Weezer (Blue Album) (DGC, 1994)
Pinkerton (DGC, 1996)
Weezer (Green Album) (Interscope, 2001)
Maladroit (Interscope, 2002)
Make Believe (Interscope, 2003)
Weezer (Red Album) (Interscope, 2006)
Raditude (Interscope, 2009)
Weezer is one of the strangest rock stories of our time: Rivers Cuomo and his L.A. geek-punk band hit the MTV grunge jackpot in 1994, fizzled out after the flop 1996 concept album Pinkerton, and then began a second career as a shockingly successful cult phenomenon. Weezer's self-titled debut (known to fans as the "Blue Album") has a couple of guitar-heavy radio hits in "Buddy Holly" and "Undone (The Sweater Song)," suffused by Cuomo's presence as the ultimate suburban nerd, writing madly catchy pop gems inspired by Kiss, comic books, and 12-sided dice. Nobody took it very seriously. Pinkerton was a textbook case of the difficult second album: a confessional song cycle, based on the opera Madame Butterfly, about a lonely young rock star nursing furtive crushes on lesbians ("Pink Triangle") and teenage Japanese fans ("Across the Sea"). People took it even less seriously. Excellent though it was, Pinkerton was too messy and weird for the radio, and it looked like the "Buddy Holly" boys had gotten their asses abandoned to the buzz bin of history.
Except that unbeknownst to normal people, Weezer not only kept hanging in there, it continued to hold a Rasputin-like grip on its fanatical, ever-increasing cult of emo kids and suburban punks, until its triumphant 2000 comeback tour shocked the music biz. As the die-hard Weezer kids rose out of the woodwork to pump their fists and sing along with "My Name Is Jonas," the only other sound you could hear was multiple jaw-floor collisions—and maybe also the sound of Sponge, Nada Surf, and Better Than Ezra frantically paging their agents. Weezer (a.k.a. the "Green Album") and Maladroit are totally crunk half-hour albums buzzing through crunch-guitar nuggets such as "Dope Nose," "Hashpipe," and the should've-been-a-hit "Simple Pages." Cuomo has gotten more oblique about his girl troubles—there's no "El Scorcho" or "Pink Triangle" on these albums, which is a shame. But no matter how hard he tries, he can't quite keep from exposing his wracked personality, and with ballads such as "O Girlfriend" taking that crucial millimeter of a step toward maturity, Weezer deserves a huge hand for making the world safe again for frayed cardigans and corduroys.
Of Weezer's albums, Pinkerton is the best by far, with a big raw guitar sound to flesh out Cuomo's psychosexual contortions. Despite "The Good Life," "Tired of Sex," and "El Scorcho," the highlight is "Pink Triangle," especially its chorus hook, "We were good as married in my mind/But married in my mind's no good." Much derided upon its release, and disavowed by an understandably embarrassed Cuomo, Pinkerton has taken its rightful place as a classic anyway. It's become fascinating to observe the dance between Cuomo, who never wants to hear anyone mention Pinkerton again, and his desperately overinvested fanbase, which reveres Pinkerton and feels morally betrayed every time Cuomo prefers to invest his talent in brilliantly shameless cheese-rock hits like "Pork And Beans," "Beverly Hills," or "(If You're Wondering Whether I Want You To) I Want You To." Cuomo might revel in baiting his diehard fans (why else would he go for a title like Raditude?), but he's never lost his pop knack, whether it's in his solo demos or his strangely affecting collaboration with Lil Wayne and Jermaine Dupri, "Can't Stop Partying."
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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