When their self-titled debut album arrived on May 10, 1994, Weezer did what a lot of post-Nirvana bands couldn’t: to mold a sound that was unmistakably their own. Whether you remember making the trip to Tower Records on South Street to buy a copy when it hit shelves 20 years ago or discovered it many years later as a teenager (like myself), you knew this record was special. Dubbed the “Blue Album” due to its artwork’s background, it found frontman Rivers Cuomo unabashedly nerdy and sincere in a way that only he could be through his lyrics and vocal delivery.
Insanely melodic? Yes. Era-defining? Yes. When you hear the opening chords of “My Name is Jonas”, it’s them knocking you out of your world and into theirs and your first thought is probably: “Who is Jonas?” and you come to love the guy simply because he inspired such a great song (it’s actually inspired partly by River’s brother and Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, depending on the source). There’s a theme of abandonment and loneliness that sort of says it’s okay to be open and bluntly state your predicament without fear of judgment. It doesn’t get anymore blunt than “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” just by the title alone, but by the end when you’re chanting “Do you believe what I sing now?” at the top of your lungs you realize it’s gotta be more than that.
In the same vein, Weezer embraces solitude and feeling safe and content in your own world when we hear Cuomo listing all things that make him content despite being unheard and unnoticed by the outside world when he’s “In the Garage” which may seem like a contradiction on the surface but it’s a clear distinction between being lonely involuntarily and being alone by choice. Singles “Buddy Holly”, “Say It Ain’t So”, and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” all stand out for different reasons. The first is super melodic Weezer, the second is semi-aggressive Weezer, and the last being super-strange-but-so-catchy-you-can’t-resist Weezer. It’s the combination of all three modes that gives the entire record such vitality that was so fresh and memorable back then and even more so now when we jam to it 20 years later.
Check out live local performances of songs from the album below and (dare I say it) pick a favorite. Some of these come from a holiday show the band did with the now defunct commercial alternative radio station WDRE.
1. “My Name is Jonas” live at The Electric Factory, 1996
2. “Buddy Holly” live at The Electric Factory, 1996
3.. “Undone (The Sweater Song)”, live at The Electric Factory, 1996
4. “Say It Ain’t So”, live at The Electric Factory, 1996
5. “In The Garage”, live at the Tweeter Center (now known as Susquehanna Bank Center), 2002