Weezer is unlike the long-haired, tough-looking rock icons that the ‘90s audience was used to seeing. Specializing in geekery, catchy melodies and heavy guitars, these alternative rock icons of the ‘90s maintained a devoted fanbase for decades. Their geeky appearance drew in a new audience, as Weezer’s music laid in true feelings of an awkward, weird genuine nerd – frontman Rivers Cuomo. What set the band apart as a whole was their geekiness since none of them were conventional rockers; they were kids who simply holed up in their garage to play along with their favorite records.
Formation and Early Success
From being raised in Massachusetts, Rivers Cuomo moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to attend college. After his high school metal band disbanded, Cuomo met drummer Patrick Wilson and moved in with him and Wilson’s friend Matt Sharp. Cuomo and Wilson formed a band named Fuzz and brought Scottie Chapman on bass. However, Chapman quit after a few shows, and the band reformed as Sixty Wrong Sausages with Jason Cropper on guitar, and Pat Finn on bass. The group quickly disbanded.
When Cuomo moved to Santa Monica, he recorded dozens of demos, including some future Weezer Songs. Sharp became enthusiastic about the demos and accepted Wilson and Cuomo’s invitation to play with them. In 1992, Weezer was formed with Cuomo on lead vocals and lead guitar, Wilson on drums, Cropper on guitar, and Sharp on bass. Sharp also acted as the band’s de facto manager. During the recording of their debut album, Cropper was fired and was replaced by Brian Bell.
The eponymous album Weezer, also known as the “Blue Album,” was released in 1994. With the support of a Spike Jonze-directed video, their modern rock single “Undone (The Sweater Song)” became an instant hit in MTV. The second video for the song “Buddy Holly” featured splicing of the band with footage from the 1970s sitcom Happy Days. The video won four MTV Video Music Awards and was featured on the companion CD for the Windows 95 operating system. Weezer was certified quadruple platinum in the US and Canada, making it the band’s best-selling album.
Decline and Hiatus
Weezer took a break from touring during the Christmas holidays of 1994. While on break, Cuomo began recording demos for the next album – a space-themed rock opera album entitled Songs from the Black Hole. Cuomo went on to enroll at Harvard University, and his songwriting became darker, less playful, and more exposed. His original idea Songs from the Black Hole was abandoned.
In 1996, Weezer released their second album Pinkerton, with three singles: “The Good Life,” “El Scorcho,” and “Pink Triangle.” However, the band was subjected to a lawsuit filed against them over the title of the album. Also, the album sold poorly compared to Weezer, perhaps due to its darker and more abrasive sound.
After finishing the Pinkerton tour in 1997, the band went on hiatus. The members of the group went on to work on their side projects and other bands.
In 1998, the Cuomo, Wilson, and Bell reunited to work on the next Weezer album. They hired Mikey Welsh as their new bassist to replace Sharp. However, creative disagreements and frustrations led to the band rehearsing less and less until Wilson left. The band ended up playing two club shows with a substitute drummer under the name Goat Punishment and performed covers of Nirvana and Oasis songs.
Comeback and 2000s Career
Weezer reunited in 2000 when they accepted an offer to perform at the Fuji Rock Festival. This event served as a catalyst for the band’s productivity, so after the show, they rehearsed and demoed new songs in Los Angeles.
The band produced the third album called the Weezer (Green Album). Thanks to the album – the band attracted a new generation of fans due to the heavy MTV rotation for the music videos for their hit singles “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun.” Welsh eventually left Weezer in 2001 for mental health reasons, and Scott Shriner replaced him.
Weezer’s fourth album, Maladroit, was released in 2002. This album was a harder-edged version of their trademark catchy pop-influenced music. It was also complete with 1980s-style guitar solos. It released two singles: “Dope Nose,” whose music video featured an obscure Japanese motorcycle gang, and “Keep Fishin’,” which combined Weezer with the Muppets. The band’s first DVD entitled Video Capture Device chronicles the band’s beginnings through Maladroit’s Enlightenment tour. The DVD was certified gold in 2004.
In 2005, the group released the album Make Believe, which brought the single “Beverly Hills” that became a hit in the US and worldwide. The single was nominated for the Best Rock Song at the Grammy Awards, and its video was also nominated for Best Rock Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. The second single renamed as “We Are All in Love” was certified platinum.
Weezer released their third eponymous album named Weezer (Red Album) in 2008. It was an experimental album that was the band’s boldest, bravest and showiest album at the time. Its lead single, “Pork and Beans,” topped the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks charts for 11 weeks, and its music video won a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. It also produced a top-performing single “Troublemaker,” which peaked at #2 at the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks.
In 2009, Weezer released the Raditude album, which debuted as the #7 best-selling album of the week on the Billboard 200 chart.
In 2010, Weezer released a compilation album Death to False Metal containing the band’s re-recorded versions of unused recordings in several years. That same year, Weezer began working on their ninth studio album with the intent of a 2011 release, but it did not go as planned.
They released a new album in 2014, entitled Everything Will Be Alright in the End. It was the group’s best-reviewed release since Pinkerton. In 2016, the band launched their Weezer (White Album),” which continued the success of their previous release.
In early 2017, the band released a new single “Feels Like Summer,” and it became their biggest hit on alternative radio in a decade. The album, Pacific Daydream, was released later that year.
In 2018, the band released a cover of “Africa” by Toto, after a persistent Twitter campaign by a fan. This cover reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in August 2018. Toto even responded by releasing a cover of Weezer’s “Hash Pipe.” The success of the “Africa” cover led the band to record an album of covers called the Teal Album, which was surprise-released in January 2019.
Two months after the Teal Album, Weezer finally produced the Black Album, a record that Cuomo began teasing during their promo cycle for the White Album. In 2019, Cuomo announced that they have been working on an album entitled Van Weezer, promising fans to bring back their heavier rock sound.
In the 2019 Hella Mega Tour with Green Day and Fall Out Boy, Weezer performed their opening single “The End of the Game,” from Van Weezer. Another single entitled “Hero” was released in May 2020 as a tribute to essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Simultaneously, they also announced the delay of Van Weezer’s release.
Weezer is known for its out-of-the-box music videos, geek rock, and pop-rock sound. Their singles were successful immeasurably by their amusing videos. Here are some of the best songs from Weezer that cemented their status as ‘90s rock music icons:
- Say It Ain’t So (1994)
- Buddy Holly (1994)
- Undone (1994)
- Island in the Sun (2001)
- Across the Sea (1996)
- Hash Pipe (2000)
- Island in the Sun (2000)
- Beverly Hills (2005)
- El Scorcho (1996)
- Only in Dreams (1992)