This album marks a turning point in the Worst Albums Of All Time Saga: this is the first album by a band that I actually like. Or more accurately, the first album by a band whose albums I liked before this one.
I fall into the same category as a lot of long-time Weezer fans. We are the Star Wars fans of music – we’ll always have our original trilogy, and whatever came afterwards be damned. Much like Star Wars fans, we’ve often kidded ourselves: “Raditude was OK really, at least it didn’t take itself too seriously” or “there weren’t as many furry animals in this one”. But who are we kidding? Our beloved Weezer died with Make Believe, never to return.
You see, it’s easy to forget today, but in the nineties and early 00s, Weezer were the architects of some incredibly fine pop-rock music. A trilogy (I’m going to keep this analogy going as long as I can, you see if I don’t) of great albums started with their self-titled debut (or Blue Album) in 1994: if a more perfect, brilliantly crafted power-pop album exists, then I am unaware of it. 1995’s Pinkerton was the quintessential difficult but artistically heroic follow-up, and as such is cited by many (including me) as the band’s high point. After a break of five years, the band triumphantly returned with its second self-titled Green Album. It didn’t quite reach the same highs as the first two (cue Return Of The Jedi reference), but it was a welcome return from Weezer nonetheless.
Album number four, 2002’s Maladroit was where the first cracks began to show. A tad overreaching and unfocused, it still contained some of the bands best singles to date – namely “Dope Nose” and “Keep Fishing”. Not too bad just yet – fast forward to 2005.
The release of Make Believe was announced to the audible salivation of Weezer fans, after what was a torturous three year wait between albums. Anticipation was high, reaching it’s apex as the first single “Beverly Hills” was sent to radio and debuted… and around the world a universal exclamation was heard:
“What. The. Fucking. Fuck. Was. That?”
For those of you who have
blocked out the memory forgotten, “Beverly Hills” was the worst kind of radio single. Insipid lyrics about wanting to be rich and move to Beverly Hills and a chorus that could be guessed at with 99% accuracy after reading the first half of this sentence: “Beverly Hills! That’s where I want to be!”. Not true: I want to be underwater with a 200kg weight strapped to my leg and a plugged in toaster in my hand. Even the video was excruciating: filmed on the front lawn of the Playboy Mansion, it was tacky enough to make Kat Von D look like an articulate and intelligent young woman by comparison:
With the arrival of the full album, it soon became clear that “Beverly Hills” was actually one of its better songs. Second single “We Are All On Drugs” is a pretty good example of how shit things got on Make Believe. A sample lyric should be enough to convey the awfulness of this song:
“When you’re out with your friends
In your new Mercedes Benz and you’re
And you show up late for school cause
You think you’re really cool when you’re
Fucking hell. This album was to Weezer’s credibility what Kurt Cobain’s shotgun was to his face. “Make Believe” indeed.
And the shitness continued, covering the entire album in a thick feces-like veneer of poor songwriting and worse lyrics: “Hold me. Hold me. Take me with you ’cause I’m lonely” goes the chorus to the imaginatively titled “Hold Me”. You’ll want to hold something by the end of it: possibly a hungry boa constrictor or the business end of a chainsaw, rather than listen to it again. The song “The Damage in In Your Heart” contains the refrain “One more tear, Falling down your face, Doesn’t mean that much to the world” – a verse singer Rivers Cuomo thought was so good, he’s used it not once but twice in the song. Dude, you wrote “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here”, “The Sweater Song” and “Tired Of Sex”. Just what are you playing at?
There also seem to be a lot of terrible power ballads on the album. Power ballads are essentially the hyenas of the music world: meet one on its own and you’ll probably be safe, but get a bunch of them together and you’re basically fucked. “Pardon Me” safely sings its title over and over again and does little else, while “Freak Me Out” is a mid tempo number that will have you yearning for the excitement and Oscar Wildean lyricism of “We Are All On Drugs”. Closer “Haunt You Every Day” is arguably the worst of the foray into slow songs: a piano driven ballad that conjures neither emotion nor sentiment, but did do a pretty decent job of conjuring my lunch.
Now to be fair, it isn’t all doom and gloom on Make Believe. Track number two and third single “Perfect Situation” is a nice, peppy, fairly traditional Weezer song, and “This Is Such a Pity” is a pleasant, if a bit frothy, detour into poptronica that nevertheless works quite well. And in Rivers Cuomo’s defence, even in his heyday he was never the world’s greatest lyricist. Good pop music doesn’t necessarily need great lyrics to be brilliant, just look at Best Coast. It’s just that when a band that you love and have followed for over a decade releases an inexplicable turd of an album almost without warning, it actually seems worse than when someone predictably awful like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 or Kings Of Leon releases their latest ball-gobbling puke-infused abomination.
And so there you have it: ex-Weezer fans – you are not alone. We didn’t just imagine Pinkerton, did we? Damn you, Make Believe, you are the Jar Jar Binks of pop albums. (Told you I’d get some mileage out of that one).