Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).
Weezer have a new album out this week, so what better time to celebrate their virtues? Liking the band is taking more and more justification and explanation, but they're still an intriguing musical force.
You'll find this a slightly unconventional list. A conventional Weezer "best of" would probably read something like this: 1) Buddy Holly, 2) Undone - the Sweater Song, 3) My Name Is Jonas, 4) Mykel & Carli, 5) El Scorcho, 6) Hash Pipe, 7) Island in the Sun, 8) Dope Nose, 9) Keep Fishin', 10) Beverly Hills, 11) We Are All On Drugs, 12) Pork and Beans. Instead:
1. Say It Ain't So (from Weezer, 1994)
A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a torrent of emotion.
2. No One Else (from Weezer, 1994)
The sentiment is a little too controlling for comfort, ("I want a girl who will laugh for no one else / When I'm away she puts her make-up on the shelf/ When I'm away she never leaves the house") but anyone who has ever been jealous will understand.
3. In the Garage (from Weezer, 1994)
Sort of a '90s version of The Beach Boys' In My Room. Cuomo nostalgically remembers his garage as a haven from the trials of adolescence, with KISS posters, X-Men comics and 12-sided die. So, yes, the nerd thing isn't a put-on.
4. Mykel & Carli (from Undone - the Sweater Song single, 1994)
Mykel and Carli Allen were Weezer superfans who gave the band unwavering support in their early days. In 1997, while driving home from a Weezer concert, they were killed in a car accident. Though this song was written before their death, it is creepily prescient ("Till the school bus came / and took my friends away") and serves as a fitting tribute.
5. The Good Life (from Pinkerton, 1996)
Cuomo has made a career of self-realization, and this was the first time it happened. Tired of moping, he realizes "it's time I got back to the good life." However, he didn't really follow his own advice and ended up having to make that same realization at least two more times.
6. Pink Triangle (from Pinkerton, 1996)
A sweet little story song where the narrator realizes the object of his affection is gay. Rather than play it for laughs or derision, he instead focuses on his own pain and lets the funny lines come naturally: "If everyone's a little queer / Can't she be a little straight?"
7. Don't Let Go (from Weezer, 2001)
Energized, sugary power pop.
8. Keep Fishin' (from Maladriot, 2002)
Maladroit is easily their worst album, but Keep Fishin' survives solely because the video featured the Muppets! You can't deny Kermit in a Weezer shirt.
9. Hey Domingo (dowloaded from weezer.com, 2002)
Following their early-aught comeback, Rivers Cuomo was ridiculously prolific. The band began posting a prodigious number demos online for free download. I have 40 songs from this period that never appeared on an album or b-side, and Hey Domingo is one of them. To call it one of their 12 best songs is a stretch, but it represents couple of things: 1) How the band cultivates a strong relationship with their fans and 2) How talented Cuomo is; Hey Domingo and many of the other songs have a-list melodies and hooks.
10. Perfect Situation (from Make Believe, 2005)
Make Believe got slagged off by many, but of all their records, I find it to be the closest in spirit to their beloved first one. Here, Cuomo has blown it with another girl, his insecurities enveloping him while the band tries to coax him out of it.
11. Hold Me (from Make Believe, 2003)
Very vulnerable. For whatever reason - the smirk, the glasses - people tend to believe Cuomo is nearly always being ironic or sarcastic. I don't think he is. I like how the song starts out with sweet harmonious lilt and builds into a mid-tempo rocker.
12. Heart Songs (from Weezer, 2008)
Cheesy, yes. But I like cheese. And I can't resist an origin story, which this basically is. Cuomo sings about the bands and tunes that have inspired him, ending with the formation of his own band. Some have given Cuomo guff about the line: "Debbie Gibson tell me that you think we're all alone" assuming that he confused her with Tiffany. My hypothesis is that he was referring to the song Sure from her 1990 album Anything Is Possible, which contains the line "Cause we're alone tonight." I'm sticking with that.