Artists Reflect on 25 Years of Weezer’s The Blue Album258
It will shock no one to hear that (despite our feelings about their latest record) many of our writers at Consequence of Sound grew up with Weezer as a central part of their identity. Personally, I spent the majority of my freshman year of college in 2002 rotating between the same five “Keep Fishin’”-inspired Weezer/Muppets t-shirts that I purchased at the Hot Topic in Peoria, IL’s Northwoods Mall. Our love of early Weezer still runs deep and strong and now approaches a milestone: today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of The Blue Album. To celebrate, we’ve asked a few of our favorite musicians (and fellow Weezer fans) to share their own stories about “Undone (The Sweater Song)”, “Buddy Holly”, and all the rest.
First Impressions of Weezer and The Blue Album
Anna Waronker (that dog.): They were our friends. Like classmates that we hung out with except we were in bands that played together and hung out together.
Tony Maxwell (that dog.): My first memory of Weezer was seeing them at a small club in Hollywood — The Dragonfly, I believe — and I was blown away by how instantly appealing and memorable the songs were. Soon after, they saw us play at the Music Machine in West LA, not far from where they lived, and a mutual admiration quickly emerged. When I first heard The Blue Album, I was, first, impressed by the fact that they got Ric Ocasek to produce, and, second, happy to finally have all those great songs to drive around to in my car.
Chris Conley (Saves the Day): I remember seeing the video for “Undone – The Sweater Song” on 120 Minutes one night on MTV at the tail end of eighth grade. Alternative music was massive at that time and it seemed as if every new band that came out was the best band in the world. Weezer was certainly no exception. Right away the vibe of the video was welcoming and weird but different and cool and unlike all the other videos that were coming out around then. Weezer wasn’t edgy or angsty; they were more like Green Day with their irreverent sense of humor and incredible pop sensibilities. Most bands at the time were dark and brooding and snarling or scowling in their songs and images, but this video was different. It felt like some surreal party movie in slow motion with a bunch of weird dudes dressed in clothes they found in their parents’ closets.
The only problem was that I had no idea what the hell they were singing about! Most bands back then, though, had lyrics that rarely made sense, so I went down to Sam Goody the next day and bought the CD. From the first lick of the acoustic intro on “My Name Is Jonas” to the final fading feedback and bass line of “Only in Dreams”, the album was like a sugary dream-pop opus. Ric Ocasek’s production was perfect. There were loud, distorted guitars mixed with acoustic arpeggios, doo-wop background vocals, crucial bass lines over crushing drums, gorgeous melodies, and squealing guitar solos. There were even some songs that betrayed an emotional depth with lyrics about love and loss and teenage daydreams and adolescent yearning. In other words, it wasn’t all about sweaters!
Masanori Christianson (Rogue Wave): Minneapolis had this University of Minnesota radio station, Radio K, and they had played “Undone (The Sweater Song),” and I just remember thinking, “Oh, this is kind of quirky and cool, and I like it. What is this?” I think Weezer basically exploded shortly thereafter. You know, that’s a pretty fiercely independent station, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Weezer on there again.
Martin Courtney (Real Estate): When we were in second grade, my best friend’s dad worked for a big record distributor, so he had like millions of CDs in his basement. One day, I remember we were hanging out in the backyard or something and he handed it to us and was like, “you guys would probably like this.” And then I remember we both just got super into it. He had his little boombox, and we would like hang out in the backyard and build forts and stuff and listen to The Blue Album.
Then, when I was starting out in high school, someone told me about the existence of Pinkerton. I just remember being like, “Wait, they have another album. What?!” So then I got really into that. It seemed like it was really old when I got into it, but it probably was only like two or three years after that came out.
With that came rediscovering The Blue Album and then like my friends and I kind of like claiming this identity as like, you know, alternative kids. Our whole identity revolved around our fandom of Weezer and being like, “We’re into weird stuff, like Weezer. We’re into music you haven’t heard of, like this multi-platinum album from the ‘90s.”
We formed a band just to cover The Blue Album. We learned the whole record and played a show where we covered it front to back. So yeah, we were deep, deep Blue Album heads, for sure.
What Makes The Blue Album Great
Graham Wright (Tokyo Police Club): That thing has such an unfair amount of hooks packed into it. Like, every song has like 5 to 10 hooks that are good enough to easily sustain an entire song in their own. It feels like they hogged everything.
Conley (Saves the Day): I’m a sucker for pop melodies over loud, distorted guitars, so “No One Else” is a favorite of mine. I like the fact that the lyrics at first seem like it’s a love song, and then you realize he wants to break things off at the end of the first verse. In particular, I like the lines “She laughs at most everything whether it’s funny or not” and “My girl’s got eyeballs in the back of her head.” Those are great details, and they subtly suggest the singer’s opinion of the girl in question without being overtly angry. You could almost mistake this for a happy song.
I love the song “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here”, and I consider it to be one of the first mainstream emo songs. The words are so sad! It feels like a lonely daydream, and the melody in the verses is beautiful and melancholy. When they change to the pre-chorus, it suddenly feels like a poppy Black Sabbath song with chords that shouldn’t fit but somehow do. The chorus is catchy yet oddly subdued, and the acoustic arpeggio over the fuzz guitars is something they do so well on this album, which makes the mood more welcoming even though the words are so sad. This song also has a powerful emotional outro — something they would start doing a lot more of on Pinkerton.
Graham Wright (Tokyo Police Club): The big bangers from that record are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to appreciate their beauty sometimes because they’re just so familiar. I tend to gravitate more towards “Surf Wax America” and “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” (if there’s any such thing as a deep cut on The Blue Album, which is debatable) because I was able to discover them. They weren’t just already there.
Stephen Pope (Wavves): “Holiday” has one of my favorite guitar lick intros of all time. It also has a different feel than the rest of the album emotionally. It’s mostly upbeat and positive, and the ending, while being powerful and epic, seems very happy at the same time … and it’s also in 6/8 time, which gives it a different vibe than the rest.
“Say It Ain’t So” is a perfect song. I had no idea what he was talking about lyrically when I was younger, but I still felt an intensely deep connection to the song. It’s got a beautiful intro and little hints of silliness in the verses, even though it’s super serious and emo. The choruses are insanely powerful, but I think my favorite part of the song is the end of the 3rd verse when he changes it up a bit … “This waaaayyyy, is a waterslide away from me that takes you further everyday.” I think I probably thought he was singing about losing a girl when I was younger. I’ll still pretend it’s about that and not about Dad leaving. It just gets more and more powerful after that with the bridge and the crazy solo. It’s such an amazing song.
Rachel Haden (that dog.): I loved “Only in Dreams” ’cause I’d listen to it on long van rides and just space out to the bass line.
Pope (Wavves): “Only in Dreams” stands out to me, as a not-very-technically-skilled bass player, because of how memorable the bassline is even though it’s so simple. It’s extremely Kim Deal-esque, and I attribute a lot of my playing style to Kim Deal and Matt Sharp. The lyrics are very pretty and way more relatable and understandable to me than “Say It Ain’t So”. Being around girls made me nervous, and this song was about that! Also it has an unusually long outro that never feels too long with a huge climax making a perfect end song on a record.
Christianson (Rogue Wave): Also, the drop tuning. Not like D, I don’t believe. I think it’s like E flat. So it wasn’t scary; it was still heavy. Even though those songs are syrupy and poppy, they had this presence and weight and strength. I was attracted to the rock in it. It’s chunky. It’s sludgy.
The Blue Album on Tour
Haden (that dog.): For me, touring with Weezer and Teenage Fanclub (in the summer of 1995) kind of boosted my self confidence about being in a “rock” band. I never thought of us as sounding as huge as them, but playing with them helped that insecurity of mine.
Waronker (that dog.): They asked, and we said yes. We played together all the time. It felt like a logical move to tour together. loved watching Teenage Fanclub. I hadn’t really listened to them, and my biggest memory is really learning about them.
Maxwell (that dog.): This tour really helped us hone our musical chops and get tighter as a band, which led the way to some of the more sophisticated playing on our third record. It also allowed us to get experience playing in some larger venues, like Central Park’s summer stage. I was a fan of Teenage Fanclub prior to the tour, so it was an added bonus to get to see them play every night and get to know them a bit as people. All lovely blokes! I also remember how crazy it was that Rivers did the tour on one leg since he had had surgery to extend his shorter leg by a couple inches and had his recovering leg in a complicated metal frame. How very rock of you, sir!
“Buddy Holly” on MTV
Conley (Saves the Day): When their second video came out for “Buddy Holly” directed by Spike Jonze and set inside the Happy Days diner with The Fonz and the gang all having a blast twisting to Weezer dressed in 50s getups and greaser haircuts, I was on cloud nine. Not only did I grow up listening to Buddy Holly on the radio with my dad, but I used to watch reruns of Happy Days nearly every day as a kid in the ’80s, so it seemed as if Weezer were a synthesis of everything I loved growing up but better and from the future with fuzz guitars.
Waronker (that dog.): I remember brainstorming on the phone with Spike and landing on the idea. It turned out amazing. Our friend Casey was perfect for the Fonz. I come in at the tail end with bobby socks and and swinging ponytail. It was fun.
Maxwell (that dog.): Spike noticed I could dance a bit, so I got featured throughout the video doing silly moves with a girl I’d never met before. And for the big, climactic moment during the guitar solo when all the instruments drop out except the guitar, Spike thought it would be funny to have me ogling Rivers like an excited school girl. And he was right; it was funny. Also, I wore all my own clothes. To this day, people recognize me from that video! It’s nuts!
Conley (Saves the Day): It didn’t occur to me then that it was an example of their obsession with cross-referencing pop culture — it was just fun and fit the song perfectly. The video still looks fantastic, and in my eyes, it wouldn’t be out of place in the modern mainstream world of art and music. In fact, I think it would be even bigger and create more of a splash if it came out today.
The Blue Album‘s Influence
Christianson (Rogue Wave): Every single song is a great pop song. Not just one song or two songs, but all of them. Ric Ocasek does this amazing job with production. I feel like every song is as good as “Just What I Needed” or something by the Cars. It’s almost like they had a recipe card.
Maxwell (that dog.): I think The Blue Album really struck a chord with audiences at the time because it managed to balance extremely well-crafted songs and accomplished musicianship with humor and emotional honesty in a way that few other albums did at the time.
Courtney (Real Estate): In my mind, The Blue Album is the most innocent one. Obviously, Pinkerton is like, super duper dark and like, tainted by whatever success he [Cuomo] had with The Blue Album. It’s also like, weird and problematic at this point. It’s a completely different vibe. And then I feel like everything after that is kind of cynical. I remember being in high school when The Green Album came out, and every one of my friends was so excited for this new Weezer record. We left school during lunch break. One of our friends with a car drove us to the record store. We all sat around a table in the cafeteria with headphones on and looking at each other. I just remember wanting to love it, but having this feeling of disappointment like, “This isn’t that great. Maybe it’ll grow on me.”
Pope (Wavves): The Blue Album stands out because of how it totally transcends any sort of age barrier. This style of music that, generally, was for high-school/college-aged kids and adults was impacting children somehow. This was my favorite album when I was only nine years old. I have friends a few years younger who said it was their favorite when they were six. I must’ve listened to it hundreds of times before I was even a teenager, and it had an extreme impact on me musically. I think it is the gold standard (for me) on how rock/power-pop records should sound. My ears were literally trained on it so that’s how guitars should sound in my mind.
Courtney (Real Estate): I’ve got little kids now, and I feel like they’d probably like it. I’m trying to get them into it. It’s something that I could be okay with like having to listen to a million times in the car.
Wright (Tokyo Police Club): As a guy who’s not the singer in my band, it pains me to say this because I hate to write off the other dudes who are all for sure incredible musicians who have an important part to play in Weezer’s story, but I think at this point you have to look at the story of Weezer as basically being the naked unadorned story of one man’s creative journey and how that is twisted in with his own psyche and insecurities and second guessing himself. They’re so successful that Rivers Cuomo could write a song that’s like, “Sorry about the songs you didn’t like/ We’ll write better ones from now on,” and it will be a radio single that gets played on K-Rock. That’s feared and rare and fascinating, even as much as it’s also kind of alienating as a fan of Weezer who’s like, “Just write some fucking songs, dude. Stop apologizing all the time. You don’t have to do the cover of Africa just as Twitter said you do.”
Pope (Wavves): Weezer will unfortunately always have the problem of trying to live up to their first two albums. The Blue Album and Pinkerton are both so good in such different ways and I think really shaped a certain (big) group of people’s musical minds. Everyone is chasing after that nostalgic feeling now, so later releases aren’t really given a chance. I am guilty of that myself. I camped out for The Green Album when I was 15, and I liked it, but I stopped obsessing over Weezer after Maladroit and sort of fell off for a few years. I never stopped listening to Blue or Pinkerton, though. I feel bad that I fell off, but I have from time to time gone through some of the releases I missed, and each one has some bangers. Their latest songs are blowing me away. “High as a Kite” is the same old Weezer that I’ve always loved, and I’m glad they’re still doing it.
Conley (Saves the Day): Nothing can change how I feel about The Blue Album. It’s a perfect record, and it sounds as good today as it did the day it came out. Weezer was one of the best things to happen to ’90s music. They were not only a breath of fresh air, but they felt like friends. You could relate to them. They were your older brothers who picked up guitars and cranked up their amps in the garage, but they were certified gold rock stars. They were weird and wild and completely crazy but so completely cool, and this album is by far one of the best records in the history of rock.