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Rock - Released January 1, 1996 | DGC

From the pounding, primal assault of the opening track, "Tired of Sex," it's clear from the outset that Pinkerton is a different record than the sunny, heavy guitar pop of Weezer's eponymous debut. The first noticeable difference is the darker, messier sound -- the guitars rage and squeal, the beats are brutal and visceral, the vocals are mixed to the front, filled with overlapping, off-the-cuff backing vocals. In short, it sounds like the work of a live band, which makes it all the more ironic that Pinkerton, at its core, is a singer/songwriter record, representing Rivers Cuomo's bid for respectability. Since he hasn't changed Weezer's blend of power pop and heavy metal (only the closing song, "Butterfly," is performed acoustically), many critics and much of the band's casual fans didn't notice Cuomo's significant growth as a songwriter. Loosely structured as a concept album based on Madame Butterfly, each song works as an individual entity, driven by powerful, melodic hooks, a self-deprecating sense of humor ("Pink Triangle" is about a crush on a lesbian), and a touching vulnerability ("Across the Sea," "Why Bother?"). Weezer can still turn out catchy, offbeat singles -- "The Good Life" has a chorus that is more memorable than "Buddy Holly," "El Scorcho" twists Pavement's junk-culture references in on itself, "Falling for You" is the most propulsive thing they've yet recorded -- but the band's endearing geekiness isn't as cutesy as before, which means the album wasn't as successful on the charts. But it's the better album, full of crunching power pop with a surprisingly strong emotional undercurrent that becomes all the more resonant with each play. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Geffen

As a Rolling Stone cover story on newsstands the week before the release of Make Believe made clear, Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo is an odd, ornery sort. He's a genuine rock & roll maverick, at once attracted and repelled by his star status, disappearing for long stretches at a time, often to return to college. He writes and records far more songs than whatever winds up on a final Weezer record, which are often whittled down to just 30 or 40 minutes, leaving untold numbers of songs in the vaults. What makes the situation even stranger is for as obstinate and unpredictable as he is, Cuomo does not make odd music: he's a pop songwriter fronting a hard rock band, equally enamored with big choruses and loud guitars. While each of Weezer's records has a defining characteristic -- whether it's a sound, a lyrical theme, or simply an emotional feel -- that separates it from its predecessor, each album is clearly written from the same perspective: that of a brainy misfit raised on cheap metal and new wave, whose nerdiness always kept him on the outside looking in. This was true even after Cuomo became a star, thanks in large part to how he had a gift for articulating how very awkward he felt within the constructs of a catchy, melodic, concise pop song. But as rock stars since Elvis have learned, fans are a demanding lot, especially when they identify so heavily with a specific work, as Weezer's cult did with Pinkerton, the band's second album. It flopped upon its 1996 release but became a word-of-mouth hit over the next five years, leading up to their eagerly awaited comeback, Weezer, their second eponymous album that is otherwise known as The Green Album. Appropriately for a self-titled affair, Weezer functioned as an introduction to a new incarnation of a band, one that sounded similar but had a different outlook: namely, one that was deliberately notintrospective, a conscious shift away from plaintive introspection of Pinkerton. The Green Album and its quickly released 2002 follow-up, Maladroit, were both sharply written, tightly constructed, quite excellent, and popular rock records, but that didn't stop some fans from grumbling that neither album was as affecting as Pinkerton. Those same fans will likely not be happy with Cuomo's return to musical, emotional bloodletting with 2005's Make Believe. It may be a spiritual cousin to Pinkerton, yet it's far removed from the raw, nervy immediacy of that album. Nearly ten years separate the two records, a long time by any measure, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Cuomo has a far different emotional outlook here. On Make Believe he purposely avoids the pain and torture of Pinkerton, where the guitars exploded and scraped, complementing the torment in his lyrics. Here, Cuomo is trying to sort things out, sometimes beating himself up over past mistakes, sometimes looking at his surroundings sardonically, but something separates Make Believe from previous Weezer albums: a palpable sense of optimism, a feeling of hope, a new positivity. That's not really what the legions of Pinkerton fans are looking for. They're likely going to find some of his lyrics perilously close to a self-help manual, particularly when Cuomo writes a sappy ode to his best friend -- and it's pretty much a given that they won't respond to Rick Rubin's sleek, layered, propulsive production, which makes Weezer sound far more new wave than Ric Ocasek ever did. (Rubin also keeps the band far away from the pseudo-new wave of the Killers and the Bravery, which is why he's a highly paid pro.) But let those fans pine for the past, because the very things that they'll find irritating about Make Believe are what make it yet another first-rate Weezer record. Part of the band's appeal is that Cuomo not only skirts the edge of embarrassment, he frequently passes far beyond it, and while that very trait is irritating in the hands of lesser-talented emo bands, in Rivers, it's quite ingratiating and endearing because he has the musical skills to back up his self-analysis. He never overwrites, either in his words or melodies, his songs are carefully, precisely crafted pop, and his love of metal and rock gives his music muscle and balls. These gifts are as evident on Make Believe as they had been on every other Weezer record -- the only difference is this has a lighter, brighter feel than any of its predecessors, not just in the music but in its outlook. It might not be what Weezer fans want, but as that aforementioned Rolling Stone article made clear, Cuomo never cared much about that in the first place. If they're not immediately taken with Make Believe, give it time. After all, Pinkerton didn't win fans immediately. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Geffen

Bands used to make records like this all the time. They'd release an album, tour all year, write a bunch of songs, record 'em, release another album a year later. Since hardly anybody -- not even indie bands -- did that in 2002, it's a remarkable event when Weezer does exactly that, especially following a half a decade of inactivity. But, it's hard not to think that this is the way it should be done by all bands, since Maladroit retains the high quality of The Green Album. True, it doesn't offer much that's new -- it has a similarly short length, clocking in at 33 minutes, it favors riff-heavy, melodic rockers and has a lack of ballads, while Rivers Cuomo is doggedly avoiding the exposed-nerve confessions of Pinkerton -- but there are a couple notable differences that give it its own character. Since the band has returned to self-producing, there's a tougher sound -- nowhere near as raw as Pinkerton, yet similarly loud and raucous, overflowing with guitars spitting out riffs and solos with a gleeful abandon. So, it's essentially a harder-rocking version of the last album. But you know what? It doesn't matter because the band is at a peak. Cuomo continues to write consistently strong songs, occasionally penning a flat-out stunner ("Dope Nose" is one of Weezer's all-time greatest songs), the band is tighter than ever, and the record crackles with energy -- nothing new, per se, but still vibrant, catchy, and satisfying. It's so good, it's hard not to think that it offers definitive proof that even in 2002, it's best for a band to keep going once they've hit a peak, to turn out a bunch of records that find them at the top of their game instead of waiting three or four years to craft a follow-up. After all, that's what builds not only a body of work, but a legacy. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 10, 2018 | Vertigo Berlin

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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Geffen

There's a reason why Weezer's third album consciously recalls the band's first, not just in its eponymous title, but in its stark cover, Ric Ocasek production, and tight pop songs. That's not because Weezer was trying to recapture its core audience, because, unbeknown to the band, it already had. Once its second album, Pinkerton, stiffed on the charts and was lambasted in the press (including an devastatingly unfair pan from Rolling Stone, who named it the worst album of 1996), the group dropped out of sight and leader Rivers Cuomo went into seclusion. Remarkably, the group's following, unlike so many of its peers -- from forgotten label-sponsored alt-rockers like Nada Surf to indie rockers as respected as Sebadoh -- never waned, it only strengthened, as fans slowly realized the brilliance of Pinkerton and how the debut only seemed better, catchier, funnier as the years passed. Weezer eventually realized this through the magic of the Internet (plus an uproarious Japanese tour), and hit the road in 2000, knocking out a new album at the end of the year, when the band realized that there were thousands of fans eager to hear a new record. The cynical out there might interpret this as crass commercialism -- "hey! they only made a record when they realized people were listening" -- but it's actually a reflection of one of Weezer's greatest strengths: Cuomo's shyness and awkwardness, neither of which he can disguise, no matter how he tries. He didn't want to record another album unless he knew somebody was listening, because he didn't know if there was a purpose otherwise. This is the quality that came shining through on Pinkerton (and is most likely the reason he disdains the album as too personal, no matter how great it is), and it's also apparent on this Weezer album (which will inevitably be known as The Green Album, much like how fans dubbed the debut The Blue Album, due to its cover background), even if he consciously shies away from the stark autobiography that made the previous album. Sure, there may be clues tucked away in any of these songs, but for the most part, this is simply a collection of punk-pop songs in the now-patented Weezer style. And that, quite frankly, is more than enough. This may be a very short album -- a mere 28:34, actually -- but that just makes it bracing, a reminder of how good, nay, great this band can be. Especially since this is a conscious return to the band's debut, this may seem like nothing special -- it's just punk-pop, delivered without much dynamic range but with a whole lot of hooks -- but nobody else does it this so well, no matter how many bands try. And, frankly, that's enough, because this band rocks tight and focused, with wonderful melodies and songs that have enough little details to give them personality, even when Rivers is avoiding personality. This is a combination of great performances and great songwriting, something that puts to shame both the mainstream rockers and underground wannabes of the early 2000s. That's Weezer's great strength -- they certainly are accessible, but they're so idiosyncratic within that realm, it's hard not to think of them as outsiders. The fact that this Weezer sounds as fresh as the first is as much a testament to the band's talents as the musical stagnation of the post-grunge, post-Brit-pop '90s, but three albums out, Weezer has yet to deliver a record that isn't immensely satisfying. Yeah, it's about 70 cents per minute, but you'd be a fool not to consider it just about the best value of any rock record released in 2001. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Geffen

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2010 | Geffen

Released as an accompaniment to the deluxe reissue of Pinkerton, 2010’s Death to False Metal is not quite a new album, and not quite a rarities retrospective, either. It’s a collection of unreleased songs the band cut during their 15-year association with DGC, some dating back to the early days, some quite recent, but they’re all given a nice new sheen that makes it sound like a relatively close cousin to Hurley, the band’s indie debut that appeared just two months before this major-label swan song. Generally, the tunes lean closer to Weezer’s classic power pop than either the all-things-to-all-people Raditude, or the glassy modern rock of Make Believe, and in turn, it falls somewhere between the inspired lunacy of the former and the formalist pop of the latter. Apart from the occasional pop culture reference -- the anti-suburban conformity anthem “I’m a Robot” dates it as a ‘90s artifact, the Mac-vs-PC conceit of “Odd Couple” pegs it as a decade later -- this is music that Weezer could have released at any time after their 2001 comeback, and while it’s sonically a little more ragged than any one album, thereby betraying its origins as a compilation, song for song, it’s one of their better records of the ‘00s, as it consists of the best songs, not tunes that fit the sound of a project. It’s a wonder why a few of these cuts didn’t pop up before this, but as a collection of outtakes, they hold together better than some of the band’s proper albums. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 7, 2010 | Vitamin Records

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Pop - Released October 19, 2018 | Jingle Punks

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 5, 2019 | Barsuk Records

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Rock - Released August 10, 2018 | Night Water Project

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Pop - Released October 10, 2017 | Common Trouble

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Electronic - Released February 6, 2009 | Mental Madness Records

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Pop/Rock - Released June 21, 2009 | Fabrica

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Rock - Released May 26, 2020 | Ellie Records

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Rock - Released May 15, 2020 | Owl Pop Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 19, 2020 | INNOCENT BLUE BIRDS

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 12, 2021 | Impresión Arte Tienda

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 1, 2019 | Halfday

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Pop - Released November 22, 2019 | Batiendo Records