It is hard to believe that Weezer’s first self-titled album, and my favorite album of all time, turns 20 today. It is even harder to believe that I was just five years old when this album was released.
“The Blue Album” was the perfect mixture of driving power chords and pop progressions and was instantly relatable to just about any person who lifted an ear. Hi-gain guitar solos — that bleed profusely with feedback and natural harmonics — appeal to the angst-ridden teenage crowd. At the same time, children of the radio can recall (on command) little pieces of each song, from the opening riff of “Say it Ain’t So” to the melodic guitar interlude in “Buddy Holly.” There is a reason why so many people call this album the best of all time.
Rather than talk about the album in general I wanted to take a look back at the individuals songs to better articulate why this album is so important and why it resonates so well with such a wide audience.
It is worth noting that I could rattle off the names of all the songs on the album in the proper order as I wrote this article. A pretty impressive feat, I must say 😉
My Name is Jonas
“My Name is Jonas” is a brilliant introduction because it starts with the concept of the open guitar riff, a motif of the album that is featured on many of the later songs (“The World has Turned and Left Me Here” and “Surf Wax America” to name a couple). It then veers into the other dominant force on the album — huge power chords. Seriously, just listen to the size of these things.
While I’m sure this is not the first time a band has ever done this, as an aspiring guitar player, it was cool to hear such “open” power chords. Rather than play the typical three note power-chord on the A string (or should I say Ab string??), the guys in Weezer would accent the chords by also playing the same numbered fret as the “root” note on the low E string. I apologize if this is too much guitar gibberish and you want to hear me gushing about the melodies, but this is such a crucial element of the record that I feel it is important to mention.
Every chord has this open, if slightly muddy tone that just drives the listener from song to song. In “My Name is Jonas” the cymbals, kick pedal, and bass guitar all collide on the beat with the guitar, and the result is tremendous. Once the introduction to the song is over, the song barely breathes and just carries on with the previously mentioned assault.
Also, there is a harmonica solo I think. Awesome.
You remember: “The workers are going home!”
No One Else
“I want a girl who will laugh for no one else… When I’m away she never leaves the house..”
Take these lyrics to mean what you will; I choose the side of the less misogynistic. This is a simple pop-punk piece that talks about a boy’s frustrations with a girl who might be seeing someone else or who is sexually promiscuous. It is everything that a teenager goes through, and it is an effective song.
This song always felt like the call to the response of “No Other One” on their next album, Pinkerton, in both the message and the tone.
Truthfully, this is my least favorite song on the album, but it is still a classic.
You remember: “And, if you see her, tell her it’s over now!”
The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
I don’t know where I was when I first heard the solo in “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” but it was subconsciously one of the most sonically relevant moments of my life. Occasionally, I feel that this simple, dirty guitar solo might be the greatest ever. Very few notes are played, and there is absolutely no nuance. It’s just an emotionally rattled individual standing in front of a gigantic amplifier, drowning out carefully placed notes with feedback and swells of treble.
I am not quite sure why Rivers stopped playing solos like this. Maybe he got bored. Maybe he got comfortable. It has been years since we have heard a “great” Rivers Cuomo guitar solo (the last good one, in my opinion, appeared on “Perfect Situation” off Make Believe), and it is unfortunate.
The lyrics echo the feeling someone gets when they fall out of a lengthy relationship and don’t know how to start again. This is something that almost anyone can understand.
With a bit less feedback, this song probably could have been the most popular one on the album……
You remember: Hopefully the solo at this point in the conversation.
…….But then you hear “Buddy Holly.” I always forget if this track or “Undone — The Sweater Song” is the biggest hit from the album, and I do not care to do any further research. Buddy Holly has some of the most recognizable everything. The guitar rhythm, the vocal melody, the solo. EVERYTHING!
It also informed many as to who Buddy Holly is and why Rivers wears those ridiculous glasses (though he didn’t wear them at the time when the record arrived).
I don’t really care to say much about this song because my fingers are getting tired and because you already know everything about it. Also, the video:
You remember: The little guitar part at the end of the solo that kinda sounds like a synthesizer off of a The Cars album.
Undone — The Sweater Song
Just when you thought music couldn’t get more infectious than “Buddy Holly”, you heard a random discussion about going to some party with an old friend. You wrinkled your nose, because you had no idea what was happening. Did the Pixies had just invaded the studio space. Then you heard a song even more infectious.
The chords are even simpler, and the song never truly diverts from the path of the open guitar riff that starts the song.
This is a song that builds from a humble introduction to an explosive array of power chords that are so explosive as to detuned the piano, which closes out the song.
You remember: The “Oooo-woooo-oooo”s at the end of the song.
Surf Wax America
This song rocks.
If it is summer, it is probably a good idea to add this song to the playlist. It is about having fun, and the music has
The song is about finding the simpler things in life. Your friends are becoming wealthy, home-owning business people, but that’s okay because you have found a different path of enlightenment. When John Lennon was six, a teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he got older. John replied, “Happy.” I find this song to be a perfect representation of that quote.
I believe one of the major reasons that the Blue Album has become so popular is the fact that Weezer is having fun the whole time. Though the lyrics might be despondent, they are masked by hooky riffs and happy chord progressions. You can have fun and be filled with angst at the same time. Recent Death Cab for Cutie has done this too, to great effect. Just listen to “No Sunlight” for a good example.
You remember: “You take your car to work, I’ll take my board!”
Say it Ain’t So
As I mentioned before, I was five years old when this album was released. Was I listening to this album while I was in kindergarten? Hell no.
So what spurred me to purchase this album? That would be “Say it Ain’t So,” the best song with some of the worst lyrics I have ever heard.
The balance of surfy rhythm tones (a brilliant transition from “Surf Wax America”), clean leads, and riding bass lines creates a calming atmosphere that is shattered by the dysfunction of certain members of the family cookout. I have no clue what the actual lyrics are about, but I always envisioned sitting uncomfortably with your family by the beer cooler until somebody speaks up to break the silence with some terrible news.
This song also has one of the most recognizable bridges, culminating with a soulful guitar solo.
You remember: The opening guitar riff and the “bendy note” from the second chorus.
In The Garage
“In the Garage” is the moment where you realize why you have fallen in love with the album. You are an out-of-place geek in the same situation as the lead singer, and you didn’t even realize it.
You play dungeons and dragons, and you listen to terrible classic rock with your collection of figurines. Okay, this doesn’t perfectly describe me, but I can relate to the geeky nature of the song and the separation of geek and cool.
All meaning aside, this song has terrible lyrics too. But they are terrible in the same way that the Beatles lyrics are terrible. The lyrics are simple to a fault, and as a listener, you suddenly become okay with that. “In the Garage” is about being an outcast and being okay with it.
You remember: Every word of the song if you are a fellow geek.
I don’t have much to say about Holiday, it is a great, driving pop song like all of the others.
I suppose I can use this song to iterate the clear sign of a great album. I have previously written articles about the importance of the tone and flow of an album. To feel complete, an “album” has to sound familiar from start to finish and carry motifs from song to song to keep the listener consistently engaged.
If I am in a Weezer mood, the ENTIRE album becomes a viable experience. When you don’t create a complete experience, all you are left with is a “collection of good songs”. Thankfully, The Blue Album is equal parts “collection of good songs” AND perfect flow. There isn’t a song on the album to remove your attention from the overall themes and sounds of the record.
Holiday is a song that also has great power chords and memorable melodies.
You remember: “Haaa-eeeeeaart Beee-eeeeaaaat. Haaa-eeeaaart Beee-eeeeaaaat.”
Only in Dreams
Phew, bear with me. All we have to get through is the longest song on the album, and then you are free to enjoy your day.
Though “Only in Dreams” is easily the longest song on the album — by about three minutes — it is also one of the simplest. To continue to reference the Beatles, “Only in Dreams” runs like “I Want You” by the Fab Four. You are pulled into this dream-like state, listening to the same riffs over and over again as the tension builds. You are then quickly pulled into reality as the songs come to a close. While the aforementioned Beatles song is far more abrupt, the similarities are there.
It’s also a song about wanting to be with someone and fantasizing about it — something we have all done at one point or another in our lives (even at the age of five with that cute girl in the other kindergarten class).
You remember: The bass line. Or the fact that the song never seems to end.
Thanks for reading my look back at Weezer’s Blue Album
I hope you, like me, can relate and appreciate this album in it’s entirety. If you have never heard this album before and stumbled across this article (unlikely), this is definitely an experience to have… Even 20 years later.