Weezer – Self Titled – 1994
1 My Name Is Jonas 3:23
2 No One Else 3:14
3 The World Has Turned and Left Me Here 4:26
4 Buddy Holly 2:40
5 Undone (the Sweater Song) 2:55
6 Surf Wax America 3:04
7 Say It Ain’t So 4:18
8 In the Garage 3:56
9 Holiday 3:26
10 Only in Dreams 8:03
Weren’t the 90’s wonderful? Well, maybe not if you were Weezer. Despite making some of the brightest pop and some of the cleverest videos of the past 30 years, few bands have ever courted such widespread derision and hipster contempt as Weezer did when they released their first record, barely a month after ground zero for grunge, the death of Kurt Cobain.
Most of the scorn came from circles that felt that Weezer had co-opted the heavy guitar sound of Nirvana and the dynamics of the Pixies and fixed them to their own revisionist power pop. And in the new “real” world of the grunge ethos, that was somehow…. fake. But, now as then, the truth remains that the first Weezer album is a pure, cool blast of unabashed pop joyfulness, killer hooks and some of the quirkiest introspective lyrics of its era.
Opening with the Pixies-esque “My Name is Jonas”, the album immediately reveals that band’s deft handling of very very heavy guitars with interesting and left-field melodic ideas.”No-one Else” takes a classicist 70’s AM radio approach, albeit with a contemporary raspy guitar drone, and has some whacky lyrics which keep you listening. The record hits its stride with the classic “World Has Turned and Left Me Here” – bittersweet power pop at its very best.
“Buddy Holly”, with its begin-in-the middle song structure, sing a long chorus to die for and notorious Spike Jonze video, remains most people’s memory of the album and it’s a fine song – but a little one dimensional compared to the two that came before it (and what do the lyrics mean,anyway?)
“Undone” is simply one of the cleverest singles of the 90’s, the circular guitars building a hypnotic whirl over the inane surfer-dudery of the dudes yammering at the beginning. When Rivers Cuomo comes in with his nervy, paranoid vocal, unraveling like the titular sweater. Of course, the Pixies comparisons here are inevitable (but they become more pointed later) , as well, but the song itself is ingenious and enjoyable.
“Say it Isn’t So” is, to some, the high point of the album and to others, the low – while the shadow and spirit of the Pixies hangs heavy over the album, generally it has been enhanced by Weezer’s ability to fuse it neo-classic pop influences – but on “Say it isn’t So” it just seems aping and obvious.
“In the Garage”, an uber-geek anthem, returns Weezer the the good, going back to their 70’s radio roots (namechecking KISS in the process) and locking themselves in as the quintessential post-Reagan era man-children. Of course, it would take them many years to shake that image, but the song works as clever pastiche or as heartfelt emo/outsider anthem. The theme continues on “Holiday”, where Cheap Trick meets “Doolitte”, via Cumom’s pseudo-inarticulate nerd fantasy. However, the epic “Only in Dreams” overtsays its welcome somewhat, but only in as much as it obscures a fine song.
The beauty is, though, this is an album where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts. This is an album that came as one era reached it’s fatal dead end and showed a way forward. Ultimately, it was a promise that Weezer could never deliver, but as a ray of light, it was a bright and timely beam.