Check out the R.E.M. version of this piece here:
And the Elliott Smith one here:
Hello and thank you for reading Hell World the depressing political and literary newsletter that turns into a music blog every now and again for some reason. Today is one of those days. If you missed the last issue it was about freelancing and organizing among freelancers.
In that issue I shared an old piece of mine about why I quit the freelancing racket and started writing this thing.
“I was sick of having to ask for permission to write about stories that interested me. I was sick of convincing an editor that a story would scale or do traffic,” I wrote in part.
“I was sick of waiting for something to be published based on marketing whims or business concerns I was not privy to. I didn’t want to have a timely news peg. I didn’t want to fit into the 800-1000 word count that is the norm for web writing.”
Today’s piece has absolutely no news peg whatsoever and no reason to exist other than that I really love to talk about the band Weezer which is painfully obvious if you follow me on Twitter. I also like to read other people writing about Weezer and I really hope you do too because there’s a lot of it below.
A lot of it.
I made it too long. I put too much shit on it.
Maybe editors are good after all.
I asked thirty or so musicians and music writers and other friends I know to be big fans to chime in with their top five of the band’s songs of all time. We’ve got an absolutely great lineup of contributors here today. Sorry it’s mostly dudes. I swear I tried but I guess women not writing you back is appropriate given the subject matter.
If you enjoy what you read please consider signing up for free or chipping in to support my work.
Please also consider reading my new book of short stories A Creature Wanting Form for free via your library or by stealing it or ideally buying a copy here. It's the best thing I've ever written in my entire life and if it isn't at least a minor hit relatively speaking I'm going to ... be normal about it.
Here's an excerpt:
This entire list has been overhauled in the last month because in Ottawa a few weeks ago, Weezer’s monitor tech gave me a personal in-ear monitor mix and let me listen to the band’s mix while standing sidestage. They even included an incredible cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman. It’s insane how well they still shred.
5. Keep Fishin’
Sometimes a band’s dedication to music videos helps their songs to such a degree that it becomes impossible to separate the visuals and music. This can be a very dangerous road to travel because all of a sudden you have The Muppets or Finn Wolfhard or whatever and people come to expect things from you, man.
4. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)
When Red Album came out in 2008 I definitely was a full-blown college jazz snob and then like five years later when PUP was starting to drink ourselves to sleep on peoples’ floors across the English-speaking world, our bassist Nestor swore up and down that this was one of the best Weezer songs out there. I definitely didn’t get it and thought he was nuts and then I was stoned out of my mind in Ottawa a few weeks ago and they played this song more or less as it sounds in the almost-six-minute-recording and man, I think Nestor is right.
3. Only In Dreams
What? You thought that because your friend Luke asked the guitarist from PUP about his favourite Weezer songs that you were gonna get something a little more straight up pop-punk picked from the Blue Album? Buddy, I loved Phish in high school and studied jazz and bong rips in college. This is an 8 minute masterpiece that sounds like shit and it was played fuckin’ perfectly in the live too. Just an insanely good song.
2. Hash Pipe
"Wow man I can’t believe there’s nothing from Pinkerton on here. Pink Triangle at least!" No. Wrong. Pinkerton is fine and there will be tons of deep cuts from the other snobs whose lists are included here. Writing a radio hit in 2001 in George W. Bush’s America about smoking hash with verses about boogers and turning tricks? With one of the all-time greatest dumb-smart-guy riffs? You and I both know that this is one of Weezer’s best songs, full stop.
1. Pink Triangle
Haha got ya.
Steven Sladkowski plays in the band PUP.
4. I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams
3. Surf Wax America
2. Falling For You
The band lost me when they lost Matt Sharp — I remember seeing them on a tour before the Green Album was released and they played just some of the most awesome tunes I’d ever heard. Then Green came out and none of those songs were on the record. For whatever I haven’t found in the records released after 1996, I loved (and still love) pretty much every song they wrote before that. Weezer was such a flawless band at that time for me.
This song makes me feeling like I’m running full speed at a wall and upon impact feel better than ever. I walk away unscathed
4. Ballad of the Briny
Bear with me here. This is an EWBAITE album era demo that ended up getting shelved until eventually being mined for parts and reconfigured into Blue Dream on Van Weezer (a song that is objectively not a good Weezer song to me) But BOTB is a song that objectively rules. I really love a lot of the demos from this era, but this one stands above the rest.
3. I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams
There is an alternative universe where Rachael Haden of that dog. is a full time member of Weezer and that is a universe I wish I lived in. I actively seek to write a song that makes me as excited about fucking up a whole entire relationship as this one does. All of my dream synth sounds are captured on here. Yes I know about The Rentals, yes I like them, but they don’t capture the same world as the one that IJTOTLOML lives in.
2. Falling For You
This song makes me cry like a little bitch when the mood is right. Everything that makes Weezer good and worth fighting for is slammed in here.
1. Only In Dreams
During quarantine I lost my mind. I had a phase where I was taking three two-hour long baths a day and just slowly losing it, and you know what song I listened to on repeat for almost every single one of those baths? Only in Dreams. What song do I still love to listen to on repeat until I make myself sick? Only in Dreams. It is perfect, it could be the only song I hear for the rest of my life and I’d be fine.
Nicolette Alvarez is the bassist of the band Pool Kids.
5. Tired of Sex
4. In the Garage
3. No One Else
2. Buddy Holly
1. The World Has Turned And Left Me Here
The fun thing about Weezer is that basically everyone agrees that their best album is Blue, and most people agree that their second best is Pinkerton. But then anything after that is pure pandemonium and there's almost zero consensus. I think Weezer have plenty of incredible songs in every stage of their career, but come on. Their five best songs? I even feel a little contrarian putting Tired of Sex in here because everything on Blue (minus Surf Wax America, which is just fine) ranks among their very best. Discussing the best of Weezer should actually be a very boring, agreeable discussion. It's their 3rd/4th best albums, or 10th through 20th best songs, where things get interesting.
Eli Enis is a writer and editor at Revolver Magazine, and a co-host of the podcasts Endless Scroll and Violent Treatment.
5. Bird With a Broken Wing
An undeniably pathetic, weepy, lucious, and heart-tuggingly grandiose song about feeling sorry for yourself. Stuff like this is why you keep paying attention to Weezer at this point in their career even as every successive release seems to only add to an insurmountable pile of shit. As with the best Rivers has to offer, the kind of painfully uncomfortable expression that's impossible to look away from.
4. Pork and Beans
It's impossible to pinpoint when Weezer became a "stupid" band; catch me on a certain type of day and I'd say they were never "smart" to begin with. But from some time around the 2000s on, they became one of rock's ultimate self-perpetuating memes (Weezer cruise, anyone?), and Pork N' Beans still stands as the creative peak of this era. The hook is satisfying in its diet caffeine free Buddy Holly-ness, and the verses ain't too bad either. When it comes to anything after Maladroit, this is as good as you're going to get.
3. Only in Dreams
Weezer are a band for children. I promise I don't mean that as an insult, either. They make the kind of music where, if you hear it at a certain young age, it opens up your listening habits to other types of music—a classic gateway band in that sense, whether the gateway leads you to Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan or any of the subsequent emo waves that have crested in Pinkerton's wake. Only in Dreams is the platonic ideal of a Weezer song in this sense; you hear it when you're, like, 12 years old, and you think, "Wow, a rock song can be long and loud and slow and even without lyrics for part of its runtime." That was my childhood experience, at least.
2. No Other One
Ridiculously tortured, feels like it has you by the throat the entire time, forces you to watch it flopping around gasping for life like a fish taken off the hook and thrown on the floor of the boat. Miserable, embarrassing, do you even want to be associated with something like this? The kind of song that feels like someone slamming a hammer onto metal just to make sure everyone hears it, making sure you're bearing witness to something that, unfortunately, might be inside of you as well. There are uglier and more satisfyingly hooky moments on Pinkerton, but those two halves never collide the way they do here.
1. Buddy Holly
Honestly, saying that any other song is Weezer's best is a pose, an attempt to be cool, or even to convey deeper knowledge of a topic (Weezer) where the "deeper knowledge" is of questionable use to begin with. Sorry! Sometimes a diamond is a diamond simply because it is a diamond, and Buddy Holly is literally flawless from start to finish. It’s pure iconography on every level, something most rock bands dream of achieving once—which is, of course, exactly how many times Weezer themselves have achieved such a thing. No matter how low-quality the returns have been since, Buddy Holly is the kind of song you can write creative checks off of for the rest of your life.
Larry Fitzmaurice is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who runs the music newsletter Last Donut of the Night.
5. No Other One
3. Say It Ain’t So
2. My Name is Jonas
1. The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
Sure, sure, the opening of the song sounds like a blueprint for Thursday’s A Hole in the World… and yes some of the verses sound like they shouldn’t quite qualify for a FAVORITE song when you've got Say It Ain’t So RIGHT THERE. But the layering of the final chorus with the backup “do you believe what I sing now?” starts moving the song into the realm of the sublime… when the beat turns over and the backup becomes the lead vocal, though? That’s all time classic territory. That’s the kind of shit that makes me happy to be alive!
Geoff Rickly sings in the band Thursday. His new novel Someone Who Isn’t Me is available now.
In no particular order:
5. The Sweater Song
My first encounter with the Sweater Song (I'm not going to call it Undone, fuck you) was in the AIM away message of Mark Zabludowski when we were in eighth grade. Lord, I was in love with Mark Zabludowski. He would, periodically, in his laconic way, insinuate that he might be willing to hook up with me, but otherwise he ignored me. I IM'ed him one day — let's be honest, I IM'ed him every day — and saw his away message, yellow letters on a hot pink background, "if you want to destroy my sweater, hold this thread while I walk away," with the word 'away' at the end of an extra-long ellipsis; needless to say, Mark was very, very cool. It's not every 13-year-old boy who's confident enough in his sexuality for a hot pink text background. Well, the very next day, WHFS actually played the Sweater Song! I swooned against my giant stuffed bear, convinced that the coincidence was a sign: Mark and I would be married one day, and we would have our first dance to the Sweater Song. I had it all figured out. Oh, I do miss those years when hearing a pop song on the radio was enough to convince me I had it all figured out.
4. In The Garage
I had a frenemy named Emily in high school, and this was our song. All of us would go to Emily's empty house after school to smoke weed in her garage, where she and I would compete for who could make our other friends laugh hardest. This was the official song of those encounters, because we were, say it with me now, in the garage — no one was self-conscious enough at that stage to avoid such on-the-nose moments as that. It was also the official song after which Emily's Weezer CD was too scratched to proceed any further. None of us could roll joints, so Emily would cram a wad of brick weed into the business end of a cigarette, and we'd smoke and listen to the first three-fourths of the blue album, and then just "In The Garage," over and over until somebody finally turned the scratch-scratching CD off. I wonder what Emily's doing these days, and if she wants to get together to have passive-aggressive friendship sometime soon.
3. El Scorcho
See my above note about profoundly misappropriated slang. It's even mis-er appropriated here — the entire first verse makes me want to die in a way that I didn't even know other people's mortifying behavior had the power to do. Look, this is basically the anthem for white guys who say appalling shit to Asian women on dating apps and then complain that hot Asian women never go for cool white guys like them. Still, that chorus is about as thrilling as pop music gets. Every time it starts, I feel like I'm being sucked down a really fun void. Not into a black hole. That's too dark. A lime green hole, maybe.
2. Island in the Sun
This song sounds like it's under general anesthesia. It's hard to think of another Weezer single that's as phoned-in on every level as this one. But it's the centerpiece of the soundtrack to the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie Holiday in the Sun, so its importance to the culture must be recognized.
1. The Good Life
I said I ranked these in no particular order, but this one is in a very particular order, in that it's the best Weezer song ever recorded. Every time I listen to that first slow build to the chorus, I get tingly and excited — sometimes I don't even bother listening to the whole song, just the first 90 seconds over and over. As for the profoundly misappropriated slang ("shakin' booty," "funky dude"), well, that's just vintage Weezer. They don't even want you grooving unless you're a little embarrassed for them while you do it.
Rax King’s is the author of Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer and writes at raxkingisdead.
5. No Other One
Incel lyrics be damned, I am SCREAMING the hell out of this one.
4. You Gave Your Love To Me Softly
Absolute ripper. Synth unison accompaniment in the lead? Sign me down. Side note; Rivers doesn’t get enough cred for his phenomenal left hand vibrato.
3. Death & Destruction
God the lyrics are especially pathetic here. I love that so much.
2. Only In Dreams
It’s impossible not to feel something when that bass line starts; instant chills for me even on the five hundredth listen. Strong contender for greatest closing track of the 90s. Probably one of my favorite songs ever.
1. In The Garage
The “I’m a lonely nerd” mega-anthem. Brings me back to playing guitar all night in my childhood bedroom.
Andy Anaya plays guitar in the band Pool Kids.
5. Keep Fishin'
In 2002 I bought a Weezer x Muppets shirt from Hot Topic, which earns this song (but especially the video) an automatic slot in my top five. Weezer x Muppets, incidentally, would be a pretty tidy analysis of my personality in high school, if you wanted to really cut me to the core. This is as close as I'm going to get to a "late period Weezer" hot take pick, and it came out 21 years ago. Doesn't seem right, but I can't argue with the math.
4. Jamie/ Susanne
Two deeper cuts with women's names for titles. Won't pick one, can't make me. Weezer at their wistful peak. I think I downloaded these both from Limewire, and they occupy the exact same space in my heart-slash-brain. These songs belong in a museum and they didn't even make it onto an album. Say what you will about Rivers Cuomo, but he was on quite a heater until fame and/or Harvard shook him out of it.
3. Possibilities/ Photograph
Now that I've done a two-for-one, I've gone mad with power. These songs are both short and punchy, and they're at the tipping point of sweetness before the band went over the edge into posi-vibes-only but secretly incredibly toxic roommate energy. Am I overthinking this list by not including more of the classics? Definitely. Am I going to stop? No.
My childhood friend Dan (who is also an adulthood friend) once declared Say It Ain't So "the best song ever written...bar none," and it's great, but it's not even my top Blue Album track. That's Holiday. The use of "bivouac" in this song is rivaled only by Shania Twain and Bobby Brown's deployment of "prerogative" in terms of word-of-the-day calendar pop song achievement. Soaring guitar riffs, legitimately tender sentiment. It wouldn't be an early Weezer song without some light colonialism, but it's no worse than most study abroad programs.
1. El Scorcho
It's extremely hard not to pull my whole top five from Pinkerton, but that's a red flag when you're 38 years old. El Scorcho is an all-time problematic fave. Probably the catchiest song ever to have such heavy incel vibes. Unparalleled road trip singalong chorus. Lightly troubling but still stellar karaoke choice where it's available. An absolute time warp back to high school. I know I've taken some shots at Weezer here, but I hope it's clear that I'm really just landing body blows on myself.
5. The Good Life
4. El Scorcho
3. Pink Triangle
2. Buddy Holly
1. Only In Dreams
Yeah, it’s this one. I was about to put Buddy Holly in my number one spot, but then I threw Only In Dreams on just to make sure, and it could only be Only In Dreams. I tend to think broadly of the Blue Album as being a genius-in-its-simplicity kind of record, but really most of those songs have Brian Wilson-esque layers in their arrangements and dynamics. This one is kind of both. You can imagine the band writing it start-to-finish in the practice room, beginning with that bassline, then those cymbal hits, then the acoustic, the snare, and there — that noodly, moody, perfect lead guitar. You can imagine it unfolding, snaking its way to that chorus, Rivers&Pat&Matt&Jason/Brian giddy as they realized what they had yet wrestling to keep it at bay, to keep the song from getting away from them, until they got to the end of the final build and let it all come crashing down. I don’t know if this is how the song got written, but there is such magic to it, and such obvious and attainable magic — that of four people playing their part just right, so tuned in to each other and to the promise generated by that all-timer bass line — that it’s tough not to imagine the look on their faces when it came together. And man, those opening lines? “You can’t resist her, she’s in your bones / She is your marrow and your ride home.” Rivers pretty thoroughly tarnished his shot as a romantic leading man with the creepiness of Pinkerton, but that still gets me.
There's a chance that if I had to not lie to God... or else about what my favorite album of all time is in some sort of Indiana Jones scenario then it might not be The Blue Album but I am certain that it is when I'm drunk and sitting in my backyard on a sunny summer day (right now). Then again that's before I get to Drunk 2 which is when I remember that Oasis and Deftones and Smashing Pumpkins exist and then Drunk 3 when I remember that Alice In Chains exist. Drunk 4 is when the Jason Molina and Elliott Smith records come out.
Ok now it's suddenly turned smoke air and overcast but still. I wrote about the smoke the other day:
Despite my (only half-joking) Better Than The Blue Album? shtick on Twitter by which I judge every album of the past thirty years on whether or not it is – well you get the idea – I don't think I regarded it as a masterpiece as an LP when it came out. I certainly loved all the videos and the main singles and listened to the album all the way through but it wasn't until Pinkerton arrived that I caught this sickness I have. No not being a pervert. I mean becoming devoted to Weezer. (Devotion is a great El Scorcho b-side by the way.) Pining for them to ever be that good again. Sometimes believe it or not they have come close. Especially on the White Album and Maladroit.
The thing is the realization of just how revelatory Pinkerton was retroactively unlocked things about the Blue Album that I didn't notice within it at the time. 1996 would have been right around when I and almost everyone my age first started getting into emo (which I wrote about here) and the desperate raw emotions and barely held together fraying textures of Pinkerton cast some of the more yearning songs of TBA in a different light. Oh. Ok. Wow. These guys aren't just songwriting and production perfectionists and "nerd chic" hipsters they're also fucking weird and very very very sad. One of them anyway.
I'd get to see them a bunch more times over the years – like when I reviewed back to back 2010 shows when they played TBA and Pinkerton in full at the Orpheum (for the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix here and here) – but for a while it didn't seem like I would ever see them in the first place. After a break when everyone (besides me the one man alive with good taste) had decided they chunked it with Pinkerton the band reformed around late 1999-2000 if I recall correctly. Once Rivers had finished being at Harvard having leg torture and Orientalism experiments done on him. I saw them around that time at the Axis (RIP) on Lansdowne street across from Fenway and I cried and cried like a big fucking baby.
Like a Weezer fan honestly.
I didn't even wear these stupid glasses yet.
(Sorry by the way for my role in making the Weezer Africa thing happen)
I gotta shut the fuck up soon because honestly this piece is way too long but instead of picking my honest to God favorites which would obviously be Only In Dreams and The World Turned and Left Me Here and Holiday and My Name Is Jonas and everything else on TBA tied for fifth and everything on Pinkerton tied for sixth I decided to eliminate TBA and Pinkerton from the running. Also their b-sides which would obviously be Susanne and Jamie and Mykel and Carli and I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams. So here are some other songs I don't think people recognize as good enough. I swear there is a greatest hits record in there that if it were one album everyone would die over!
Despite all that bullshit I just said about TBA most of these songs sound like they could be on Pinkerton which is all anyone has ever wanted.
10. Unbreak My Heart (It's a cover. Don't care. This is what Weezer sounds like)
9. I Want a Dog
8. Knockdown Dragout
7. Hold Me
6. Pardon Me
5. Do You Wanna Get High?
4. L.A. Girlz
3. O Girlfriend
It's me Luke from Hell World. Buy the new book!
5. Take Control
4. My Name is Jonas
3. Pink Triangle
2. Foolish Father
1. Only in Dreams
I wanted to include Foolish Father on here because it’s catchy as hell and was co-written by/features Patrick Stickles from Titus Andronicus. I think Everything Will Be Alright in the End is an underrated masterpiece of an album that’s kind of like, “Hey, what if Weezer kept trying to do Very Serious Music post-Maladroit instead of the jokey Make Believe/Raditude/Red Album/Hurley kind of stuff."
Speaking of Maladroit, I put Take Control on the list, but really it could have been any of the non-singles songs. The sound on that record was just pure sludge, and I love it. Only in Dreams, Pink Triangle, and My Name is Jonas are pretty normy responses, but Dreams is legitimately one of my top 10 favorite songs of all-time, Jonas is the first Weezer song I ever heard (and was also the song they opened with the first time I saw them), and Pink Triangle is just a problematic fave.
Parker Molloy is the author of The Present Age newsletter.
5. Go Away
I'm trying to keep it real with you, Hell World readers, I had to really push myself to find a post-90s Weezer song so that these picks weren't just the entirety of the Pinkerton tracklist. The only reason I know this song is because Frances from Hop Along once joined them on stage to sing it. No interest in listening to the studio album version to find out if it's any good. Not my problem, personally. Just need this version!
4. Undone (The Sweater Song)
Not sure if this is definitively a top five for me, but I'm using this opportunity to lament the death of The AV Club's Undercover series. Some really great covers have been taken down from the official Youtube channel, I guess because the licenses expired or whatever. Anyway, Mac Demarco did a great/weird cover of this song, which is kinda the only thing I know about Mac Demarco other than that he smokes cigarettes.
3. Say It Ain't So
Not to be the old guy who wants to reminisce about outdated technology and The Way Music Used to Be, but every time I hear the intro to this song, I can hear the Z100 DJ talking over it, because I recorded it off the radio and listened to it on the school bus until my Walkman batteries ran out. And the video. My God. It's funny that there were million-dollar music videos being filmed at the time and all this one had to do to impress my young self was show a bunch of dudes playing hacky sack.
2. Pink Triangle
Here's some food for thought. The following three pieces of pop culture came out within the same year: Reel Big Fish's She Has a Girlfriend Now, Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy, and this song. Yes,1996-1997 was a big year for men figuring out that lesbians are not interested in them sexually.
1. Across the Sea
"You are a 18-year-old girl." Uh huh totally. Not suspicious at all to voluntarily throw out the very conveniently legal age of the subject of the song right up top! All songs do this and I definitely believe that she is in fact 18. No reason to question that whatsoever! You know, I always thought this song was a little creepy because of the age gap thing but it's important to remember that it's also a bit racist. The next line is "...who live in a small city in Japan." Didn't realize until recently that he's poking fun at her broken English. But still, musically, I just love it. It's my favorite racist song.
Dan Ozzi is the author of Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore.
5. Perfect Situation
4. I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams
3. Say It Ain’t So
2. Pink Triangle
1. El Scorcho
If you’re asking for the best Weezer song — the flawless classic that holds up after all these years — it’s gotta be Say It Ain’t So. But my favorites are still the moments of pure, tragic cringe that followed. Last week I saw a Weezer show full of young, hip fans who couldn’t have been much older than the Good Life CD single. They were singing along to every word of the Pinkerton songs, and it ruled. Somewhere along the way, the chorus of El Scorcho became the anthem it always deserved to be. How cool is that?
Simon Vozick-Levinson is the deputy music editor at Rolling Stone.
5. (Girl We Got A) Good Thing
I don’t care what anyone says, this is a fantastic pop song. It’s well produced and has those ear candy vocal melodies. I haven’t listened to this album since it came out in 2016 but this song carried over to my playlists. We love a feel good song.
4. The World Has Turned And Left Me Here
I don’t really know why I like this song so much. Starting your song with it’s chorus is always a power move. They knew they had a hook and they ran with it. I like the solo a lot too; simple but effective. The acoustic intro/outro progression is iconic (in my opinion). Great song on album full of hits.
3. The Good Life
I probably listen to Pinkerton more than any other Weezer album. I can’t get past the lyrics on some songs (weird dude that Rivers is!!) so this is the only Pinkerton song making it to my list. Incredible chorus I just want to sing over and over again. The key change bridge and little Pink Floyd section before the chorus comes back in rocks. Dynamic and catchy song!
2. (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
This song would be the perfect intro credits/opening scene of a high school-set comedy movie. Just imagine the panning above the school as the kids as socializing outside before class. It’s a very specific vibe but some of my favorite “pop punk” songs of all time fit that role. I am also the biggest fan of an upbeat and catchy album intro song.
1. Perfect Situation
Definitely not my first Weezer song, but probably the first one I found on my own and fell in love with. It feels a little more vulnerable than a lot of other Weezer. I enjoy weird Weezer too but this is a nice poppy song that is emo enough to get 15 year old me all in my feelings. I loved this song so much I named my high school solo project’s EP after a lyric in the song.
Avery Springer is the front person and songwriter in indie/pop punk band Retirement Party.
5. (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
In the fall of 2009, I was struck by a viral infection that rendered me completely incapable of coherently speaking or walking with my normal range of function. One of the many medical tests I endured was a spinal tap, the single worst physical pain I have ever felt — so bad, actually, that the first test was aborted because I couldn't stop screaming, and they had to give it a second go after loading me up with painkillers. (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, released that summer, was one of the last "new" songs I'd enjoyed before I fell sick, and it looped constantly in my head as I was stuck in the hospital, waiting for some better news. I played it twice over in my mind's eye during that second spinal tap, my body mostly numb, the pain more bearable but still uncomfortable. When people say "this song got me through the worst pain of my life," they usually mean heartbreak — in this case, I am talking about a gigantic needle shoved into the most sensitive point on your back. After a couple of months I was well enough to go out walking by myself, and the first thing I did was go to Best Buy and buy a copy of Raditude.
4. El Scorcho
A few years ago, an older Gen X friend asked me for my take on Pinkerton — his recollection is that when it came out in college, he and his friends instantly regarded it as juvenile and embarrassing and thought, "Rivers is cooked." Maybe that explains the hooks that Pinkerton, and this song in particular, dug into me as a newly pubescent and never-been-kissed 13-year-old. Rivers seemed to have captured all of the soul-coring humiliation of unrequited love, which I believed I completely understood at the age of 13. Listening today, I can see what my Gen X friend was talking about — the song *is* juvenile and embarrassing, but I'm still struck the heaviness of his emotions, how directly and uncleverly Rivers sung about a near-universal experience. I think this is the best drums have ever sounded on a Weezer song.
3. My Name Is Jonas
I love the opening guitar intro, the driving pace, the anguished scream on "yeah, yeah, YEAH," the fact it was in Guitar Hero III, the appeal to WORKERS’ RIGHTS. I do not know what the lyrics are about, and I do not know who Wepeel is. Genius informs me it is a "childhood sled," which seems like something I would have learned on a message board in the eighth grade and instantly forgot.
2. Undone (The Sweater Song)
I'll be honest with you: I like a lot of Weezer songs. I reject the conventional wisdom that, after Pinkerton, the band became unlistenable. I think the Green Album is pretty good, and Maladroit has some great singles; I think you could compile a totally worthwhile Greatest Hits compilation of songs they released after 2005. The issue isn't that Weezer started making bad music; it's that they kept on making music for teenagers, and music critics can never be young again. That said, the Blue Album is so obviously their best record that it was hard to avoid crafting my entire list from it. Pinkerton is the "emo" record but Undone is the whole sad-sack emo ethos: "If you want to destroy my sweater / Hold this thread as I walk away." You'd feel so fucking satisfied if you quoted that in 1994, on the spot, as someone was dumping you. Then you'd go home, and cry like a giant loser.
1. Say It Ain't So
Here's a lesson in musical dynamics: The first verse and chorus are a little restrained, which always disappoints me, but that restraint is required in order to set up the SECOND verse, and the SECOND chorus, which not only go unbelievably hard in their own right but set up the BRIDGE and the FINAL CHORUS (!!!!!!) that complete the ascension to heaven. I don't have much more to say about this song, except to apologize for the obvious choice, but as a final word of wisdom: if you're ever stuck at karaoke and want to get the room going, you cannot fail with this.
Jeremy Gordon is a writer in New York who contributes to the New York Times, the Nation, and the Atlantic. His debut novel, See Friendship, will be released in early 2025 by Harper Perennial.
This is just a mean prompt, Luke. Weezer is my favorite band! They recorded roughly 30 perfect songs between 1993-1997 when you include B-sides! I have 1.2 days' worth of Weezer tracks in my iTunes library, and an additional 2.8 days' worth of Rivers Cuomo's various demos! (That is not a misprint!) I paid money — actual US dollars — to go on both Weezer Cruises! I swear I am not a virgin!
Instead of trying to whittle down the best Blue and Pinkerton tracks (No One Else and Across The Sea) or do a Sophie's choice on the best B-sides from that era (Mykel & Carli and Devotion), I'm going to pinpoint the five songs that gave Weezer fans hope. Hope that this dumb little band so many of us unabashedly love and ruthlessly criticize will eventually re-ascend to their pre-millennium musical heights.
Hope is a dangerous thing, Luke.
1. The Christmas Song
Outside of an errant Pixies cover (which fucking rocks by the way), this was the first new music from Weezer since Pinkerton. It's a beautifully melancholy number written for a KROQ Christmas CD, then later re-mixed and released as a radio station promo. It is so good. The chorus is this incredible minor-chord progression hiding inside the song's key of F-major that improbably keeps finding new places to go, with Brian Bell adding in a great backing harmony. Of course, then there's the guitar solo, which is a mirror image of the verse melody — an unusual choice for Rivers, but surely that decision is just a one-off, and not a harbinger of what's to come on the Green Album the following year, right? (Right?)
2. I Do
Weezer's comeback officially hit high gear in the winter of 2001, when they embarked on the Yahoo! Outloud Tour, hitting good-sized ball rooms across the country. The stage setup was that of a high school dance, with streamers trailing down to a stage designed like a basketball court, complete with bleachers in the back and a giant =W= in the center. Weezer chose to open every single show on this tour with a new song, I Do, using it to set a particularly eerie tone before kicking off My Name Is Jonas and watching the room explode every night.
I Do is an absolutely beautiful keyboard-and-guitar ballad, coming in a shade under two minutes but containing what legitimately might be Rivers' best melody of the Green Album era. (It was also directly lifted from Billy Joel's Leningrad. Oops.) Of course the song didn't make the Green Album; it was, however, released as a B-side to Hash Pipe. Honestly, they could've re-released the Blue Album with I Do tacked on as the first song and I would've bought a second copy just to re-create the live concert experience.
3. Perfect Situation
This truly might be Rivers' peak as a songwriter. It is both appealing to all 20,000 people in whatever bank-branded amphitheater Weezer's playing in on any given night (literally the chorus is "whoa"), but it's inherently dorky enough to appeal to the core fanbase (dude squeezes "Why am I so obviously insane?" — all 10 syllables of it — into about 1.5 seconds). Plus, it's in E-flat tuning! And the guitar solos are fantastic! And yeah, Beverly Hills sucks, and that's track one on Make Believe, but this was track two on Make Believe, and it fucking rocks, so maybe there's more good stuff on the album to come? (Maybe?)
4. Miss Sweeney
If you ever meet a Weezer fan who wants to discuss their ideal Red Album tracklist, run away immediately. That said, Miss Sweeney — a bonus track from the deluxe edition of Red — absolutely belongs on that delightfully weird record. It's a slow-burner of a track, grooving on a single A-flat chord throughout the verses, before building through each pre-chorus (with expertly sung vocal harmonies from the rest of the band) and exploding into these massive lovebombs of choruses, each bigger than the one before it. (And then the final verse? Absolute bliss.) Weezer songs don't get much odder and more beautiful than this one, and it's a testament to how Rivers' brain is just different from the rest of us. It is also even more shocking knowing how virtually everything Weezer has released since this song has been co-written with outside songwriters, including almost every song on the largely dogshit Raditude, released only a year after this high-water mark.
5. I Want a Dog
Weezer between 2009-2021 has been an absolute roller coaster of some seriously high highs (2014's Everything Will Be Alright In The End, 2016's White Album, 2021's OK Human) and some seriously low lows (2017's Pacific Daydream, 2019's Teal Album and Black Album). Of course, even the highs have lows and the lows have highs, because Rivers Cuomo cannot be trusted to know which songs of his are good anymore. (Do I actually like Hurley or is this Stockholm Syndrome? I truly do not know anymore.)
2022 saw a return to largely solo songwriting with the band's SZNZ EPs, resulting in a few dozen new Weezer tracks trickling out over the course of the year that were generally pretty solid. My favorite of the bunch, though, is "I Want A Dog," with its distinctly literal opening lyrics that move into some seriously therapist's-couch moments about halfway through. Oh, and there's a sick guitar solo at the end. Oh, and there's great harmony vocals. Oh, and it goes from 4/4 to 6/8. Oh, and you get some falsetto from Rivdawg. Listen, man: It's songs like this that remind you this guy is still brilliant. And it gives me hope for whatever the band does next, just like how Charlie Brown has hope that Lucy isn't going to pull the football away next time.
Scott Heisel used to get paid to write about music. If you'd like to pay him to write about music again, please email email@example.com. He's also on Substack at Colors of Insomnia.
5. Grapes Of Wrath
This exercise made me realize that I gravitate toward the weirdest corners of Weezer’s catalog. Really, Weezer-with-strings should not work, but between the careful orchestration and clever-not-cloying lyrics, it’s probably my favorite later-period LP by the band.
4. Eulogy For a Rock Band
What did I say about loving hard rock Weezer? Yeah. This one, however, is an irreverent, self-aware farewell for aging heroes—meaning the ‘70s arena riffs and epic falsetto are pointed and poignant.
Fall Out Boy’s early work feels heavily indebted to this song in particular—perhaps it’s the crunchy-grungy riffs and slightly obtuse phrasing (“It's in the photograph of love”)—although the ’60s-pop homages elevate its execution. Extra credit also goes to this album’s Hash Pipe, which makes me laugh every time I hear it.
2. This Is Such a Pity
I am a total sucker for cheesy ‘80s metal Weezer, which means I’m a goner for this song’s poker-face serious guitar solo and neon keyboards—not to mention the bittersweet, lovelorn lyrics.
1. Surf Wax America
A perfect power-pop song, “Surf Wax America” encapsulates so much of what makes early Weezer great: interesting arrangements, jangly guitars, and lyrical twists exposing the dark side of California. Although Rivers sings, “You take your car to work/I'll take my board,” the strong undertow eventually wins: “Now I can never go home.”
Annie Zaleski is an author and editor based in Cleveland, Ohio, who graduated from Harvard just a bit before Rivers Cuomo did. Her latest book is Pink: Raise Your Glass.
5. Pork And Beans
This surprises even me, but I also think it’s important for me to list since it marks the point of no return for me—it feels cynical and calculated (as fully realized by the music video), and yet the hook is burned into my brain like the Weezer songs I love. If I think about what this band means to me, how I grew while listening to it, I have to put a definitive end point too.
4. Island In The Sun
Cloying radio pap I nevertheless hold onto with deep affinity.
3. Pink Triangle
Generally not a Pinkerton guy, but this one scorches.
2. My Name Is Jonas
Sets the tone for the unequivocal best Weezer album, and feels like Rivers discovered perpetual motion.
1. Undone (The Sweater Song)
The track that’d get everyone at my high school theater post-production parties singing in unison. This, to me, epitomizes Weezer as a canonical emo touchstone more than anything on Pinkerton. The balance of self-aware theatrical emotivity and brute alt-rock riffing melts away whatever bad feelings I still harbor about Weezer, and makes me consider giving their newer material more thought and attention. At least until the song ends.
Leor Galil is a reporter at The Chicago Reader. Find his work here.
5. In the Garage
4. Island in the Sun
3. Only in Dreams
2. El Scorcho
1. Say It Ain’t So
I understand that I’ve mostly picked chalk here, but this is the Weezer that reminds me the most of when Weezer was the best to me, as one of the first bands I ever loved. Say It Ain’t So is not only my favorite Weezer song, it’s my favorite song. My dad listened to classic rock and while I loved a lot of those bands as a kid, Weezer was the first band that felt like mine, and Say It Ain’t So was my favorite of those Blue album singles. I loved the video in the Weezer garage, and the band seemed so COOL to me. They were my first rock idols in a weird way since they aren’t really idolized figures nor are they really capital-R Rock guys, but I can’t turn away from that for the sake of being cool, or a sort of Weezer hipster who says their favorite song is on the White Album or whatever color they’re on now. I’ve heard Say It Ain’t So over 1000 times in my life and I look forward to hearing it 1000 more before I die.
Even though Luke has some questionable music tastes like the right wing band Staind, there is no denying his fandom and adoration for Weezer. I have a deep love and respect for them because they write absolute jams but are also the weirdest humans ever. My band has played a few shows with them over the years and they are always epically comical in some way. In Buffalo my ex used their porta-potty and was thrown out of the venue by their security. At Harbor Lights in Boston we walked into River’s massage room where he was dribbling a soccer ball in his tighty whiteys. Funny funny people.
5. Pork and Beans
Comically terrible name for a song, but what a jam. Classic Weezer.
Everyone hates on the Hurley album, but this was the first song in new era Weezer where I felt this guy still has it.
3. No One Else
Another from the Blue Album. I was going to put My Name is Jonas, then this came on… Damn that Rivers can write an anthem.
2. The Good Life
Pinkerton is the album. I guess I have to pick one..This is the one I want on a Jukebox.
1. Say it Ain’t So
It’s their Nevermind or Stairway to Heaven. It has it all, nostalgia, hooks, heart break. It’s my youth in a song.
5. Undone (The Sweater Song)
4. My Name is Jonas
3. Say It Ain't So
2. The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
1. Only in Dreams
I know... You're looking at the list going, look at this elitist gatekeeper. Let me explain. I'm no ride or die, but I love Weezer to no end. 1996 was a bridge to emo for many fans when the band took a lot of that era's bands on tour. Plus they gave us Only in Dreams, a song that gave rise to the idea of the punk/alt song getting longer and not as straight ahead pop punk (that would come back again just five years later.) Weezer's first album catapulted them into the mainstream, but for a short time The Blue Album and Pinkerton (the latter was panned by everyone, including fans) gave us a crossover that led many later punk bands to write hooks and take a chance on something different. That simplicity and perfection still inspires artists. It was a moment in time that would become overdone and vanilla, but for the late 90s, these albums were an opening to do your thing and dream.
Also see this SNL sketch.
5. High as a Kite Not to get sappy on main, but this released when I was on a work trip in Santa Monica and it was raining and I was homesick and it just hit me hard. Video is cool too.
4. Death and Destruction
Just a really pretty Weezer song that still flexes their guitar muscle. Maladroit is so criminally underappreciated. It's their 2000's version of Pinkerton.
3. No Other One
I always wonder if this is specific Pinkerton song that made Rivers quit music. Who am I kidding? It's all the Pinkerton songs that made him want to quit. Love the pure id of this song's intro.
2. El Scorcho
In my high school chamber choir class I sang this song a cappella to impress a girl. It didn't impress her.
1. Only In Dreams
Never a doubt. I'm as infatuated with Matt Sharp's bass line here as I was when I was 10 years old. Maybe also the only "normal" Weezer song ever (despite being nearly ten minutes) - perfect closer to a perfect album.
Drew Beringer is the former editor of Absolute Punk and writes the newsletter Enjoy or Don’t.
First off if you’re reading this that means Luke decided to put it in even though I sent it really late so thanks and sorry to him. Anyway, not really an Early Weezer hardliner. Green came out a few months before I started college and I knew it was a whole thing even though I was stealing a little valor since I wasn’t a mega-fan. For about a decade after that, Weezer was one of my Appointment Bands. Over time they nudged me away as they did most of us, especially with the let’s be nice and call it “gimmicky” stuff. That said, Photograph seems designed to make certain people mad, but I am not one of them! Pork and Beans was exactly what I wanted (not that any band is obligated to put out exactly what I, Just Some Guy, wants). And back during the tail end of lockdown I got really into End of the Game (fun video!) off of (uh oh) Van Weezer. But let’s face facts here, Blue and Pinkerton and their orbiting singles are the co-headliners and you could swap a lot of tracks in below.
Now that I’m already backing out of these before they’ve started:
Trying really hard to not be a total Blue/Pink hack here, okay. This is mostly on the strength of that kickass little guitar solo (and the vocals that kick in in the second half of it). I remember being so excited to rip open the Maladroit CD and slam it into the Discman hooked up to one of those tape player adapters on the drive home, and then… not sure what I wanted, but whatever it was I wasn’t really getting it. Like I liked “Slob” but it’s not a FUN song, or the right kind of sad sack song. But sitting in the driveway, that wailing guitar hit me like a lightning bolt.
4. You Gave Your Love To Me Softly
Had to go Angus Mode. A song that makes you want to metaphorically (or literally, I don’t know what you’ve got going on personally) stand up to James Van Der Beek once and for all and maybe get a smooch from Lex from Jurassic Park. I was all set to pick Susanne as the B-side/soundtrack representative, but I thought for one more beat and LA, LA, LAAAAA.
3. Tired of Sex
Genius-level insight here pointing out that Pinkerton doesn’t seem to have the healthiest worldview, but if you’d asked me my favorite Weezer song in like 2003, this was it with a bullet, baby (in retrospect I wasn’t doing super well). Also, another guitar solo. Basically everything from WHAT’S A GUY TO DO to the end is still completely untouchable. I think my CD rip of this one got messed up because I always remember it sounding way chunkier when playing on my 80 pound college Dell laptop.
2. Say It Ain’t So
Look whatever okay. If you lived in New South at Georgetown for the 2001-2002 academic year and you wandered the halls enough at any given moment before like 11 pm, you could find this blasting out of at least one set of JBL three-piece speakers. And whoever it was they were right to do so. Major karaoke trap because you never sound as good as you want to doing it, and clunkily miming the solo isn’t really rewarded in a karaoke setting, but whatever I already put the slip in, maybe this time It’ll be different.
1. Only In Dreams
George Mason University Patriot Center, 9/28/2001. First Weezer show, went with a bunch of those First Few Weeks of Freshman Year Friends right before a bunch of folks silently agree to reshuffle their friend groups. Good setlist (if light on Pinkerton) check it out. Then suddenly the bassline hits and the whole arena sounds and feels like it’s underwater, or at least one of those middle school aquarium sleepover field trips. The loudest song I can happily fall asleep to, with still a .0001% chance that I’ll wake up and it’ll be some pleasant, still-fumbling time in my distant past.
Patrick Monahan is a comedian and writer and the co-host of What A Time To Be Alive, the only podcast that counts down the things each week that make you say the thing that’s the title of the podcast. Find him at @pattymo at most of the places and at pattymo.com.
5. El Scorcho
4. Perfect Situation
3. Jamie (acoustic)
2. Across the Sea
1. Say It Ain't So
I took a shortcut when picking my Top 5. All of them also happen to be tracks that made it onto mix CDs that were strewn about the wood-paneled Jeep Cherokee I bought off my parents’ happy hour buddy for $500. (If we were doing a Top 6, I’d also put in American Girls by Homie, Rivers’ one-off side project.) Say It Ain’t So lands at number one because it zaps me back to the era of my life when I owned that car, at the end of college, the beginning of almost two decades living in NYC, and getting my start as a journalist. The band I was in with some high school friends, who are still close pals today, covered it at booze-drenched backyard parties or bar gigs, and it was the highlight of seeing Weezer themselves at Roseland in 2005, an evening that ended with a hot dog fight at Rudy’s on 9th avenue, much to the delight of the onlooking broke kids and the crustier old drunks. Despite being an ex-drinker now, the lyrics don’t resonate with me as much as that feeling of cathartic joy when you’re screaming out the chorus and, in my case, hitting that two-string bendy lick that was assuredly lost in our sound mix. In those moments, I wasn’t worried about getting my first real job or how I’d pay for gas or rent, and I can still feel a bit of that tranquility when the refrain hits.
5. No One Else
4. Surf Wax America
3. The World Has Turned And Left Me Here
2. In The Garage
1. My Name Is Jonas
The easy and conventional response would be any five songs pulled from the Blue Album, and look, who I am to spit in the face of convention? Pinkerton is fantastic and there are undoubtedly good Weezer songs from after that, but sorry I'm here for the pure-grade original stuff. These are my top five but the order is pretty fluid. Depends on the day, depends on the mood.
My Name Is Jonas is one of those rare opening tracks that is both 1) fucking amazing and 2) an astoundingly concise stylistic blueprint/statement of intent. The quiet fingerpicked acoustic intro into the hammering crunch of the chord progression is (chef's kiss emoji but the chef is wearing Buddy Holly glasses).
No One Else is a buoyant pop-rock gem. The World Has Turned And Left Me Here chugs along with a textured melancholy. Surf Wax America just plain rips and serves as a sly nod to the teenage trends and tunes of yore. Who cares if you can't surf or have never surfed - it's pure Wilson-approved escapism. In The Garage is a wonderful encapsulation of that awkward stage of life when you're trapped between childhood and some nascent adult existence. Still in love with comic books and D&D, still hanging with the same few dorks, but figuring out how to parlay your awkward nerdhood into a more acceptable hobby. Shit, what if we started a band?
Tyler Littwin is a graphic designer and former indie rock guy whose music career peaked when his band's sophomore album was reviewed favorably by Luke O'Neil for Boston Magazine.
(He also designed the Welcome to Hell World book cliff cover and bunny merch and the Better than the Blue Album? logo.)
5. Hash Pipe
4. The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
3. Running Man
2. Take Control
1. Say it Ain’t So
(Joke addition: The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. I believe it is one of the greatest bad songs ever.)
Would you accept this one story I remember from my best friend from college related to Weezer?
When I was in college my roommate/best friend was out with a girl at lunch, and I am sitting in my dorm room. I forget how but We Are All on Drugs comes on the radio, but it’s a radio edit, and they’ve really painfully added “in love” over “on drugs.” We’d been making fun of this song a lot since the album came out partly because We Are All on Drugs sounds like the diarrhea song. I think I’d found a video of it online which was rare considering it was 2005. Anyway, I call him, and I say “so there’s a version of We Are All on Drugs but it says “we are all in love,” and I hear him slam down his lunch tray and he says “I’m on my way back to the room” like I’d just told him I had cancer. We sat listening to it and just kept muttering “what the fuck” under our breaths.
Ed Zitron writes the Where’s Your Ed At newsletter.
5. The Good Life
4. The Sister Song
3. Don't Let Go
2. Only in Dreams
1. Surf Wax America
Surf Wax America is generally acknowledged as Weezer trying to do a punk-rock take on the Beach Boys, and I always liked those two things, so that's a good starting point. I also agree 100 percent with its sarcastic message that going to work is bullshit. I'm not good at talking about about the technical aspects of music because I don't understand them, so I guess I’ll close by saying "I think the riff is sick."
Ryan Lambert is a hockey writer and host of the podcast Puck Soup.
5. You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Look, honestly, there are definitely Weezer songs I like more than this. But I had to have one of their soundtrack contributions on here, because it shows how much they were firing on all cylinders at this point for what were essentially b-sides to be as good as they were. Also I just recorded Angus for the podcast. Susanne could have worked here too.
Yes, I'm picking something from Green. Green gets a lot of shit now, retrospectively, because of their output since then (which I could also defend, but I'll save that for another day.) Anyway, Green is a simple power pop album, and that's fine! And this song is everything I love about power pop in just a few short minutes. A sugar rush of a song.
This song actually got me into Big Star. I saw a review when Pinkerton came out that compared this song to something from Big Star, and one thing led to another, and I found one of my favorite bands of all time. Combine that with the fact that this is already one of my favorite Weezer songs, and it has to be on here.
2. El Scorcho
Probably the best singalong chorus they've ever done, which makes it one of the greatest of all time.
1. My Name is Jonas.
While I knew Weezer from Buddy Holly before buying the Blue , this one feels like my real intro to Weezer. And it's just such an exuberant, listenable, incredible mission statement, especially as an opener to a debut album.
Eric Peacock is a late-period Weezer defender and host of the Soundtracker Podcast. He can be found on Twitter or Blue Sky at @Uwebollocks or @Soundtracker_ on Twitter.
4. Say It Ain’t So
3. Hash Pipe
2. The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
1. My Name is Jonas
My favorite Weezer song is My Name is Jonas. It’s just one of those songs that feels almost impossibly spontaneous. I love the Green Album and the studied control and craft of it, but My Name is Jonas typifies the opposite of that. It’s musically and lyrically brilliant while also feeling utterly thoughtless. It’s also powerfully existentially comforting to me. I put it in the category of songs that make me feel like somehow everything's going to be ok.
Max Collins plays in the band Eve 6 and writes the newsletter Heart in a Blender.
5. Surf Wax America/Slave
4. Freak Me Out
3. Across the Sea
2. Mykel and Carli
1. Buddy Holly
Dunno what to say other than Weezer have wonderful, melodramatic ballads all through their career. Almost all of them are creepy somehow. A friend once told me “No matter how bad the Weezer song is, hang in until the bridge, because the bridge is always good.” The best two albums are obvious, the third best album is either Maladroit or Everything Will Be Alright In The End. White album is a dud. Freak Me Out is the one and only song in their whole catalog where I think Rivers is truly sincere and vulnerable.
Keegan Bradford is a writer and musician living in Portland, OR who plays in the band Camp Trash.
5. The World Has Turned and Left Me Heree
4. In the Garagae
3. Sweater Song
2. Only In Dreams
1. Say It Ain’t So
I always knew this song, obviously, who knows the first time I heard it. However, I got really into the Blue Album after a millennial music snob in Brooklyn I was in love with raved on and on about it unironically, and I came to the life-changing realization that Weezer, while being a joke, is also a great band (as Gen Z, I’ve been forced to reckon with this revelation with a lot of memeified bands: Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead, etc.) He—my ex—was very picky and condescending about music, and witnessing his reverence of Say It Ain’t So forever changed the way I heard it (“They’re allowed to churn out shitty albums, because they made THIS,” he said, and honestly, he’s kind of right). The withholding in the verses, the anthemic chorus, the mini-rap in the second verse that I yell every word of at bars to prove my fluency in this song, the BRIDGE…maybe one of the bests ever… what a payoff, what a guitar solo after… It is what I consider to be an objectively perfect song, it has the formula of a masterpiece and their delivery is singular. This couldn’t have been performed by anyone else.
Danielle Chelosky writes about music for Stereogum, NPR, Billboard and elsewhere. Find more of here writing here.
I came late to Weezer. I was a “classic rock only” kid who played in a cover band with my childhood friends, and as the lead singer (and archetypical control freak) I made a firm “only 80s Joel”-style hardline about the music we would play. But it was 1999 and hard to escape Weezer so we tried to cover Sweater Song once, but I couldn’t play the guitar part so I purposely sabotaged it (I still suck at guitar). Thankfully I could play Peace Frog by the Doors so you know I made the right call. But then I found The Strokes in 2000 and changed personas completely. Anyway…
I loved Mallrats despite my aversion and lack of exposure to 90s culture and “Susanne” was a gateway drug to the thought that modern bands could write pop rock songs as good as The Beach Boys and Beatles. I think people like Surf Wax America for the same reason but I just love the wry smile of this one.
4. Buddy Holly
At Boston College, my sheltered Connecticut ass met kids from exotic locations like North Jersey, Brooklyn, Minneapolis and South Jersey. They also mostly had older sisters and actually had experience with contemporary pop culture. So thanks to them, while drunk at house parties and dorm rooms and eventually Mary Ann’s I fell prey to the hooks and collective millennial experience of Weezer. My college band tried to get me to play Holiday but I successfully sabotaged that too by claiming not to be able to sing it (I totally could, Frank). But it was mostly because I preferred Buddy Holly because they released the Happy Days music video on RealPlayer in like 1997.
3. Beverly Hills
I don’t miss much about Boston (sorry Luke) but one thing they have over NYC is their enduring quirky local commercials and regional celebrities. This song very quickly took over TouchTunes junior year and as a result of that (and dollar Amber Bocks), this song became Bernie and Phylls and now I’ve both ruined AND improved the song for you all.
2. Keep Fishin’
My buddy Tom and I had a short-lived college radio show, as well as a slightly-less-short-lived but universally-forgotten college sketch tv show, and a strangely-long-lived pre-YouTube viral video. Tom put the single version of this song with the jangly guitars over the credits for that video and put Weezer into most of our projects, so that coupled with the Muppets collaboration makes me old white guy nostalgic when I hear this song. Thanks Rivers, Kermit and Tom for my career.
1. El Scorcho
I still don’t think I’ve ever listened to Pinkerton front to back without stopping but this is their best song because it’s the one I both feel like I could have written and could never have even thought could exist because it’s too perfect. That chorus is an eternal melody like the Amazing Grace or The Weight or Since You’ve Been Gone.
Red Fabbri is not worth following but has always been online. Subscribe to his friends’ podcast What A Time To Be Alive instead.