Early last summer, I embarked on a covert quarantine experiment.
I listened to the entirety of Weezer’s discography in seven days.
Throughout this experience, I chronicled my thoughts which I originally kept archived as a personal journal and funny keepsake. As Weezer’s newest record has quickly become an early contender for my favorite album of the year, I decided that now would be a good time to release my findings to the public. My words have been left untouched to maintain the integrity of my condition at the time: unemployed, anxious, and bored out of my fucking mind. Here’s to whatever the hell 2020 was and I hope you consider taking on this experience after hearing my own.
Who, What, Why, Weezer?
A Very Necessary Backstory
For such a ubiquitous name in pop culture, it bears drastically different meanings for many. For some, Weezer is a beacon of hope, a comforting reminder of a simpler time in music when trying too hard was lame and being an incel was charming. For others, Weezer is a tragedy, a painfully familiar archetypal origin of a young promise falling victim to the music industry machine, only to later align with it and use its powers for evil. For most, however, it’s safe to assume that Weezer is, in every sense of the word, complicated, if not music’s biggest anomaly.
Since their debut in 1994, Weezer has been wildly unpredictable, impossible to pin down.
They’ve released music consistently for the past 26 years, all varying greatly in quality and reach, though they continue to chug forward. The first two albums are hailed universally as landmark classics, though many efforts that followed have been considered to be decent and unfocused at best, sinking further and further into the creative void. But still, the band remains adored by the masses. Weezer has surely touched everyone in some way at a certain moment in time, whether it be the smashing presence of “Say It Ain’t So” in the first Rock Band game, their highly anticipated cover of “Africa” by Toto, the “Island in the Sun” scene in Aquamarine, or the cringe anthem of “Beverly Hills” with accompanying music video shot at the playboy mansion with Hugh Heffner.
The only true constant in Weezer’s roller coaster career is that they are, in fact, Weezer.
That simple truth is both confusingly fleeting and incredibly accurate. Such enigmatic ambivalence is one of the most fascinating and, as I said, complicated phenomena in music history. But more than anything, it’s intriguing. Weezer brings up so many important questions about music, culture, creativity, and the human condition. My personal inquiries–to name a few–involve what happened after “Pinkerton”, what the artistic intent of the band is now, and most importantly, how good IS Weezer? As both a fan and critic of music, I must go to the music for answers.
It is now with humility and wonder that I announce the commencement of my life’s most important work to date, Seven Days of Weezer: A Quarantine Experiment. During this project I will be listening to Weezer’s entire studio discography, all 14 albums and a Christmas EP, in a short seven day period with daily updates of my findings. In this incredibly dense and ambitious approach to consume the entirety of Weezer, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of myself, the universe, and Weezer as they relate to and with each other. The journey will surely be long and grueling, but it is one that can, and will be taken to benefit the world at large in this trying time.
The Official Rulebook
1. The discography will be listened to in order, starting with the Blue Album and ending with the Black Album, resulting in two albums per day with one day also including the Christmas EP.
2. You are allowed to listen to other music besides Weezer during the week, but only after you have completed Weezer listening for the day.
3. No skips whatsoever, even if you have heard the song before or if you just absolutely hate it.
4. Take notes daily, with final thoughts posted after the week is done to conclude my findings.
I will see you all on the other side. With a heavy heart and eager ears, I will embark on this perilous journey tomorrow with hopes of emerging a better man. I pray I reach the top of this mountain soon with my will and dignity still intact. Farewell and godspeed.
The Blue Album + Pinkerton
Weezer’s debut album is one of the first albums I ever loved, played throughout my entire childhood. Every morsel of this album, every lick, riff, lyric, and nerdy celibate quirk is eternally etched into my musical soul, a fabric of my DNA. There are a million things I could say about The Blue Album, but I’ll keep it brief. There is no effort in music more charming, touching, and endearing in this fashion. The album is unapologetically Weezer, flaws and all, dripping with personality. It feels like reconnecting with an old friend every time I listen. We pick back up right where we left off.
Pinkerton is up there as an all time favorite of mine as well, just not as essential to my coming of age. Though both are undeniably the best albums of Weezer’s discography and some of the best of the decade, there’s simply no universe of mine in which The Blue Album doesn’t reign supreme.
I find it surreal that at a certain point in time, these two fantastic albums were all the band had to their name. It’s pretty remarkable. I can only imagine what fans must’ve felt to find such an excellent debut in ‘93, then get hit with the follow up 3 years later of virtually the same calibur. Jesus, they must’ve thought Weezer was about to take over the world. So on my first day of this journey, I found myself basking in nostalgia of some defining music of my childhood along with pondering some crucial what if’s of Weezer. I still like to believe that they could’ve kept going on in stride, though we all know how the story goes. To quote the legendary Christopher Breaux, better known as Frank Ocean: “it’s all downhill from here.”
The Green Album + Maladroit
Yes, Weezer undeniably peaked in the nineties, but it’s clear they still had some solid ideas going into the new century. I praise The Green Album in particular for its transparency and brevity. They aren’t going too crazy with this one and they don’t necessarily want to. This is a perfectly okay musical approach when such high expectations have been set, though I suspect that this laissez-faire will quickly turn into apathy, and later on even cringe. But still, for a third album, it’s solid. There are some timeless classics to reminisce on here, with “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun” still ringing potently.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed Maladroit. It had, as usual, some catchy hooks, safe yet soothing chord progressions, and textbook Rivers Cuomo flair along the way. And on a sheer technical level, the band serves plenty of reminders that they’re still talented performers, as they still indulge in the opportunity to jam. I just heard the cracks begin to come into focus and the band begin to doubt themselves. I heard Rivers seem to second guess his words and instrumentals settle. There were still some reasons to smile, notably the groovy mid album pick me up with “Burndt Jamb” and the growling anthem “Fall Together”, but I couldn’t help but question if Weezer fully believed in Maladroit, let alone if I could.
But that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect, and even if people were capable of being perfect, Weezer wouldn’t be perfect. I can still find flashes of the nineties to cling to, like your childhood friend who can find a free hour in his busy work week to grab lunch at your old favorite spot. More importantly, I can go further with my endeavor. I’ve liked what I’ve heard enough to want to see what’s next and not heard too much to where I grow weary…and yet… Tomorrow brings two more and a Christmas EP, so to quote the great Fiona Apple: “on I go, not toward or away.”
Make Believe + The Red Album + Christmas EP
Ahhhhhh yes. Okay, gotcha. I see now. This is where things really start to fall apart. Look, I’m in this partially for nostalgic purposes just like I’m sure some of you are, but there’s no conceivable way of looking at fucking “Beverly Hills” as anything but a bad song. This song is pure garbage. I will die on this hill. More importantly, it exemplifies my two main issues with this album: it’s sonically disinterested and weirdly self righteous. Weezer take themselves alarmingly seriously on this album. They carry the bizarre tone of an overly sarcastic person that desperately wants everyone to know how sarcastic they’re being. Just listen to “We Are All On Drugs,” and you’ll be painfully aware of what I mean.
The Red Album was surprisingly a huge pick me up. It had some missteps as expected, but overall it was a blast to see the band opt for ambition and try out some new ideas. It was kind of like watching a Christopher Nolan movie: like okay this definitely has issues, and I don’t necessarily need to endure all of this again, but also, this rules. There’s a tinge of attitude and flair here that I’ve never really appreciated from the group before. More importantly, if you’re skimming this article and only glean one thing from this, please go listen to “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” right now. It’s one of the best things the band has made, period. Overall, this was a lot of fun to listen to, and I have to say I’m very pleasantly surprised. The Red Album is also the longest of Weezer’s discography at 59 minutes, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t experiencing some real fatigue at the end of this thing. But that’s okay. I’m not even half way through yet, so I need to get used to it.
Oh yeah, there’s also a Christmas EP…
What the fuck do you want me to say about this? It’s a Christmas EP by the band Weezer. It sounds, to a T, exactly how you would expect it to. All I can say is that it exists and that it happened to me, for better or for worse. These next two are supposed to get real messy, so wish me luck for my endeavors tomorrow. To quote Miley Cyrus and contradict my initial Frank Ocean reference: “always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.”
Raditude + Death to False Metal
Jesus Christ man. Fucking hell. Raditude is, and I cannot stress this enough, far and above the worst thing I’ve heard thus far. Not even close. It was really, truly difficult to get through. There was hardly anything of substance or creative value to cling to here besides maybe the opening track, which was still littered with feigned enthusiasm and shitty 2000’s high school movie nostalgia. After that it was nearly unlistenable. The lowest point of the album and my experience thus far was undoubtedly “Can’t Stop Partying” which features Lil Wayne. Yeah. Lil Fucking Wayne. It’s easily the worst song yet. “Love is the Answer” came really really close though. That song was also fucking terrible.
Death to False Metal was fine. For those knit-pickers out there: yes, this is technically a compilation album of B-sides from Weezer’s years past. However, Rivers has said that he considers this to be a Weezer studio album, so I gave it a listen as I would anything else. The Weezer fatigue, Weezeritis perhaps, really set in today. Songs are beginning to blend together, sometimes all I hear are empty power-chords. I’ve really hit a wall here. Thinking of listening to six more god forsaken Weezer albums is already draining me, and it’s 4 pm. I can’t wait to listen to something else, or better yet, just listen to nothing for a few hours. I must get better before tomorrow… To quote the highly overrated Chris Martin: “nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.”
Hurley + Everything Will Be Alright In The End
I was admittedly reluctant going into this fifth day of listening, but I must say both albums very pleasantly surprised me today. I did not expect to enjoy much this deep into the Weezer discography, but today was honestly a solid day.
At its core, Hurley was a fun and enjoyable listen. The weirdest part of the album actually has nothing to do with the music itself, but instead with the fact that the album is named after a character on the show Lost, and that the cover features a picture of the actor that plays said character. Not much else to say on this, it’s just bizarre. Weezer named an album after a character on the TV show Lost. The enigma continues. Anyway, “Memories” is a fucking banger.
Listening to Everything Will Be Alright In The End right after, I was yet again hit with some serious Weezeritis, but this thing also surprised me with a relatively solid listen throughout. 45 minutes was just a tad longer than I would’ve liked, but there are no bad songs here. The whole experience was safe, endearing, Weezer. It carried some precious nods to their golden days of the 90s without flipping a full 180 to look backward. Also, that trio of songs at the end of the album was, *chef’s kiss*. I liked it. I like this album. I like both of these albums. Dare I say, this was my second favorite day of listening thus far. This band continues to surprise me. To quote the timeless Larry David: “pretty, pretty, pretty good.”
The White Album + Pacific Daydream
Yes, that’s correct, Weezer has a White Album, just like another famous quartet of awkward white dudes. There’s no “Long and Winding Road” here, but damn, I enjoyed this album a lot. I might even go as far as to say that this is my favorite album of post-Pinkerton Weezer. Rivers’ voice hasn’t carried this kind of delicacy in a long long time. He seemed to say, “hello, old friend.” More importantly, The White Album is Weezer’s most concise and effective execution of radio friendly pop-rock to date. No doubt about it. Think of quasi-sadboy, almost-woke alt-pop aesthetic from Twenty-One Pilots from this era, except… actually good. And yes, I understand that outdoing Twenty-One Pilots in 2016 doesn’t sound like a miraculous musical achievement, but I assure you it is in this context.
And then there’s Pacific Daydream. Sigh. There are some decent ideas here, but a lot of this is just so painfully overproduced. Think of what I said earlier about Twenty-One Pilots except now that’s just exactly what it sounds like. They also really double down on the beach thing here, but not in a charming semi-sarcastic way like on the album before or on “Surf Wax America.”. This time it’s grossly glamorized, reminiscent of the about 10,000 shitty nautical-themed tattoos I saw during my time at the University of California, Santa Barbara.The Weezer enigma continues to perplex me. The seventh and final day of my journey is tomorrow and I don’t know how to feel. To quote Thundercat: “I feel weird.”
The Teal Album + The Black Album
The Teal Album is a good album. It is objectively good. If you don’t have fun listening to this thing, I really don’t know what to tell you. That’s on you. The task at hand is simple: take a bunch of classic songs and give them the old Weezer power pop spin. And guess what? They do it well! I mean seriously, how do you not enjoy the “Africa” cover here? Or the “No Scrubs” cover? Ladies and gentlemen, TAKE ON ME, PERFORMED BY WEEZER. I’m happy this album landed on my last day of listening, it’s a charming note to end on considering all that I’ve heard thus far.
The Black Album is pretty transparently a full fledged pop effort, which works in Weezer’s favor occasionally. There’s some fun dancy tracks to work with here, though I must say that this album had some of the lowest lows of the whole discography. Those first two tracks, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and “Zombie Bastards” were really really rough. Real cringey-ass shit right there. But there are some glossy pop gems to soak in too. It’s definitely fascinating to see everything escalate to here, a pop setting where the band still tries new ideas, just some of them suck ass. It was overall a fine place to end, good enough to satisfy my Weezer need for the day, but also bad enough to where I’m pretty stoked my listening is all over.
I’ll give my final thoughts tomorrow. To quote the unforgettable John Lennon: “I’m so tired.”
The 8th Day Epilogue
Weezer. Though I still find the word difficult to pin down, I today am blessed enough to have uncovered new meanings and understandings of what Weezer is and continues to be. I came into this project full of curiosity and ambition, some of which has been relieved and some heightened. There were many questions I proposed at the beginning, so now allow me to attempt to answer them as best I can:
Weezer is, undeniably, a great band. They have a roller coaster of a discography, but that’s because they’ve been consistently releasing music in a changing landscape for twenty-six years. More importantly, I now know for a fact that the band is not just going through the motions, hanging around, and mindlessly releasing low effort to maintain relevance as many naysayers might suggest. With varied results, Weezer continually releases ambitious new music with fresh ideas and (this part is important) has a fucking blast doing it.
So what happened after Pinkerton? Nothing really. They just kept on going. Some worked, some didn’t. And somewhere along the way, they gained a transcendent meme status. Their response? Weezer. They didn’t play into it intentionally, they just continued to do their thing, which inadvertently played into it. Over the past week I’ve observed a fascinating cycle of the dichotomy of Weezer’s place in the mind of the listener. When consumed in order as history intended, the narrative goes: genuine appreciation, disappointment in falling off, sarcastic appreciation for new efforts, followed by new genuine appreciation upon newfound understanding of the band. This is the cycle I experienced and the one that I expect many Weezer fans experience over time: a cycle of love, betrayal, dissonance, relief, and love again. This makes Weezer’s whole discography a very profound, living document, highlighting the complexities of all of the questions proposed earlier. A document examining excellence, fame, pop, intimacy, authenticity, endurance, and message. Don’t you get it? Weezer can’t answer the questions they pose. They ARE the questions. Weezer is a riddle, a choose your own adventure book, a madlib. To follow Weezer is to indulge in escapism, turn off the navigation, daydream, and wing it. Again, the best truth we can assign to Weezer is a lack thereof, leaving once again the only acceptable explanation to be: Weezer. I’ve said all I can say on the topic of this brilliant existence of a band.
I’ll leave it to the man himself Rivers Cuomo for the closing remarks: