Writes Eoghan Creedon – Music Editor
Weezer’s debut album has recently turned 25! A lot of people reading this will have one question, “What the hell is a Weezer?”. A grammatically incorrect question, but a great question none the less. Weezer are an alternative rock band from California who have been on the go since 1992. The members of the band at the time were Rivers Cuomo (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Brian Bell (Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals), Matt Sharp (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Patrick Wilson (Drums). On May 10th 1994 they dropped their first full length album under DGC Records. Simply titled ‘Weezer’, fans were quick to dub the release ‘The Blue Album’ due to the artwork on the cover. It depicts the 4 members of the band standing in front of a blue back drop. Simple but effective.
The album quickly gained a lot of popularity and garnered the band a huge following and success. The album charted as high as 16th on the ‘Billboard 200’ between 1995 and 1996. Its 3 singles ‘Say it aint so’, ‘Undone’ and ‘Buddy Holly’ charted at 7th, 6th and 2nd in the US respectively upon their release. Why have I chosen to write about an album that came out when I was -4 years old? Because it’s fantastic, and when I saw it recently turned 25, I just wanted an excuse to talk about the album. So here we go!
I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning. Boring, I know. But the opening track of this album is far from boring. ‘My Name is Jonas’ kicks off this iconic album. I have always considered Weezer to be the perfect gateway between pop and rock. This first track encapsulates that description perfectly. The first thing you hear on the song and is a very catchy and poppy acoustic guitar riff. Give it a whole 8 seconds until the booming, distorted guitars crash in. The structure of this song bounces between the gentle acoustic riff and powering rock guitars. A very fresh take at an alternative rock song, especially at the time considering the grunge scene was still huge.
The song, from what I can tell at least, is reminiscing about childhood and the family home after growing up and leaving to set out on your own. Cuomo sings about cherished memories about his grandmother, his old toys and the scary feeling of leaving all that behind and what it’s like to be out in the real world on your own. “Come sit next to me, pour yourself some tea. Just like Grandma made, when we couldn’t find sleep. Things were better then, once but never again. We’ve all left the den…”. This song is Weezer at their finest. With the song’s personal lyrics, contrasting yet complementing music styles and annoyingly catchy riffs and melodies, I couldn’t think of a more perfect song to be the opening track of your debut major label album. It also ends with a harmonica solo. I mean, that just sells itself.
Let’s move onto the next notable track on the album. The 4th song of the album and perhaps the band’s most notable and successful song of all time ‘Buddy Holly’. This is the song a non-Weezer fan would be most likely to know. That is in large part to the accompanying music video. The video, directed by Spike Jonze, uses footage of the old sitcom ‘Happy Days’ (the one with the Fonz) and inserts Weezer into the memorable Arnold’s drive-in, playing a show for the ‘Happy Days’ alumni. The video is genuinely amazing, and the effects still hold up today for the most part.
Comparing the visual effects from the video to movies that came out around this time and even up to recently, it is laughable how much better the effects are in this music video for a virtually unknown band at the time compared to some of the ‘blockbuster’ movies released throughout the years. If you have never seen the video before I cannot recommend it enough. Take 4 minutes out of your day to watch it. I realise I have been waxing lyrically about the music video but not about the song itself.
I mentioned previously ‘Buddy Holly’ is probably the band’s most famous and popular songs. While it is a very good song, I don’t find it to be a great song. If you said that to a Weezer fan they would probably kick your ass, luckily for me, the few people reading this have probably never heard of Weezer, and so, my ass remains unkicked. It is a very good song, I just don’t find myself going back to it all that often. The music is good, the melody is catchy, the vocals up to scratch but yet I can never find myself going out of my way to listen to this single.
I will happily listen to it when I listen to the album in full and I will never get tired of watching the music video, but I really do think this song is slightly overrated, largely down to the fondness people have for the astounding music video. Listening to the song on its own just doesn’t hold up to watching the video. If I had to recommend one song from this album it surprisingly wouldn’t be their most popular song of all time. It would be the next song.
The 5th song on the album is ‘Undone – the Sweater Song’. The song was originally just set to be called ‘Undone’ but due to insanely catchy lyrics in the chorus fans and the band have dubbed it ‘the Sweater Song’, hence ‘Undone – the Sweater Song’. The lyrics in the chorus are a metaphor for someone descending into madness and losing their mind. The sweater in the song represents the protagonist’s mind or psyche. “If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away”.
Once the person’s psyche has been truly destroyed, they are left exposed, vulnerable, weak and a shell of their former self. “Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked. Lying on the floor, I’ve come undone”. Musically, the song is extremely simple. Excluding 2 unbelievable guitar solos by Cuomo, the entire song is the same 3 notes the entire time. The notes do not change from verse to chorus. But you would honestly never really notice it because it’s so catchy. It was only when I tried to learn this song on guitar, did I realise that there is very little dynamics to the music in this song, but it’s so effective.
While the riff is constant and plays throughout the full 5-minute song, it never gets boring. My personal favourite element of this song is the backing vocals. Bassist Matt Sharp is known for his ability to produce beautiful harmonies that suited the tone of Cuomo’s voice perfectly. The song only has 2 verses, the first has Cuomo singing alone and the second has Sharp singing along with him. There is a notable increase in the quality of the second verse compared to the first, all down to the simple vocal harmonies provided by Sharp. It would be unfair of me to mention Sharp’s vocals without mentioning the vocals also provided by guitarist Brian Bell. While Sharp shares vocal duties with Cuomo for the verse, Bell takes over from Sharp for the choruses.
Similar to Sharp, Bell’s vocals match the tone of Cuomo’s singing perfectly. Bell provides a lower, deeper tone compared to Sharp’s high harmonies. You notice Bell’s singing the most during the final stretch of the last chorus where he and Cuomo are singing two different sets of lyrics, no this is not a monumental screw-up. Cuomo takes on a new set of lyrics to see out the 4th and final chorus of the song while Bell continues to sing the regular lyrics.
The song ends with Wilson on drums changing up his beat which signals Cuomo to kick into gear and begin the second truly awesome guitar solo of the song which plays out through the end of the song. The finale is given an extra level with both Sharp and Bell teaming up to sing harmonics to see the song out. This song is simplicity at its finest. Its not the most intense, advanced, complicated song out there. It knows what it is. It does the simple things, but it does it so well that it tricks you into thinking that the song is more complex than it actually is. ‘Undone – the Sweater song’ truly is a forgotten gem of music throughout the years and it needs more love. If I had to recommend one song from this album to you, I would grab a copy of this single and shove it in your face. Marketing at its finest.
The final single released from this album is ‘Say It Aint So’. This song is a heart-breaking song about a boy watching his family and home life fall apart. This song allows Cuomo to open up as he sings from his own childhood experiences. The protagonist watched his father drink throughout his entire childhood before abandoning the boy and his mother without warning. The boy in the song is left in despair as he now watches his new stepfather go down the same path his biological father once went down before leaving the family with nothing.
The boy is distraught to find out his birth father has started a new, happier life without him or his mother and cannot comprehend why he would do such a thing and leave his former family with nothing but broken hearts. Cuomo despairingly wails during the bridge of the song “Dear Daddy I write you in spite of years of silence. You’ve cleaned up, found Jesus, things are good, or so I hear. This bottle of Stephen’s awakens ancient feelings. Like father, stepfather, the son is drowning in the flood”. If you manage to come away from listening to this song without being emotionally moved in some shape or form, you my friend, are truly made of stone.
This album has some other gems, such as ‘In the Garage’. A song that takes us through a happier side of Cuomo’s childhood has he sings fondly about all the time spent in his garage growing up with all of his toys, comics, music etc. The song ‘Holiday’ is another personal favourite of mine. The song is a simple love song with the protagonist telling their lover that they should go away together just so they can be alone for a while. The album closes with an emotional, moving song called ‘Only In Dreams’. Cuomo sings about a girl who he loves from a distance. He is in complete awe of this girl and cannot get her out of his head. However, his heart is aching as he knows that he could never be with her as the love is not reciprocated by her and that any love or life shared between the two could exist ‘only in dreams’.
Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ truly is a fantastic debut release. The fact that the album is 25 years old genuinely astonishes me as the music, lyrics and subject matter in the majority of the songs are all still so relevant in people’s lives today. To put it simply, it is timeless. While Weezer have never reached the heights of this album since, they have still made their mark on music history by creating this gem of an album that inspired so many artists in the years after its release and still continues to do so to this day. If you have never heard this album before, please do yourself a favour and listen to it.
I guarantee that you will find yourself tapping your foot or nodding your head to at least one of the tracks on this album. It’s so accessible to fans of all genres. You simply can’t not like at least some of the songs on this album. In my opinion, Weezer built a bridge between pop and rock with their debut album. The success of the ‘Blue Album’ paved the way for so many new artists at the time. So, thank you Weezer for giving us this truly wonderful piece of art that still speaks to so many people, and a very happy 25th birthday to the ‘Blue Album’!