Saturday, October 1, 2016

1994 - Weezer (The Blue Album)

This one's a bit personal. 1994 was hands down Weezer vs. Nine Inch Nails. And I was ill-equipped to make the decision; tossing and turning. The Downward Spiral was the culmination of everything alt., the child to Pink Floyd and Unknown Pleasures and Bowie and Tool and Ministry. It was an LP that I'd wished for, waited for, but there is no doubt that in '94 I listened to the Blue Album ten times more. It was that old syndrome of needing time – like Burgess Meredith in that episode of The Twilight Zone ("There's time now.") – The Downward Spiral wasn't an LP for the car or for getting dressed to go out or for washing the dishes. NIN needed time, devotion, focus. The Blue Album took a hit on a bong and three minutes. 

Decision made: Weezer is the most impactful LP of 1994, and probably the 90s. Twenty-two years ago, on May 10, 1994, a bunch of sweater-donning dweebs got together and released their self-titled debut album. Weezer — affectionately dubbed The Blue Album for its cover—introduced the world to power chord pop punk and teen earnestness, effectively making uncool look really 'effin' cool. Spike Jonze' "Buddy Holly" video was in direct contrast to Nirvana's "In Bloom," which effectively portrayed how ridiculous Nirvana would be for an audience of teens in the Eisenhower era. Weezer, conversely, look like a Wisconsin teen quartet that plays sock hops and Bar Mitvahs and fit right in in a sweater and loafers at Arnold's. That said, that geeky cool plays off as modern as Monica Lewinsky's blue dress on "Undone; The Sweater Song," a hipster anthem written before most hipsters were born. I know I show my age when I tout "Bennie and the Jets" or "Ventura Highway," but here, not in the 70s and not The Beatles and not "How Soon is Now" and not even "Love Will Tear Us Apart" — this is the best single ever. At least while you're listening to it, you know, until you're not high any longer.

In an interesting reversal of this multifaceted emotional outpouring, tracks like "Surf Wax America," "In the Garage," and "Holiday" encourage solace through escapism, whether by spending a day at the beach, playing guitar and Dungeons and Dragons in the garage, or setting off in search of some idyllic wonderland far, far away.  The prime example of this — as well as the inarguable opus of the record — is the eight minute giant and closer "Only In Dreams," a musical and lyrical roller coaster filled with melancholy, pining, and hopeful possibility. The tender track opens with a simple but unforgettable bass line, followed by a slow layering of drums, acoustic and electric guitar, and finally vocals. "You can’t resist her/ She's in your bones,/ She is your marrow/ And your ride home" Cuomo sings, opening the track with the sort of mythologizing that happens when you're first falling in love. The song itself follows suit, becoming its own mythology as guitar lines intertwine in a dynamic call and response, with bass and drums propelling the tempo and tension forward, resulting in a tremendous and unforgettable climax. And of course, in an internet outburst he'll never live down, Cuomo referred to the song as "Gay, Gay, Disneygay," as funny as the song itself.

There’s an insecurity to Weezer that has great universal appeal. While Rivers unashamedly signs about D&D and Superheroes, underneath is a lack of  confidence nowhere more apparent than on "Say it Ain't So": "Somebody’s Heiney is crowding my icebox/ Somebody’s cold one, is giving me chills/ Guess I’ll just close my eyes." In this age (or that age) of mindless and undeserved overconfidence, "Say it Ain't So" was the reality of the American collective soul. The Blue Album was the soundtrack to the 90s.