Weezer (The Blue Album)
|Studio album by Weezer|
|Released||May 10, 1994
March 23, 2004 (Deluxe Edition)
Electric Lady StudiosNew York City, NY
|Genre||Alternative rock, pop punk, power pop|
|Individual song reviews|
Weezer (The Blue Album)
|Singles from Weezer|
Cover of 2004 double-CD deluxe edition
Weezer (often referred to as The Blue Album) is the debut studio album by Weezer. It was released on May 10, 1994 by Geffen Records. The album was produced by former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek and recorded in Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Weezer spawned the popular singles "Undone - The Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly", both of which were responsible for launching Weezer into mainstream success with the aid of music videos directed by Spike Jonze.
After recording The Kitchen Tape in hopes of creating interest in L.A., Weezer eventually attracted attention from major-label A&R reps looking for alternative rock bands while performing on the same bill as the band that dog. They were then signed to DGC Records on June 26, 1993, by Todd Sullivan, an A&R rep from Geffen. While prepping for the forthcoming studio sessions, the band focused on their vocal interplay by practicing barbershop quartet-styled songs, which helped both lead singer Rivers Cuomo and bassist Matt Sharp achieve a newfound collaborative comfort during rehearsals. Sharp, who never sang before joining Weezer, gained his falsetto background vocal abilities. "I had to sing an octave higher than Rivers. After a lot of practice, I started to get it down."
Fifteen songs were rehearsed for the album during early practice sessions in New York in preparation for the Electric Lady Studios album recording. Ten of the songs appear on the album, but four of the songs were cut: "Lullaby for Wayne", "I Swear It's True", "Getting Up and Leaving", and a reprise version of "In The Garage." The other song, "Mykel and Carli", was attempted during the Electric Lady sessions, but was also abandoned. It would be recorded a year later and became a popular B-side, and eventually get a proper release on the "Undone - The Sweater Song" single.
The band briefly considered self-producing, but were pressured by Geffen to choose a producer. They ultimately decided on Ric Ocasek. Cuomo explained his choice: "I'd always admired The Cars and Ric Ocasek's songwriting and production skills." During production, Ocasek convinced the band to change their guitar pickup from the neck pick-up to the bridge pick-up, resulting in a brighter sound.
During these sessions, founding guitarist Jason Cropper left the band and was replaced by current guitarist Brian Bell, leading to some speculation about how much Bell contributes to the album. While Bell's vocals are clearly audible on some tracks, Cuomo re-recorded all of Cropper's guitar parts. According to Ocasek, all ten tracks were laid down by Cuomo in one day, each in one take. Cropper's writing credit on "My Name Is Jonas" is earned by his coming up with the intro to the song. Most of the album was written by Rivers Cuomo. Exceptions are "My Name Is Jonas", which was co-written with Jason Cropper and Patrick Wilson and "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" and "Surf Wax America", which both were composed and written by Cuomo and Wilson. Weezer touches upon various life experiences of Cuomo, including subjects such as his brother's car accident, heartbreak, jealousy, alcohol and former girlfriends.
The single "Undone - The Sweater Song" was described by Cuomo as "the feeling you get when the train stops and the little guy comes knockin' on your door. It was supposed to be a sad song, but everyone thinks it's hilarious." The video marks one of the early directorial efforts of Spike Jonze, whose pitch was simply "A blue stage, a steadicam, a pack of wild dogs." The video became an instant hit on MTV.
Both "No One Else" and "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" are lyrically connected, with Cuomo describing the narrator of "No One Else" as "the jealous-obsessive asshole in me freaking out on my girlfriend" and claiming that "'The World has Turned and Left Me Here' is the same asshole wondering why she's gone."
The second single from the Blue Album was "Buddy Holly", whose music video was also directed by Spike Jonze. It portrayed the band performing at the original Arnold's Drive-In diner from the popular '70s television show, Happy Days. The video combined contemporary footage of the band with clips from the show. Happy Days cast member Al Molinaro]] made a cameo appearance in the video. The video was met with great popularity and heavy rotation on MTV. The video scored four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, including prizes for Breakthrough Video and Best Alternative Video.
"My Name is Jonas", deals with Cuomo's brother Leaves who had been seriously injured in a car accident while a student at Oberlin College, and was having problem with his insurance. Jason Cropper earned co-writing credit for coming up with the intro to the song.
The final single, "Say it Ain't So", was inspired by Cuomo (incorrectly but sincerely) believing (as a child) that his stepfather was becoming an alcoholic, which fed Rivers' fear about losing his stepfather the same way he lost contact with his dad. The music video, which was directed by Sophie Muller, was less successful than the previous two Spike Jonze-directed videos. It featured the band performing in the garage of their former house, and the bandmates playing hacky sack in the backyard.
The album artwork, designed by Karl Koch based on Rivers' ideas and photographed by 60's glamour photographer Peter Gowland, features Patrick Wilson, Rivers Cuomo, Matt Sharp, and Brian Bell standing left to right in front of a plain, blue background.
During an interview for the iTunes Originals compilation Cuomo said, "I remember having a very strong vision for the first album, The Blue Album, what that cover was gonna look like. I never anticipated people would call it The Blue Album, or even Weezer. I just thought of it as an untitled album. It was like the year later that we noticed that everyone was calling it The Blue Album." In 2020, Cuomo gave some additional insight on the choice of blue: "When I was 7, my family built a house. My parents said I could paint my room any color I wanted. I painted it my favorite color, a specific shade of blue. When I was thinking about a cover for the first Weezer album, I wanted it to be that same shade of blue. This mode of nostalgia for the lost innocence of childhood was the same source of my "look" in the Blue album era--the glasses frames, bowl cut, dickies, blue t-shirt, and windbreaker from my childhood photos."
The simple image would be used prominently in the advertising of the album. The cover received many comparisons to the Feelies' album Crazy Rhythms. On some vinyl pressings of the album, the cover does not crop off their feet. On the Deluxe Edition case, the feet are presented on the back cover, and the band sold an official t-shirt with a shot of the band's feet after the deluxe edition release. Inside the album booklet, Rivers Cuomo pays tribute to his past metal influences with a photo taken in the group's garage on Amherst (this same garage would be featured in the "Say It Ain't So" music video). A poster of Judas Priest's album British Steel is featured on the left side of the photo, while on the right a Quiet Riot concert poster is displayed. The Deluxe Edition features additional photographs of the band, and hand-written lyrics for each song.
Karl Koch recalled the album art's creation in a post from 2002:
...when the Blue Album was being recorded, there was a lot of brainstorming going on as to what this record would look like. I kept coming up with what I can say in retrospect were some rather kooky ideas, and Rivers kept pushing for something simpler. Finally one day Rivers dug out a cassette (remember those?) he had bought around that time, a cheapo Best of Beach Boys collection called "Do It Again". "Do It Again" was never issued on vinyl or cd as far as i know, and is most likely to be found in those handy truck stop stores out in the boondocks. However, the cover was really cool in its own rather hokey way, featuring the Beach Boys smiling for the camera, standing in a line of sorts, with a soothing blue background. Rivers said we have to achieve this effect on our cover, and so the idea of lining the guys up in striped shirts in front of a blue background took form.
The guys actually went out and found 4 matching striped button down shirts, and in fact in late 1993 played at least one show wearing them, much to the contempt of the LA scenesters of the era. Noted 60's fashion photographer Peter Gowland was contacted to do the shoot, as his mellow pastel colored shots of girls in bikinis and guys out golfing had the exact "anti-90's" feeling we needed. To Peters sprawling Lloyd Wright-esqe 50's house we went, which was complete with a near-clone of 'Alice' from Brady Bunch manning the kitchen. The guys started the shoot in the striped shirts, but everyone later concluded that the photos looked better with everyone wearing regular clothes.Next spring, when the cover started becoming known to the local LA scene, the band met with immediate flak for ripping off the Feelies' 1980 album cover for "Crazy Rhythms". This was baffling to the band, who had never even heard of the Feelies before that point! But sure enough, the resemblance was unmistakable. It just goes to show how difficult it is to do something new by doing something old.
The album was well-received by critics on its release. Allmusic gave the album 5 stars explaining "What makes the band so enjoyable is their charming geekiness; instead of singing about despair, they sing about love, which is kind of refreshing in the gloom-drenched world of '90s guitar-pop." Rolling Stone praised the album saying "Weezer's Rivers Cuomo is great at sketching vignettes (the Dungeons and Dragons games and Kiss posters that inspire the hapless daydreamer of 'In the Garage'), and with sweet inspiration like the waltz tempo of 'My Name Is Jonas' and the self-deprecating humor of lines like "I look just like Buddy Holly/And you're Mary Tyler Moore", his songs easily ingratiate."
In the years since its release, The Blue Album has risen in stature to become one of the most highly-regarded albums of the 1990s, appearing on many "Best-of" lists. In 2003, Rolling Stone named the album number 297 in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Blender named the Blue Album among the "500 CDs You Must Own", calling the album "Absolute geek-rock, out and proud." Non-U.S. publications have acclaimed the album as well: New Zealand's The Movement placed it at number 39 on a list of "The 101 Best Albums of the 90s", and Visions of Germany ranked it number 32 on a list of "The Most Important Albums of the 90s." Reviews of the deluxe edition of the album have also been positive. In 2004, Popmatters gave the album a very positive review and saying "I’d go so far to declare the 'Blue Album' one of the greatest records of the last 20 years."
In naming Weezer one of the 50 best albums of the 1990s, Pitchfork Media summed up the album's critical recognition. Brent DiCrescenzo wrote: "An album so substantial the band misguidedly attempted to tap into its resonance through cover graphics a mere two releases later. In 1994, 70s rock had come to mean either a bastardized version of Led Zeppelin or a bullshit reconstruction of punk rock. As guitar nerds, Weezer sought influence there but found true inspiration in forgotten bubblegum power-pop like Cheap Trick, The Raspberries, 20/20, and The Quick. Most impressively, Rivers Cuomo rescued the thrilling guitar solo from finger-tapping metal and disregarding grunge/punk. A decade later air-guitaring to the album feels far less embarrassing than singing along. With the help of Spike Jonze, Weezer kept joy alive in arena rock, making the critical repositioning of Weezer as some emo touchstone even more absentminded. They called themselves Weezer, knowingly, for chrissakes."
Weezer was certified gold in just under seven months after its release on December 1, 1994. It was certified platinum on January 1, 1995; since then it has gone three times multi-platinum in the United States. As of December 2007, the album had sold 3,146,000 copies in the US (Weezer's best-selling album to date), peaking at #16 on the Billboard 200. In 2003, the album was ranked number 297 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. A 2-CD deluxe edition was released in 2004. Also in 2003, Pitchfork Media named The Blue Album the 26th best album of the 1990s.
|Allmusic||(5/5)||Not listed||Stephen Thomas Erlewine|
|Amazon||Not given||Not listed||Jim DeRogatis|
|Amazon (deluxe)||Not given||Not listed||Jerry McCulley|
|BBC||Not given||March 1, 2004||Richard Banks|
|BlogCritics||Not given||September 14, 2008||Jon Jacobs|
|BlogCritics (deluxe)||Not given||July 1, 2004||Matthew Parten|
|IGN||(9.0/10)||April 16, 2004||Chris Carle|
|Rolling Stone||Not given||May 5, 1994||Paul Evans|
|Rolling Stone (deluxe)||(4.0/5)||April 19, 2004||Christian Hoard|
|Pitchfork Media||(10.0/10)||February 27, 2017||Jillian Maples|
|"Buddy Holly" (Allmusic)||(5.0/5)||Not listed||Stewart Mason|
|"Say It Ain't So" (Allmusic)||(5.0/5)||Not listed||Tom Maginnis|
|"Undone - (The Sweater Song)" (Allmusic)||(5.0/5)||Not listed||Tom Maginnis|
|Original album track listing|
|1.||"My Name Is Jonas"||Rivers Cuomo/Patrick Wilson/Jason Cropper||3:24|
|2.||"No One Else"||Cuomo||3:04|
|3.||"The World Has Turned and Left Me Here"||Cuomo/Wilson||4:19|
|5.||"Undone - The Sweater Song"||Cuomo||5:05|
|6.||"Surf Wax America"||Cuomo/Wilson||3:06|
|7.||"Say It Ain't So" (Remix)||Cuomo||4:18|
|8.||"In the Garage"||Cuomo||3:55|
|10.||"Only in Dreams"||Cuomo||8:00|
|Dusty Gems & Raw Nuggets (Deluxe Edition, Disc 2)/Weezer: Rarities Edition track listing|
|1.||"Mykel and Carli" (B-Side)||Cuomo||2:53|
|3.||"My Evaline" (B-Side)||trad. arr. by Sigmund Spaeth||0:44|
|4.||"Jamie" (from DGC Rarities)||Cuomo||4:20|
|5.||"My Name Is Jonas" (Live B-Side)||Cuomo/Wilson/Cropper||4:19|
|6.||"Surf Wax America" (Live B-Side)||Cuomo/Wilson||3:39|
|7.||"Jamie" (Live Acoustic B-Side)||Cuomo||4:03|
|8.||"No One Else" (Live Acoustic B-Side)||Cuomo||3:29|
|9.||"Undone - The Sweater Song" (Kitchen Tape)||Cuomo||3:23|
|10.||"Paperface" (Kitchen Tape)||Cuomo||3:01|
|11.||"Only in Dreams" (Kitchen Tape)||Cuomo||5:47|
|12.||"Lullabye for Wayne" (Pre-Production Tape)||Cuomo/Wilson||3:36|
|13.||"I Swear It's True" (Pre-Production Tape)||Cuomo||2:57|
|14.||"Say It Ain't So" (Original Album Mix)||Cuomo||4:17|
- Rivers Cuomo – guitars, lead vocals
- Patrick Wilson – drums (backing vocals - not credited)
- Brian Bell – backing vocals (credited with rhythm guitars although is said to have not played on the album)
- Matt Sharp – bass guitar, backing vocals
- Ric Ocasek – production
- Chris Shaw - engineering, mixing