Twenty years ago, Weezer released its unassuming self-titled debut. Like its iconic and eponymous album cover, the “Blue Album” was unforgettable. The record combines growing pains, geek culture, and a girl who looks like Mary Tyler Moore into one life-changing musical experience. All that time the members spent in the garage perfecting their power-pop hooks paid off, as Weezer reminded us again why it was hip to be square. The band went on to be a driving force in the Alt-Nation and nerd-rock movements while influencing countless bands to write their own stupid songs, stupid words, and love every one.
Weezer has undoubtedly divided its fans as its career has progressed. The “Blue Album” and moody masterpiece Pinkerton (1996) are widely regarded as rock milestones, while most of the group’s later work has met with mixed results. In my opinion, Weezer fans everywhere are doing themselves a disservice by writing the quartet off after 1996. With each release, the band has cranked out memorable tunes that stick with you even when the records are uneven.
Let’s be honest: if you’re a fan of the band, you’ve already burned a whole in your copy of the “Blue Album”. It’s easy to inundate a list of Top Weezer Songs if we’re including this gem (for me, each song is an instant Weezer classic), but more fun and challenging to compose a list with their best offerings post-“Blue”... to explore where the band went after its first record.
As a dedicated follower of Rivers Cuomo and Co., I’ve devoured their discography time and time again and I keep coming back for more. Cuomo’s honest lyrics are enough to make anyone who’s ever felt alienated feel like they have a best friend in him. The very idea of Weezer is romantic in and of itself—four average guys coming together to change the world with their rock. Music has only gotten better in the 20 years since Weezer stepped out of their garage. From my first listen to now, they’ve always been my favorite band. Here’s my toast to Weezer: may they always be making noise.
After the Great Weezer Disappearance of 1997 (more on this later), the band returned to rock the radio airwaves with this unflinching lead single. The menacing guitar lead is one of the most ferocious riffs in the group’s repertoire. Weezer is no stranger to frustration, but Cuomo’s grunts make him sound like he’s about ready to punch someone square in the jaw (and he doesn’t strike me as an inherently violent person). “Hash Pipe” is Rivers and the Gang cruising around the streets of Los Angeles looking for a fight.
(Make Believe, 2005)
When Make Believe was released, everyone and their mothers were singing along to radio hit “Beverly Hills”, but it’s the overlooked “Peace” that deserves the most recognition from this era. I’ve never understood why so many Weezer fans treat Make Believe like the record-that-shall-not-be-named. Sure, Rick Rubin’s glossy production and Cuomo’s simplified lyrics caused the band to lose some of their crunchy guitar charm and wit, but this album isn’t a total wash. Cuomo’s sunny guitar solo and deft harmonies make for pure Golden State rock. The sweeping chorus and effortless high notes from the frontman in “Peace” stand as the LP’s highest musical peak.
Cuomo has never been one to shy away from his ‘80s metal roots. On “In the Garage”, from Weezer’s debut record, he immortalizes Ace Frehley and Peter Criss from the iconic band Kiss as two of his biggest influences. With the riff that jump-starts “Dope Nose” you can see Cuomo worshiping at his idols’ altar. simple but sincere statements of affection. The “Green Album” was a shot of pop-punk espresso straight to your head clocking in . No wonder—“Dope Nose” is wired with ‘80s guitar excess and three sheets to the wind swagger.
Compared to the heavier, metal-inspired riffs that dominated Maladroit, “Burndt Jamb” begins on a more chilled-out note. A laid-back guitar quickly becomes blistering and scorched as the band wanders through this primarily instrumental track in a smoky haze, exhibiting its mastery of the quiet-to-loud aesthetic. Weezer’s spitfire guitar solos on “Burndt Jamb” are enough to make its guitar heroes Ace Frehley and Eddie Van Halen blush.
The lead-off track from 2009’s Raditude is Weezer starring in a musical romantic comedy to the tune of a bouncy acoustic guitar riff. A couple falls in love and the bashful protagonist can’t ever find the right time to ask for her hand in marriage, let alone kiss the girl. There’s an addictive sugary chorus, a neurotic narrator, and nerdy use of pop culture to set the scene (in this case, Best Buy and and the film Titanic among others). I can’t help but envision the band members in barbershop quartet attire as they sing their immaculate harmonies during the bridge. When this single first dropped, I was reminded of a younger Cuomo from the band’s ’90s releases that kept his girls close, but his emotions closer. While the overly silly Raditude may not stand out as much in the Weezer discography, “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To” stands as a breezy rock tune proving if you have a winning songwriting formula, there’s no need to fix it.