There comes a time in the lives of men when it's imperative to do a few things. One is get the "man talk" from Dad, two is learn about love in the back of a Dodge (To quote Harry Chapin), and three is buy Weezer's Blue Album. When looking back at the nineties, the period of a million alt rock bands, only a few records really made a cultural impact. Green Day's Dookie, The Offspring's Smash, Nirvana's Nevermind, and Weezer's self-titled debut. Formed by Rivers Cuomo, Weezer is (or was) a band of sweet geekiness, a band built around the fact that they're not what you see everyday on MTV. Dedicating songs to Kiss, surfing, and alcoholism, Weezer won over a fan-base the size of California. Unfortuneately for us listeners, Weezer has turned to crap since this brilliant piece of artwork. All future Weezer albums were perhaps unjustifiably compared to this, and of course none could live up. Future albums such as Pinkerton were too rough, Green was too poppy, Maladroit was too wtf, and Make Believe was just garbage. But before all that junk, Weezer was perfection. Matt Sharp, the most charismatic member of Weezer, was still around, Pat Wilson had some fun behind the drums, and Brian Bell, though added three days before recording, just added to the fun. Rivers let the other members have says in songs as well, before now when Pat, Brian, and Scott Shriner are just the wheels on the Rivers Cuomo train. While your opinion may be rightfully biased against Weezer because of the 2 chord punchless Beverly Hills, just remember those shining days in 1994 when Blue was the new Pink. Weezer released their debut.
Weezer's alt-rock godliness was of the likes no one had ever seen before. In the 80's, it was all about partying, Girls Girls Girls, and hair. At the turn of the decade, it was all about anger, With The Lights Out, and grunge. Then it became laziness, Longview, and punk. So when Weezer came around, naturally the people who weren't punks, partyers, or flannel wearing lumberjacks found their voice. Rivers Cuomo's simple yet effective songs became staples for every geeks collection. Bands since then have tried ripping off their geekiness (One geek band going so far as to be called Wheatus), but Weezer perfected the art of nerd long before the pretenders. When uncovering the lyrics behind the songs, you find happy little childhood dreams mixed with songs about girls and beer. Lines like "Wee-oo I look Just Like Buddy Holly. Oh-oh and you're Mary Tyler Moore" became anthems for the whole generation. Rivers had the gift for turning a monologue of Hemingway quality into a rocking track. The 6/8 opener My Name Is Jonas
is a track centered around some folkish finger picking. The literate rants are cut off midway through for a headbanging bridge thats just so random and funny. Somewhere Screech is moshing.
It's sad to notice how Weezer's songs before they were so systemic and bland were once so random and unpredictable. They were once capable of having a spasmodic rockout at any time, while in the very next song do the exact opposite and drop out for a gentle vocal interlude. Listening to the possibly inmprovised guitar solos in Undone-The Sweater Song
and the far more structured Only In Dreams
, you see what Weezer could do. Both solos are wildly jumpy and perfect. When Rivers writes a good song, it's so simple. In both songs, Matt Sharp's simple but sweet arpeggios and riding basslines form the bass (haha! pun) for a track to just lose yourself in. Lyrics still show off the geekiness ("You can see her between molecules of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide"... Thanks for the bio help), but there's something more studly in the way Rivers croons lazily over those simple riffs. When Rivers shouts of "If You Want To Destroy My Sweater/ Pull This Threads As I Walk Away" blow over his powerchords, his tenor rings freely, but more focus is paid attention to what's going on behind him. Several tracks that aren't singles, such as the first three for example, have the vocals turned down in favor for the action with instruments. You won't see that on Make Believe.
Rivers songwriting skills are pretty much unparallelled on Blue. He has this extremely prolific gift for writing a song to be either so obvious it's purposely cheesy, or lining a song with innuendos to be darkly satirical, his ultimate acheivement being Say It Ain't So
. This track, which would come to be covered by every ska band and even the Deftones, is Rivers' songwriting at it's finest. A dark yarn of the loss of a loved one to alcohol, maybe not their life, but their spirit, Say It Ain't So incorporates all the band members' talents. Brian's finger snapping chords over Sharp's baby-stepping bassline create a fierce aura, as does River's gentle falsetto line "Oh Yeah/ Alright/ Feels Good/ Inside" The lyrics of the song are definitely off beat, ("Flip On The Telly/ Wrestle With Jimmy") until the enforcing bridge where Rivers calls out his father. His angry scream of "Like Father/ Stepfather/ The Son Is Drowning In The BLOOODDDD". Pat Wilson has an awesome drum solo towards the end, where he 16th notes his way into one of the greatest songs of the 1990's. The other songwriting acheivement would have to go to the second hit off Blue, Buddy Holly
. It did benefit from a brilliant video, but the song deserved all the radio airplay it got and still gets. Rivers pretends to be cool with the opening shout "What's With These Homies, dissing my girl? Why do they gotta front?" Perhaps it's the fact that Rivers is the ultimate white boy that still makes me chuckle every time I hear it. Rivers provides some more "wtf?" moments, such as "Oh no! What Do We Do? Don't Look Now, But I Lost My Shoe". It's these lines like these that made Weezer so out of sync charminmg. The end of the guitar solo is definitely something ot check out.
The musicians of Weezer used to be so good, as shown on Blue. Pat Wilson's beats, while often mind numbingly simple, can veer into any direction at any time. His pounding cymbal-bass-snare buildup during the final breakdown of Only In Dreams
is challenging in that it's hard to move that fast for so long. He has the ability to play in different time signatures, as on the grand bravado of Holiday
, or just go flat surf-punk on Surf Wax America
. Matt Sharp is forever the signature bassist of Rivers. His crystal tones lead only the last number, but his mark is noticed everywhere, such as on the aforementioned Say It Ain't So
or the distortion of The World Has Turned And Left Me Here
. Rivers and Brian's guitar work is masterful, capable of creating structured rockouts, excellent acoustic fingerpicking to open 2 of the first 3 tracks, and some hot distortion on Buddy Holly
. Rivers even whips out his harmonica for My Name Is Jonas
and the self depricating In The Garage
. It's damn near depressing to see how genius these guys were. One can only hope for the return of these great things. But hey, we can't expect a Pink Floyd reunion. We can only turn to the good old days.
There have been very few albums that can change the face of music both culturally and musically. Weezer made it cool to be an honors student. Weezer made it cool to be a geek. But with Blue, Weezer made it cool to be all those things, and be rock stars. My only complaint is the upsettingly short ten songs. Weezer's never been good at packing in the extras, but another few songs wouldn't have killed the genius of the other 7 or 8 great songs on here. But in terms of musicianship, charm, songwriting, and cultural signifigance, Weezer's debut album is the pinnacle of their career. Kinda sucks when you peak at your debut, eh?
Undone- The Sweater Song
Say It Ain't So
Only In Dreams
Some hilariously geeky songs
The first 3 tracks are pretty weak.
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