1994 was a pretty wildtime. Alternative rock was peaking, Green Day released one of the greatest and most commercially successful punk rock albums of all time, I was born, Oasis would release a record breaking debut with Definitely Maybe, Claire Danes was thriving on television with My So-Called Life, Pink Floyd disbanded (it really was time at that point,) depending on how you view things, Richard Nixon died, Friends debuted, much of the most relevant pieces of cinema (Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, Clerks, etc.) were being released, and all of this made for a pretty great year. Sure, Radiohead were still floundering and in trouble of becoming one-hit wonders, Kurt Cobain died (on my parents’ wedding day, believe it or not,) and The Real World was paving the way for other pointless reality television program (though that could just as easily be blamed on An American Family.) Every year has its claim to fame, and 1994 is no exception. My parents grew up in this era. Pavement were The Beatles of this period. Rap and hip-hop became relevant in this time. Boy-bands died not a moment too soon after. Grunge boomed and became irrelevant. The most important aspect of this here decade is the time of Generation X. Chuck Klosterman gives Luke Skywalker as the quintessential mold for Gen X’ers. This makes a ton of sense. Most adults from this period grew up with Star Wars, and therefore, wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Everyone nowadays wants to be Han Solo (and why wouldn’t they? Luke Skywalker has a lightsaber, and lightsabers are awesome. As awesome as they are, Han Solo is a bad—-. Also, Luke is consistently whiny.) What you have are a bunch of idealistic, slacker-esque, rebel children who’s parents were the characters in Dazed and Confused. This is The Blue Album.
Many people will argue that Pinkerton is superior to Weezer’s Blue Album. I cannot his on several grounds. For one, I have not had as much time to ingest Pinkerton. Additionally, it could be that The Blue Album is simply better. It’s pretty factual that The Blue Album is far more accessible. It could all just be personal preference (which is the likeliest.) It’s the group’s first and finest album. In fact, Weezer’s entire discography shows an exponential regression in quality. I mean seriously, look me in the eye and honestly say that Make Believe does not suck or that Hurley’s only merit is that Jorge Garcia made the cover or even that Red Album is just a lazy name for an album with a few good tunes and the rest a mess. Even Green Album has a lot going for it. I swear, during that five year hiatus between Pinkerton and Green Album, things changed for worse. I can argue Weezer’s mediocrity and make Alicia Florrick look even more embarrassing than Chris Noth ever could in no time. This is not what I want to do. I’d like to argue the greatness of Weezer’s debut album.
The first thing listeners here from Weezer’s first official LP is the picking of an acoustic melody, but not before Rivers Cuomo proclaims “My Name is Jonas” and that “I’m carrying the will.” All alleged references to The Giver aside, the song talks about Rivers’ brother Leaves getting into a car wreck and his family not letting their insurance cover the damages. A lot of it has a very nostalgic nature to it that confronts the reality of the speaker’s present situation. Still, it ends on a strangely accepting note.
“No One Else” is one of the strangest tunes of all time. I want it to be sweet, and I want to appreciate the narrator. Instead, we have a narrator who is selfish and very jealous. Clingy is a good way to describe it. He wants a girl who will laugh for no one else. In a way, it is sweet. Cuomo wants someone that will be only his. He wants a girl that will take care of him and pay attention to him. At the very least, it’s honest. That is what any normal person really wants, no matter how selfless anyone seems to come off as. What kills a truly loving spouse more than their partner having eyes for anyone other than them? I know I want a girl who won’t laugh for anyone but me. I’m hilarious, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
“The World Has Turned and Left Me” is sort of like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe of The Blue Album. It was the first of any Weezer song to be written for the album, yet it is a sequel to “No One Else.” That is what the band says anyhow. Sure, the guy is paranoid and overbearing, but all he wanted was to be a loved boyfriend. He talks to her picture and she just listened. I bet he would have loved it if it were her instead of a photograph. It’s heartbreaking. When Dwight Schrute is dumped by Angela Martin, it’s hard not to feel for him. Even Jim Halpert comes to Dwight’s aid. Completely worthy of being in Weezer’s catalog.
The fourth song off of the legendary Blue Album is “Buddy Holly.” This song is romantic against Rivers Cuomo’s will. I personally identify with this song as every girl I am infatuated with is Mary Tyler Moore, and I am most certainly Buddy Holly. She is some kind of wonderful and gorgeous creation destined to be an Emmy winning working girl while I am some goofball that may or may not die in a plane crash. The song is upbeat and that’s how devotion should be. It shouldn’t be slow and sappy. It should be in-your-face and happy. The other aspect of this song that is noteworthy is its lack of self-consciousness. Cuomo doesn’t care what they say about them anyway. I know that’s how I would feel. If I had a Mary Tyler Moore-esque companion, I wouldn’t care what they said about it. It is entirely possible that the female might care…
“Undone (The Sweater Song)” is like that feeling you get when your song that you wrote is supposed to be sad, but then everyone thinks it’s the funniest thing in the entire world. Supposedly, Cuomo went to Berklee and even to Harvard College. Most people would assume that he’s a pretty smart guy. He probably is. It still baffles me how he could not think that writing a song about a freaking sweater would not be subject to at least minor ridicule. I mean, a sweater? Come on. Still, it’s a great song. I can see how it might be sad. It’s about being proverbially destroyed or deconstructed. Perhaps the clips of the party in between verses adds a layer where some introverted guest just runs into these people. I dunno. Personally, this is my least favorite song off of the album, so it’s hard to talk about in a positive light. However, it is the most interesting song on the album.
There are some times when people need to let loose or take their board to work while other people run out of gas on the way there. “Surf Wax America,” though mean spirited in conception, is what a party song should be. It speaks about not caring about things like work or driving. There’s drinking and surfing and Cuomo isn’t gonna go home. Hedonistic or not, it is a tune to be rocked out to. The first half of the album is about isolation, rejection, and isolation. “Surf Wax America” maybe be just as bleak in a sarcastic sense, but if you’re willing to look past that, it’s pretty uplifting.
Following in a theme of non-conformity and individuality on The Blue Album, “In the Garage” addresses this more directly. In the garage, no one can see Cuomo play Dungeons and Dragons or find posters of KISS on his walls. No one will hear him play his crappy songs. When he’s by himself, he can be himself. So identifiable is this tune to any person that is introverted or lonely or simply rejected by the outside world. This is a very youth oriented song. Unless you are a huge loser, when else would this be a problem? All ridicule aside, locking myself in my room to escape the outside world writing, listening to music, thinking, playing guitar, playing Game Boy and listening to music at the same time, etc. Nothing really matters when there’s no one around to judge you or make fun of you for various reasons. If there is ever a champion of the outcasts and misfits, it’s early Cuomo, writing songs about looking like Buddy Holly, surfing, and rocking out in a garage. The safety of loneliness is one that can only be appreciated by a few, but it’s completely worth it to be one of them.
“Say it Ain’t So” is what Weezer should have always been; awesome. There’s that mellow riff that plays throughout the verse, then that booming chorus and bridge, that rocking solo, and the strange lyrics about drinking. It all makes for a great song. According to Cuomo, the song is about finding a can of bear in his stepfather’s fridge, and he knew it signified that stepfather heading out the door, as his father had taken up drinking when Cuomo’s mother left him. Cuomo also didn’t drink until it was legal for him to. Even now, he doesn’t drink if he can avoid it. It’s the feeling of any husband finding out their wife is being unfaithful, or of Walter White finding out the hostage in the basement whom he’d started to get to know is planning on killing him with a shard from a broken plate. It’s impending rapture, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t want it to be so, but it is.
Perhaps the simplest song on Blue Album, “Holiday” is a runaway song if there ever was one. All it is is taking your significant other away from the world and wanting to be alone. It’s sweet, optimistic, and loving. In fact, there really isn’t a lot to say about it. It’s more or less a precursor to the arguably superior “Island in the Sun.” “Holiday” is still quite amazing.
The end of The Blue Album ends with something completely different than everything else, and probably my favorite song Weezer ever wrote. In fact, many fans regard this as the best song in the group’s collection. “Only in Dreams” is the embodiment of the adolescent struggle for love. I can only fathom how many times I’ve wanted to hear that girl say she might take a chance. It is what “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” could have been. This mastered the crescendo long before Death Cab for Cutie could start abusing it. Another interesting aspect of “Only in Dreams” is that it is rare that the very last song is the best on the album. The only times I can think of this are Death Cab for Cutie’s Something About Airplanes (“Line of Best Fit”,) The Antlers’ Hospice (“Epilogue”,) Green Day’s American Idiot (“Whatsername”,) Radiohead’s In Rainbows (“Videotape”,) and Pink Floyd’s Meddle (“Echoes”.) The Blue Album is an album that keeps building and it ends so perfectly. There ends The Blue Album
As a whole, The Blue Album flows like the Mississippi. It’s perfectly cohesive, and there really isn’t a bad song on it. “Undone (The Sweater Song)” is my least favorite song on the album, and I still think it’s a great song.
The Blue Album is a perfect account of Generation X, as it encapsulates the Luke Skywalker demeanor. It’s hopeful, idealistic, rebellious, and whiny all in the same breath. Sure, Pinkerton is the hardened Han Solo that most people prefer, but Blue Album is its own perfect little creation. Much like If You’re Feeling Sinister, most of the songs on Blue Album will be pretty youth oriented, as Cuomo was only twenty-three at the time of the album’s release. Adolescence was’t that far off, especially when his upbringing is characterized to by the savior of the Galactic Empire. It’s a shame that Weezer has done so poorly over the years. Sure, they churn out a successful single every once in a while, but the material just isn’t what it should be. To ask them to improve is a little too late. The group is past their prime. At least we have their first two or three records to remind us that they were once a very promising group.
“No One Else”
“Say It Ain’t So”
“Surf Wax America”
“Only in Dreams”