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At the risk of losing whatever credibility I currently have with our readers, it’s important I tell you that it took me about ten years to listen to Weezer’s eponymous first album after it was released.
I know, I know. Boo, me. Choosing instead to feed my teenage ennui with top forty fluff, I was fashionably late to the ‘90s alt-rock party in general, although I did occasionally leave a bit of room for Michael Stipe in between Wanya Morris and Jon Secada.
The good news is that great music lives forever, and backtracking to discover Weezer has been a rather happy process, albeit one in which I’ve kicked myself for ignoring for almost a decade. Evolving from the band’s 1992 demos, The Kitchen Tape, “My Name Is Jonas,” “Undone,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “Only In Dreams,’ and “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here” were re-recorded during the sessions for their major label debut that DGC commenced in August 1993 at New York’s Electric Lady Studios with producer and Cars front man Ric Ocasek. Recording was completed in just two months, and the album finally saw daylight in May 1994.
The band borrows melodic trademarks from major-chord, guitar-soaked vintage stadium rock and delivers it with just enough emo gasconade that the sheen isn’t lost to grungy dourness. Lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo’s sneering bravado is actually endearing, perhaps because it juxtaposes songs that are so lovingly constructed—and, at points, vulnerable.
There’s a lot to love here. The whimsically metaphorical “My Name Is Jonas,” the set’s opener, begins with a deceptive, period-typical acoustic dulcet before launching into a surprising loud crunch of guitars. “Buddy Holly” is wonderfully irreverent. Cuomo confidently quipping “What’s with these homies dissin’ my girl? / Why do they gotta front?” is perfect geek-as-rock-star paradox.
The album’s first single, the eccentric “Undone (The Sweater Song),” was the first song Cuomo had written for the album. "I was trying to write a Velvet Underground-type song because I was super into them, and I came up with that guitar riff,” he told Rolling Stone in 2009. “I just picked up that acoustic guitar and the first thing I played was that riff…It wasn't until years after I wrote it that I realized it's almost a complete rip-off of 'Sanitarium' by Metallica. It just perfectly encapsulates Weezer to me—you're trying to be cool like Velvet Underground but your metal roots just pump through unconsciously."
The moody “Say It Ain’t So” and the harmony-drenched “Holiday” demonstrate the strength of Cuomo’s voice, which has remained youthfully vibrant in the twenty-four years since Weezer’s inception. Even when it’s ululating, there is still something palpably sweet in its tone.
The set concludes with “Only in Dreams,” a rather crushing ode to every nerd who has ever harbored unreciprocated or unpursued love: “Reach out our hands / hold onto hers / but when we wake / it's all been erased / and so it seems / only in dreams.” In a time well before pop culture decided to deem them worthy and desirable, watching Cuomo’s ascent as a rock demigod must have been at least a little cathartic.