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“Don’t Let Go” heralds Weezer’s return to the spotlight after disappearing for four years when Cuomo disbanded the group due to the initial commercial and critical failure of the angst-ridden Pinkerton. Cuomo went to Harvard, dropped out, and fell completely off the grid. You wouldn’t guess from the bright melodies and harmonies on “Don’t Let Go” (and most of the “Green Album” for that matter) that Cuomo had gone through one of the roughest periods in his life. “Anytime that you want, I’ll be here in your arms”, vows the singer in one of his most simple but sincere statements of affection. The “Green Album” was a shot of pop-punk espresso straight to your head clocking in at a brief 28 minutes, and “Don’t Let Go” holds a lit match to this record’s short fuse.
The cheering crowd at the beginning of this song prepares the listener for one of Weezer’s most epic tracks of its career. “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” doesn’t just shoot to rock the hell out of arenas, it aims for the stars. “Greatest Man” is a multi-suite composition, based on of all things a Shaker hymn, and it traverses multiple genres from hip-hop to baroque pop in an expansive six-minute package. Weezer wouldn’t collaborate with rapper Lil Wayne until 2009 (“Ok bitches, Weezer and it’s Weezy”), but Cuomo lets out his inner MC and spits a few bars as the track opens. The song’s lyrics may be tongue-in-cheek, especially the spoken-word section (“Body’s be all up on my behind”), but the band have never sounded more serious musically.
After hunting high and low in search of love, Cuomo thought he had “found the one” this time. But wouldn’t you know it—she’s a lesbian. Not only that, but Cuomo’s convinced that she wouldn’t even go out with him, “were [he] the last girl on earth”. Despite the raincloud above the singer’s head, Weezer manages to morph a song about cosmic bad luck into a memorable sing-along. The fuzzed- out guitar verses recall the grunge of the band’s first record, while the lyrical self-loathing makes “Pink Triangle” distinctly Pinkerton.
The only thing scarier than “two pet snakes” and “all of the drugs she does” is Cuomo’s undying devotion to his girlfriend in Weezer’s feedback-laced “No Other One”. The song’s dissonant, shouted chorus sounds like it was recorded within the padded room of an asylum while the band was strapped into straitjackets. Bassist Matt Sharp’s haunting falsetto is made all the more eerie by schizophrenic and jarring guitar squeals from Brian Bell and Cuomo. When “No Other One” comes crashing down in its final act, it sounds like this relationship has made Weezer come completely undone.
What starts off as a subdued, downbeat affair quickly turns into the band’s most explosive conclusion since “Only in Dreams” from their debut in ’94. “It’s not my destiny / To be the one that you will lay with”, Cuomo confesses over reserved strumming while Patrick Wilson’s less-is-more drum work fill the increasingly tense air. When “The Angel and the One” eventually takes off, the song soars like its titular figure and Cuomo gazes down on the towering soundscape. The frontman sounds absolutely triumphant as the track fades into the ether, leaving a sense of hope and renewal.