In The Garage: Weezer’s Debut Record Revisited

All images courtesy of Weezer Facebook (official)

By John Siden

All images courtesy of Weezer Facebook (official)

The early 90s was an especially vibrant time in music. The grunge and Seattle scene had left their lasting imprint, and record companies were signing bands like crazy. Once that had subsided. Green Day came along and made punk viable commercially, so lots of bands were getting deals.

Weezer was a bit different but still came onto the scene around the same time and in a big way. Weezer’s 1994 debut aka The Blue Album was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars, so going in, you knew the production would be slick. Weezer was more or less introduced to the world through “Undone (The Sweater Song) but it was the song “Buddy Holly” and the Spike Jonze-directed MTV smash-hit video that truly launched Weezer to stardom. River Cuomo’s songs have a combination of melody, mixed with a slight heaviness, bookended by smart lyrics. To be honest, Weezer’s entire debut record could be released as a “single.” That’s how stellar these songs are.

To start, Weezer’s lineup consisted of Rivers Cuomo (guitar vocals), Patrick Wilson (drums), Matt Sharp (bass), and Jason Cropper (guitar). Due some issues, Cropper was fired from the band and subsequently replaced by Brian Bell (guitar). Cuomo then re-recorded Cropper’s guitar parts for the record, but Cropper still garnered a writing credit for the intro of “My Name Is Jonas.”

Matt Sharp, besides being the bassist, was also Weezer’s de-facto manager at the start. Rivers Cuomo gave Sharp a year to get the band a record deal, as he also had a scholarship offer to attend the University of California in Berkeley.

The videos for “Undone (The Sweater Song),” and “Buddy Holly” were both directed by Spike Jonze and helped propel Weezer into the mainstream. The album itself is ten blasts of power pop earworms, without a dud in the bunch.

All images courtesy of Weezer Facebook (official)

Kicking off with “My Name Is Jonas,” which starts with a little acoustic intro before the full band experience kicks in, with a ton of Pixies-inspired chord progressions to follow. The track is super catchy and sets the tone for what is to come. “No One Else” is a catchy, if not slightly misogynistic anthem about a man wanting to control his girl. Those issues aside, the track has good lyrics and again, a catchy melody.

Next, we have “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” which was featured on the demo, The Kitchen Tape. The track is mid-tempo but as catchy as everything else on the album. The last half of side two features the singles “Buddy Holly” and “Undone (The Sweater Song),” “Buddy Holly” being the fast peppy track, and “Undone” being a little slower, with a big chorus.

Side two kicks off with “Surf Wax America,” a fast-paced and melodic affair. I feel this track serves as a perfect means to keep the flow going on The Blue Album. Next up, is the third single, Say It Ain’t So, which was also featured on The Kitchen Tape. Digging deeper, we’ve got “In The Garage,” where Rivers Cuomo mentions some of his influences, in particular, KISS, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss specifically. Overall, from a fan and historical perspective, it’s pretty cool, and it’s a phenomenal song to boot. “Holiday” is another catchy straightforward power-pop song, and “Only In Dreams” closes out the record in style, with a slower song that builds to an epic ending.

I did see Weezer on this tour, but the show itself was a bit lacking. I am not sure what was going on with the band that night, but they were devoid of energy and seemed angry. The songs were performed well but there was no spark. The show opener, Archers of Loaf, did a much better set. Maybe I will get another shot to see Weezer in the future.

Looking back, Weezer’s The Blue Album qualifies, in my mind at least, as one of the great albums of the 90s. I return to it often. I expect these songs will be in the public consciousness for a long time to come, and for that, we can be truly thankful.

All images courtesy of Weezer Facebook (official)

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