Twenty years ago last week, the geeks were gifted a record that they could rally around, take pride in, and love. An album that spoke to something sweet, anxious, lonely, anticipatory, and a whole plethora of other emotions, both tentative and bombastic. It whispered sweet melodies, turned the dial to 11 on some righteous guitar riffs, and glued your ear to whatever apparatus was currently pumping it, laying with some of the most rapturous choruses of the 90s.
Let’s take a look at the record, Weezer’s self-titled album (better known as The Blue Album), track by track, which I’ve always found to be a somewhat revealing way of regarding a record.
Track 1: My Name is Jonas
The first song on the album exemplifies the loud soft dynamic that Nirvana instilled in all the young bands of the 90s, what with its simmering, almost plaintiff verses leading up into a deafening chorus and frontman boy genius River Cuomo’s voice escalating in pitch and fear with every passing moment of song. The track, written about a minor car accident and the resulting insurance hiccups experienced by Cuomos’s younger brother, serves to establish the dynamic and tone of the rest of the record.
Track 2: No One Else
Perhaps the one conceivable nock against Weezer is its occasional lapses into a kind of possessive, adolescent misogyny. One can attribute this to the same characteristic that makes Weezer so appealing in the first place, the eternal manchildness of Cuomo. “No One Else” works in this vein, the title referring to those who his girlfriend is allowed to find humorous. Musically, the song is a charged little pop ditty that eschews Jonas’s dynamics interplay, opting for a more straightforward rock sound, though remaining distinctly Weezer.
Track 3: The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
One of, if not, my favorite Weezer songs, tWHTaLMH, is a heartbreaking ode to lost love. Sonically, it retains the bands inherent sweetness, while injecting a kind of wistful contemplation, as well as something akin to but not quite melancholy. I may or may not have listened to this song in dark moments of my own life, and it may or may not have been a redemptive experience.
Track 4: Buddy Holly
The biggest hit on the album, the one with the Spike Jonez accompanying video that digitally inserted the band into an episode of “Happy Days”. Not much more to be said about the song, except perhaps that it is the quintessential Weezer song, and a perfect pop song.
Track 5: Undone (The Sweater Song)
A very strange choice for the album’s first single, as it one of the darker tunes in both music and lyric. The sweater of the title is a metaphor in reference to the emotional status of Cuomo, of which a stray tug on one lose string will cause the whole thing to come undone. Solid tune, through and through.
Track 6: Surf Wax America
An upwards swinging little ditty about the joys and freedom of surfing. Not a bad song, but compared to what the rest of the album, it feels slight.
Track 7: Say it Ain’t So
The heavy hitter, Cuomo’s condemnation of some fatherly figure in his past who suffered from alcoholism, and made poor Rivers suffer in turn. Perhaps the band’s most successful utilization of the soft-loud-soft dynamic. Tender, barely there verses explode into a tremendous, earth shattering chorus, a desperate plea for help or forgiveness or something. Tremendous song.
Track 8: In the Garage
This actually may be my favorite song on the record, which puts it into the running for my favorite songs, period. An ode to the solace one can find in his private places, when the only interactions to be had are with the pop culture icons that you love and who love you. Kiss and the X-Men are Cuomos muses, keeping him sane. Just a sweet, awkward, beautiful song, one of the best things this band or any could hope to accomplish.
Track 9: Holiday
Another romantic plea by Cuomos to whatever lover eternally plagues him, his plea this time for his beloved to run away with him, to share a permanent Holiday. A fine little guitar track, not one I’m particularly enamored with, but a fine one none the less.
Track 10: Only In Dreams
My least favorite song on the album, unrelated to the song’s quality, more due to its length. I’m not terribly big on songs that exceed five minutes, and this one rolls in at upwards of seven. Still, worth a listen, if only one.
Happy 20th, Weezer. You haven’t exactly kept it real, but you’ve kept something, and that’s usually all you can ask.