For several years, myself and a fellow NME writer ran a club in Camden called Geek Out, where Weezer were kings. We played a Weezer song every half hour without fail, held pre-release listening parties for their new albums and even insisted that every band playing live had to cover a Cuomo song. We’d debate the various merits of Weezer tracks long into the night, and this was generally my – very much open to argument – Top Ten…
‘Memories’, ‘Californian Kids’, ‘Pork And Beans’, ‘Beverley Hills’ – 21st Century Weezer have thrown up bangers like a Bestival firework finale. ‘Troublemaker’ slipped out as the second official single from 2008’s ‘The Red Album’ but it was the album’s propulsive core, an ego-driven quasi rap anthem for those of us clinically allergic to normal life.
A latecomer to Weezer’s top table, ‘L.A. Girlz’ from last year’s ‘The White Album’ was both a throwback to the first album’s garage pop grime and a showcase for their expansive recent tendencies. It’s also amongst Cuomo’s most engrossing and classic nerd-getting-rejected-by-beach-angel melodies – proof that, in terms of majestically not getting any, Cuomo’s still got it.
‘No Other One’
Following the success of Weezer’s debut ‘Blue Album’, Rivers Cuomo fled from the limelight to study at Harvard, pouring all of the lovelorn dislocation and isolation he felt there into dark, gritty and seminal second album ‘Pinkerton’, Weezer’s undoubted masterpiece. Here, monstrous and ragged riff paeans like ‘No Other One’ amplified all of the angst and fire of ‘My Name Is Jonas’, ‘Surf Wax America’ and ‘In The Garage’ into a desperate, screaming waltz. Monumental.
‘This Is Such A Pity’
Weezer’s finest electro-pop song by several light years, this stand-out from 2005’s ‘Make Believe’ nodded to later-era ELO with its retro sci-fi synth throbs and slick pop chorus.
‘The Good Life’
In which Cuomo looks in the mirror during his time at Harvard, sees a decrepit “old man” in a leg brace (to correct a long-standing issue) getting shunned by the keg kids, and vows to get himself back on the party train. Often taken as one of Cuomo’s most brutal lyrics – “broken, beaten down/Can’t even get around without an old man cane… I’m bitter and alone… I should have no feeling, ‘cause feeling is pain” – ‘The Good Life’ actually bristles with determination and resolve. The Bad Life is over; the let the booty shaking and 24-hour sweet love recommence.
‘Pinkerton’’s most frivolous grunge pop moment had Rivers unwittingly falling in love with a lesbian – the inevitable fate of anyone, of any persuasion, who happens to watch an Ellen Page film. The result is by far the most soul-wrenching singalong emo tune ever written about cock-blocking yourself.
Ebullient self-deprecation – that was the tone Weezer set with their first major hit ‘Buddy Holly’, and it’s stuck ever since. Still their calling card tune, this playful stormer instantly tagged them the grunge Beach Boys, retro right down to the Spike Jonze video that put them inside an episode of Happy Days. It remains an evergreen anthem to geek rock specs appeal.
‘Say It Aint So’
Based around Cuomo’s childhood memories of alcohol tearing his family apart, this quasi-reggae emotional centrepiece of ‘The Blue Album’ is still amongst Weezer’s most moving and hard-hitting tracks, particularly when Rivers pens an open letter to his deadbeat dad who’s “cleaned up, found Jesus” in the middle eight.
‘Pinkerton’ was such a blistering array of high points that it’s tough for any one track to stand out. But while ‘Why Bother?’, ‘Across The Sea’ and ‘Tired Of Sex’ could all slot into the top end of a Weezer Top Ten as the mood takes you, the ragged-ass rap rock slouch of ‘El Scorcho’ is the one that most consistently thrills. Perhaps because, along with ‘The Good Life’, it marks a turning point from the nihilist frustrations and self-loathing of the record’s early half towards a lascivious sense of hope. Plus it’s probably the only post-grunge classic ever to open with the sound of gargling – not renowned for their oral hygiene routines, slackers.
‘Undone – The Sweater Song’
The first, and definitive, Weezer epic, ‘Undone’ arguably invented modern emo with its clattering, climactic tale of a guy unravelling amid the slot-slurry college party scene. As catchy and semi-comic as it is utterly devastating, it encapsulates Cuomo’s charm and import – the be-cardiganed game changer.