FOR MANY slackers and dreamers out there, American ‘Geek Rock’ band Weezer’s self-titled debut album still stands today as one of the pivotal albums of the 1990s. Weezer; the band with a name that sounds like asthmatic attempting cross country who draw inspiration from KISS yet sing about playing Dungeons and Dragons. The Blue Album, as it is so often referred to, seeps with naivety, hope, shyness; it’s like what would happen if a nerdy high school student was given a record contract.
Opening with the fittingly titled ‘My Name is Jonas’, The Blue Album launches into about the grittiest Weezer have ever been. Admittedly that’s not saying much, but ‘My Name Is Jonas’ has a certain attitude to it that Rivers Cuomo capitalises on, sneering through lines like ‘My name is Jonas/I’m carrying the wheel/Thanks for all you showed us/But this is how we feel.’ The following two songs, ‘No One Else’ and ‘The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’ take a more romantic tone. ‘No One Else’ is Cuomo, or the narrator, speaking of his ideal woman, what he wants from a girl, deciding to leave his current partner in pursuit of this fantasy. The following track, ‘The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’ seems to follow up this narrative, the narrator realising how empty his life is without this girl, claiming: ‘I just made love with your sweet memory/ a thousand times in my head’.
The next two tracks are two of Weezer’s finest moments. ‘Buddy Holly’ is possibly one of the most recognisable tracks (and indeed videos, featuring the cast of Happy Days). Otherwise, there’s no gimmicks, no frills, just simple Power Pop goodness. The lyrics even have a certain Beatles vibe to them. Then there’s ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’. Featuring creeping picked chords, spoken word snippets and a classic sing-a-long chorus (‘If you want to destroy my sweateeeeeeeerrrrrrrr’) ‘Undone’ feels like a sad song with a comical spin. Originally written to be a Velvet Underground song, it ends up sounding more like Metallica.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the opener to Side 2. ‘Surf Wax America’ draws from the Beach Boys to create this Alternative Pop sound with all the enthusiasm and carefree you’d expect from the band. A similar, if slightly heavier, theme is felt in the penultimate track; ‘Holiday’, where Cuomo sings about escaping the real world in the blink of an eye. Sandwiched between these upbeat songs sit ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and ‘In The Garage’, which tell two very different stories.
The sense of foreboding in ‘Say It Ain’t So’ builds up to a climax of tortured vocals and sharp guitars. ‘Say it ain’t so/My love is a life taker’; the closing line sounds ominous as the song collapses into a pool of distorted guitars. After this emotional finish, ‘In The Garage’ opens with slightly humorous opening lines; ‘I’ve got a Dungeon master’s guide/I’ve got a 12 sided die/I’ve got Kitty Pride/And Nightcrawler too’. But behind these Pop culture references lies a feeling of sadness and loneliness. When you’re shunned by the clique system at your High School and people mock your interests; that’s what ‘In the Garage’ is about. ‘In the garage/ I feel safe/No one cares about my ways’. It’s incredibly bittersweet.
Where we began with the raucous ‘My Name is Jonas’, we end with the subdued ‘Only in Dreams’. In a fitting finish to this album, ‘Only in Dreams’ is a tribute to what the narrator sees like an ideal life and how out of reach it is. Beautifully melancholic, ‘Only in Dreams’ does a fine job of rounding off this album.
At a time when Nirvana ruled the airwaves and Gangsta Rap was represented by the likes of 2Pac and Biggie Smalls, Weezer introduced a little naivety back into the world. Their follow up album, Pinkerton, evolved, not just their sound, which became much harsher, but also lyrically, with Rivers Cuomo becoming more autobiographical. These two albums are often regarded as the groups best work; while their albums from 2001 onwards have their moments of excitement, none really equal either of these albums, least of all The Blue Album.
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