This, ladies and gentlemen, is geek rock. And with apologies to They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies – the co-creators of this sub-genre — it doesn’t get any geekier, meatier or soulful than this. Yes, I described a Weezer album as soulful.
If punk rock is an unprovoked, teeth-rattling sock in the jaw from a dumpster-diving junkie, geek rock is a playful poke in the eye from the pocket protector-clad nerd who quietly sat behind you in algebra class. Remember him?
Maybe you were him, in which case Weezer’s self-titled debut (often called The Blue Album) is the soundtrack to your life – and not just because the lyrics tell cleverly crafted tales of awkward adolescence; the gawky guitar riffs and quirky keyboard lines also conspire to paint a picture of clumsy first kisses, Dungeons and Dragons-laced evenings, and endless dreams of escaping the life of a luckless nerd.
Produced by former Cars frontman Rick Ocasek, The Blue Album skitters along with the same nervous energy that fueled his previous band’s ascent to pop stardom; you can dance to it (well, kind of) or you can lean back and revel in the bittersweet silliness of post-pubescent/pre-parenthood angst that inspired this near classic.
Weezer’s original line-up:
Brian Bell – Guitar, vocals
Rivers Cuomo – vocals, guitar
Matt Sharp – Bass, vocals
Patrick Wison — drums
Weezer — Weezer (Blue Album): Track-by-track review
1. “My Name Is Jonas”
It’s not entirely clear who “Jonas” here is, or to whom he is being introduced, but no matter; the real introduction is from band to audience.
The opening track of a debut album often apes the tension of that first awkward handshake, the uncomfortable eye contact of a first glance. But Jonas sails right through all that on a jangly torrent of ear-grabbing garage band-ready riffs. It is the album’s most relentless rocker, the closest they would come to standard-issue punk, before finding their souls in the sea of geekdom to follow.
2. “No One Else”
While unabashedly evoking the Ramones, the boys seem to have stumbled upon something deeper than mere proto-punk mimicry: a hipster love song that somehow transcends its irony.
I want a girl who will laugh for no one else
When I’m away she puts her makeup on the shelf
When I’m away she never leaves the house
I want a girl who laughs for no one else
Is this vulnerability or a manic desire to control? The urgent question is never quite answered here, but what good is a love song that doesn’t keep us guessing?
3. “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here”
This anthem of self-loathing skips along so seamlessly that its dark soul may remain hidden from the less angst-inclined listener. But you’d have to work awfully hard to ignore such unceasingly sad lyrics as these:
I talked for hours to your wallet photograph
And you just listened
You laughed enchanted by intellect
Or maybe you didn’t
Lacking the mawkish sentiment to inspire either an earnest tear or a mocking giggle, “The World” nonetheless earns points for its willingness to reveal its author’s dorky soul. Who but the truly forlorn would pollute the world with so desperate a rhyming couplet as this?
And in your place an empty space
Has filled the void behind my face
4. “Buddy Holly”
“Buddy Holly” instantly earns its place among pop songs that endear themselves to their listeners with a single opening line:
What’s with these homies dissing my girl
Why do they gotta front?
Conjuring up an image of doomed young lovers braving a tidal wave of disapproval, this tune simply bounces along as few others ever have and happily escorts us through a clunky bridge, declarations of undying love and an abrupt but somehow satisfying finish.
Not recommended for those who take their rock without sugar.
5. “Undone (The Sweater Song)”
If you want to destroy my sweater
Hold this thread as I walk away
Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked
Lying on the floor (lying on the floor)
I’ve come undone
Few songs about the systematic destruction of wool-based clothing strike a nerve as nakedly as this one. As the hauntingly harmonized coos form a soul-crushing crescendo with the aid of rapidly strummed guitars, it may occur to the savvy fan that the song is about much more than sweaters, and indeed much more than the drunken patter that decorates the soundscape.
So what is it about? I don’t know. And I don’t need to.
6. “Surf Wax America”
The lyrics call to mind a post-punk Beach Boys while the wave of gushing guitars crash to the shore.
You take your car to work
I’ll take my board
And when you’re out of fuel
I’m still afloat
And then the rhythm picks up and suggests more than post-surf parody; good vibrations indeed.
7. “Say It Ain’t So”
There are classic pop songs that cast their spell from the opening riff (see “Buddy Holly”) and there are others that sneak up on you. “Say it Aint So” slithers under the radar with a quiet quasi-reggae rhythm and an innocuous “oh, yeah” and “alright.” But this is not a feel good number; this is a descent into hell.
Is crowdin’ my icebox
Somebody’s cold one
Is givin’ me chills
Guess I’ll just close my eyes
If the dark hints at alcohol-driven family drama are too veiled for you, the angry guitar grinds and heartfelt screams say much more than a detailed account of a dysfunctional dad ever could.
I can’t speak for the song’s creator, but a listen to it is both heartbreakingly painful and cathartic.
8. “In The Garage”
We begin with a sweet harmonica-tinged litany of everything that comforts our protagonist:
I’ve got a Dungeon Master’s Guide
I’ve got a 12-sided die
I’ve got Kitty Pryde
And Nightcrawler too
Waiting there for me
Yes I do, I do
We later add Kiss posters and (surprise!) an electric guitar to the list. And while the dangers that lurk outside are never revealed (or even hinted at) we can guess that the world for this Kiss-worshiping Dungeon Master is not a happy place.
In fact this youngster’s garage sounds a lot like Brian Wilson’s room: a safe haven from a scary world.
The theme of escape presses on, but this time more romantically and less conspicuously inspired by adolescent angst.
Let’s go away for a while
You and I
To a strange and distant land
Where they speak no word of truth
But we don’t understand anyway
But what “Holiday” lacks in heartbreak, it also lacks in intense, raw emotion. Something seems missing in that complex swirl of anxiously plucked power chords.
10. “Only In Dreams”
This wistful power ballad very nearly pulls off what it seems to aspire to: an exclamation point on an exceptional (if not quite flawless) album.
It starts out with a sweetly rollicking beat and jangly guitar. But by now we know the Weezer formula too well, and when the power chords mash through the half-opened door, we are not surprised. Nor do the off-beat lyrics (“I will crush your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces”) catch us fully off guard.
And yet the heartfelt refrain still inspires a sing-a-long:
Only in dreams…
Only in dreams…
Only in dreams…
And the bouncy repetitive bass figure finds a welcome home in my head.
Weezer (Blue Album) by Weezer
“My Name Is Jonas”
“No One Else”
“The World Has Turned And Left Me Here”
“Undone (The Sweater Song)”
“Surf Wax America”
“Say It Ain’t So”
“In The Garage”
“Only In Dreams”