Obviously, Weezer is my favorite band. Not Weezer 16 years ago, Weezer in general. While no album after Pinkerton was received as well, critical opinion dropped off sharply with Make Believe, and kept falling from there. But the thing is, Make Believe is one of my favorite Weezer albums (it’s either right above or right below Green, which is right below Blue). It’s full of new sounds for Weezer that work, and direct, affecting displays of emotion. Their late-period work is marked by stylistic experimentation, creative abandon, and what some see as midlife crises and others as celebrations of middle age. Rivers Cuomo’s looser approach to songwriting leads to a lot of uneven results, but also hits some undeniable highs. When people say that Weezer started to suck after Pinkerton, they were never fans in the first place. They’re the ones who read interviews with Rivers saying that he wanted commercial success or saw his list of unlikely collaborations and decided to hate him. When you decide to look for the good, it’s easy to find.
“Perfect Situation” - Being afraid of talking to girls is one of Weezer’s more classic themes. This song nails the anxiety that comes from knowing she might say yes and that you’ll never get another chance with this particular woman, but something still keeps you from taking the step of just introducing yourself. It’s not exactly an uncommon feeling or topic for songs, but I still can’t think of another one that gets it so exactly.
“Hold Me” - Rivers Cuomo invented the emo whine, and is still the best at it, his voice dipping and soaring, dripping with hope and sadness. Paired with a stadium-sized power-ballad chorus, it’s a pure, visceral dose of emotion. The lyrics are simple, which underlines how basic and universal the need for connection that he’s singing about is. “Hold me/hold me/take me with you ‘cause I’m lonely”: it’s too bad that this song hasn’t been a live staple since the Make Believe tour, because it almost demands to be sung in unison with hundreds of strangers.
“My Best Friend” - It’s not one of the deeper songs on this list, but try looking that keyboard line in the eye and telling it that it sucks. You’d sooner tell a puppy to fuck off.
“This Is Such A Pity” - Certainly one of the darkest, most soul-baring Weezer songs since Pinkerton. Cuomo worries out loud over whether he’s being an emotionally abusive partner. At the end, he decides that his emotional volatility, and perhaps hers too, is destroying their relationship. It’s pretty similar to a lot of the anxiety he displayed in Pinkerton, only in the context of a monogamous relationship rather than a series of one-night stands. He calls himself “a fascist pig” and makes a chorus out of “hate that destroys us.” Clearly an empty commercial attempt at selling out.
“Haunt You Every Day” - That chorus is devastating. It feels like everything around it is crumbling. Rivers’ guitar work is at some of its best outside of Pinkerton. Listen to those solos. I honestly can’t say much about this song other than to fucking listen to it.
“Troublemaker” - Yes, bum lines abound, and “movies are as bad as eating chocolate ice cream” sounds like a placeholder lyric for a placeholder lyric. But oh my god, so catchy. And the second verse is where it really hits its lyrical stride. He goes from the perfect, exhilarating youthful abandon of “I’m gonna play some heavy metal riffs and you will die/you wanted arts and crafts/how’s this for arts and crafts/[insert guitar shredding]” to “giving up and growing old and hoping there’s a god” in the space of a few lines, never losing any momentum. Each line captures so perfectly what it wants to represent. The ending, “I’ll party by myself because I’m such a special guy” is so simultaneously self-deprecating and self-affirming, with a fair amount of goofiness to boot, that it’s automatically infectious.
“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” - First, let’s get the rap verse out of the way. Rivers has incorporated hip-hop slang on every other album before Red; this is just the logical conclusion. And if “I wonder how you touch yourself” from “Across the Sea” is so celebrated for being creepy, why isn’t “I’ll be playing in your underwear”? This song is pretty much “Simple Gifts” with a ridiculous Rivers-style lyrical update played in like ten different styles. It’s a huge mess, ambitious even for a songwriter as out-there as Rivers, and so much fun. It’s a microcosm of the wildly uneven but always surprising album as a whole.
“Pork and Beans” - Well, even late-period Weezer detractors usually give this one some credit. It’s a very solid, catchy power-pop song that lives up to the standards of songcraft that Rivers set for himself with albums as airtight as Blue and Green. The lyrics are self-deprecating in a grown-up way, mocking himself lightly while ultimately vouching for himself.
“Miss Sweeney” - Weezer has a tradition of honoring band associates with such b-sides as the classics “Jamie,” “Suzanne,” and the much sadder “Mykel and Carli.” I remember somewhere that the real Miss Sweeney is some managerial assistant or other, but Cuomo is clearly playing a role here. Either way, it’s an effectively simple love song that bears a pretty strong vocal resemblance to early Weezer, with enough abandon to be freeing and fun.
“Pig” - Oh, okay. After four of the happiest, most fun songs on the album we come to “Pig.” The concept sounds a little silly. A pig recounts his life on the farm, growing up, meeting a girl pig, having kids, before revealing that what he’s describing is his life flashing before his eyes while standing in line for the slaughterhouse. It could have come off as preachy, especially given Cuomo’s vegetarianism, but instead it’s affecting and sad. The pig always knew that it would happen, he just never took the time to really think about and come to terms with it before it happened. There are no choruses or verses, just a sraightforward recounting of life and death that slowly builds until it returns to the opening lines for one last time.
“I Want You To” - There isn’t much to say about this song. It’s a classic teenage love song marked with such Cuomo-ian details as his vegetarianism and “Slayer t-shirt.” They’re almost easter eggs for fans who know his history and personality. The chorus says what it has to say in the most direct way possible, and is better for it. And I like the line “through smeared mascara, I looked into your eyes and saw a light.” You don’t really notice it due to the song’s upbeat power-pop sound, and that’s effective in blurring the line it straddles between poetic and sappy. It doesn’t fit the style at all, and it’s not something you’d realize until the song’s been playing in your head for a while. It’s those little idiosyncrasies that make it special.
“I’m Your Daddy” - This song is pretty maligned for its Dr. Luke production, supposedly “creepy” tone, and lyrics about “split[ting] a cheese fondue.” But, as far as I know, most discussion about it failed to mention where Cuomo says he found his inspiration for it: staying with his daughter in the hospital for five days while she was suffering from a low white blood cell count. The song’s structure is kind of interesting, cheesy dance-pop verses coupled with the soaring, emotion-imbued chorus reminiscent of the Blue Album. The transition between the two sounds like Cuomo suddenly being struck by the reality of his daughter’s situation after trying to distract himself with escapist thoughts. Even if that’s not readily apparent, the chorus is still great.
“Ruling Me” - I have to confess, I haven’t listened to Hurley more than a couple of times. For those of you who thought the cover was terrible or some kind of joke, though, stop it. It’s original and memorable and funny and striking. Cover art is supposed to make you take notice, and this one certainly does. Anyways, while Weezer’s music is often incorrectly called pop-punk by critics, this song actually is that. It’s tight and catchy, Rivers’ vocals fit the style well, and lines like “my ocular nerve went pop-zoom/I never observed such a beautiful face” have a nerdy, They Might Be Giants-esque charm to them.
thank you for existing. there’s too many people out there hung up on Pinkerton and the Blue Album