtape, and “Pardon Me” is an effectively self-loathing heart-squeezer (with a killer solo to boot). But overall, Make Believe is a confused new-wave album, with lackluster riffs and bland irony.
5. The Red Album
I’ve spent the last four days listening to nothing but Weezer for this piece, which is great when it’s Pinkerton or The Blue Album, but it’s a punishment for Raditude and Make Believe. Then there’s The Red Album, which despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to finish in a single sitting. Like Hurley, it’s utterly forgettable, with the exception of album-opener “Troublemaker,” which has the distinction of being the only song in the history of rock to rhyme “see” with “chocolate ice cream,” and maybe “Pork and Beans.” But the message of “Pork and Beans” is also what makes The Red Album so frustrating. When Rivers sings, “They say I need some Rogaine to put in my hair,” he doesn’t face the threat of getting old head on — he responds with sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek rapping. Maybe The Red Album could have worked when Rivers was 24, but he’s 38, and to quote the man himself, “I don’t have the patience.”
4. The Green Album
The Green Album clocks in at 28:20, making it less an album than a massive EP. But because of its short-running time, there’s next to no filler — only three of the ten ear-pleasing songs are longer than three minutes, including hit singles “Hash Pipe” and “Island In the Sun” — and Rivers’ songwriting is at its tightest. The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who previously worked with Weezer on The Blue Album, was brought back, and his straight-forward production is sharp, shiny, and knock-down drag-out great.
Every band has one, and Maladroit is Weezer’s Underrated Album That Only Gets Better with Time. It was widely lambasted when it came out, but so was Pinkerton. Things start off strong with the strutting “America Gigolo,” followed by “Dope Nose” and “Keep Fishin’,” both of which sound like they could fill a stadium (with humans and Muppets alike). The whole album does, actually, courtesy of Weezer’s heavy metal riffs as filtered through their evergreen pop-punk sensibilities. “Love Explosion” absolutely murders your speakers, while the massive “Slob” could be four songs piled on top of each other. If you haven’t put on Maladroit lately, do yourself a favor and give it another shot — just make sure you’ve turned the volume all the way up.
2. The Blue Album
The world needed The Blue Album when it was released on May 10, 1994, only a month after Kurt Cobain had shot and killed himself. Those were dark days for rock fans, but then came these four dorks standing in front of an all-blue background, looking less future millionaires than the kind of NERDS you’d see playing Dungeons and Dragons in a basement on a Friday night. The music confirmed this: “Buddy Holly” is corny fun, “Surf Wax America,” a slacker’s anthem. But what made The Blue Album great, and why it’s still such an indispensable “I remember where I was when I first heard…” landmark for teens everywhere, are the songs with unbearable sadness mixed with the nerdy harmonies and shaggy riffs. Sometimes the pain is obvious though no less damaging, like “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” which, I mean, it’s right there in the title, but sometimes it comes out of nowhere. After the sunny “In the Garage” and “Holiday” comes “Only in Dreams,” which is both the least and most Weezer song. Least: it’s over seven minutes long; most: it’s about a klutz who can only be with the girl he desires when he’s sleeping. Speaking as a klutz who spent a large amount of his high school years longing after the impossible, “Only in Dreams” still stings, and I’m now a happily married man. Maybe that’s too personal of an anecdote, but that’s what The Blue Album is: it’s an excuse to relate.
Think of this way: The Blue Album is high school; Pinkerton is college. They need each other to function — Pinkerton works as well as it does because it’s a deeper, more candid evolution of the themes on The Blue Album. In 1994, Rivers was playing with X-Men action figures, daydreaming about goin’ surfing, and imploring you to tell his girl, hey hey hey hey. Two years later, he’s tired of sex, in love with a lesbian, and wondering how his pen pal-girlfriend touches herself at night. It’s easy to laugh off the embarrassing things you did in high school, but if you’re still doing them in college, it’s distressing. That’s where the true brilliance of Pinkerton lies — it’s a sonic diary, with each song functioning as a separate entry on the Frustrated, Anxious, Intense Life and Times of Rivers Cuomo. “No One Else” is harsh and graphic, but the bone-crushing production provides much-needed catharsis. Pinkerton isn’t an easy album to listen to, but that’s because it hits so hard.