Today, Weezer shared the studio version of “Back to the Shack,” the lead single from their ninth studio album, “Everything Will Be Alright in the End,” due Sept. 30 on Republic. It’s the ninth time the often-scrutinized California rockers have dropped a lead single and the eighth time a Weezer lead single has been put under the microscope in comparison to 1994’s classic “Blue Album.” It’s impossible to call it a return to form this early, but then again, even 1996’s “Pinkerton” — now seen as a classic — was given the cold shoulder by many fans upon its first release.
So as Weezer searches for the fountain of youth, Billboard takes a closer look at “Back to the Shack” and how it stacks up against the lead singles Weezer chose to represent its eight previous albums:
1. “Undone – The Sweater Song”
“The Blue Album,” 1994
This list begins at an unsurprising place: Weezer’s first single from their 1994 debut. There are better songs on “Blue,” and heck, plenty would have sounded more radio-friendly, given “Undone’s” odd party dialogue verses. But when “The Sweater Song” wraps you in its awkward glory, its a charming introduction for a mid-’90s alt-rock fan who’s just starting to get over grunge. Legend has it, the masses found the track hilarious while Cuomo contended it was about the depression that comes from being left “unraveled” from a bad breakup. Talk about a Weezer primer…
2. “El Scorcho”
The lead single from poor, misunderstood “Pinkerton” scared the hell out of rock radio as Rivers got into full-on TMI phase. “El Scorcho” is a delightfully off-kilter single, which is fitting, as Weezer’s second studio album was never meant to be a hit factory. The wandering verses, Miss Piggy voices and very literal representation of romantic Rivers capture a Weezer that many fans have been wishing would return ever since.
3. “Dope Nose”
From a hash pipe on “Green” to a dope nose on the following year’s “Maladroit,” it would seem things were heading in an ominous direction for Cuomo and company. On this just-over-two-minute track, Rivers puts his Harvard degree to good use on lines like “Cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb.” But then again, sometimes it’s okay to just let Rivers be Rivers. “Dope Nose” is easy to pick on, but its slick, intertwining guitars and tightly packed hook are dare we say… addicting.
4. “Beverly Hills”
“Make Believe,” 2005
Quick: Name Weezer’s biggest Hot 100 hit. It’s not “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So” or even “Island in the Sun.” It’s this preppy-girls-don’t-like-me anthem — peaking at No. 10 but becoming the last straw for many die-hards who’d stuck by Weezer from day one. For those hoping for another “Blue Album”-caliber single, the goofiness of “Beverly Hills” must have stung, but almost 10 years later, why not look back on this one the same way we look back on “Stacy’s Mom,” “Here It Goes Again” or “Teenage Dirtbag” — a good-natured, earwormy hit with a great video to make up for its shortcomings?
5. “Back to the Shack”
“Everything Will Be Alright in the End,” 2014
On Weezer’s brand-new single, Rivers Cuomo sings about “rocking out like its 1994,” and it’s almost like he’s apologizing for his band’s many missteps since the good ol’ days. He at least sounds more self-aware than he did on the last few albums, even if the musical formula is still aping “Blue Album” for all its worth. Perhaps with “Blue” producer Ric Ocasek around for a full album, the 1994 vibes will ring truer this time. Just remember, Weezer die-hards: No one can ever take your dreams away.
6. “Hash Pipe”
“The Green Album,” 2001
Had the Geffen execs been smart and led the “Green Album” with the balmy “Island in the Sun,” the under-appreciated album might’ve pulled a shocker and snagged the top spot on this list. But alas, the first single from Weezer album number three was a catchy, yet dumbed down reboot of the straight-ahead rock of “Blue Album.” Thing is, “Blue Album” never rhymed “hash pipe” with “ass wide.” Still, the fact that Geffen OK’d a very explicit song about a transvestite prostitute as a lead single from a successful rock band is mystifying enough itself.
7. “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”
On the surface, this shy guy pep talk sounds like the prototype Weezer song. Maybe the concept could’ve hung as a b-side on the “Blue Album,” but by Weezer’s seventh studio album, it gave the impression that the band was just phoning it in. It’s catchy enough, but so generic and unremarkable that it sounds more like a single from some Weezer-imitating buzz band, not the old masters themselves.
8. “Pork and Beans”
“The Red Album,” 2008
Like it or not, “Pork and Beans” is a song that refuses to do anything but get lodged in your brain, maybe in between a couple All-American Rejects or Bowling for Soup songs. By reverting to the tried-and-true colors scheme for their “Make Believe” follow-up, Weezer were clearly going for the back-to-form look with the “Red Album.” “Pork and Beans” aspired for “Buddy Holly” appeal with its massive, chugging chorus, but its lyrics are so half-baked that it falls short of even the weaker “Green Album” tracks.
By 2010, it seemed like Weezer were just trolling their fans. They had a minor character from “Lost” on their album cover and collaborated with the cast of “Jackass” for the music video. “Memories” is fine for montage music on reality television, but as a feature track for a beloved alternative rock band, it leaves much to be desired.