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Triple Take: Weezer's 'Weezer (The Blue Album)'

Album reviews are the bread and butter of music criticism. However, often so much of a review is spent talking about the musician, or the circumstances of the recording process that the actual songs on the record don’t get the discussion they deserve. Triple Take examines a string of 3 songs on an album, how they fit together, and how they fit on the record as a whole.

If you’re in your twenties or thirties and don’t want to feel old, please stop reading this post now. This coming May, Weezer’s self titled debut, commonly called The Blue Album will turn 20. While it has become a huge success in its second life, at the time, it was never seen as the bands peak, but instead its launching point.

Weezer’s loyal fan base will make the case for two different albums being more important to the bands growth. Casual fans often point to Weezer (The Green Album) as the bands triumph. Filled with singles like “Island In The Sun” and “Hash Pipe” it is credited with rebirthing the band after a long hiatus.

For the true die hards, nothing rivals Pinkerton. This obscure piece of American music history is rarely comprehended during a first pass. It is as convoluted as it is perfect and although it plummeted the band from the spotlight, it also cemented lifelong fans that have helped the band gain mainstream success decades later.

What is clear to me is that after nine albums, there best work was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York in 1994. Three songs define this album and they fall squarely in the middle.

Following a song like “Buddy Holly” on any album would be a daunting task but when that song was also the very first single from the their very first album, the task seems even more menacing. “Undone (The Sweater Song)” is a straight forward modern rock song with a twist. Opening with a simple Rivers Cuomo cord progression, it features a dialogue between the narrator and various people at a concert. This back and fourth serves as the verse while the band fills the pre-chorus and chorus with a more traditional Weezer style.

“Undone” peaked at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100 but helped to introduce the world to Weezer’s nerd meets rock brand of music.

The song fades into a horror movie, with a mangled piano and foot stomps taking over after a series of guttural guitar noises escape from a distant amplifier. With a final stomp, the listener is left in silence.

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That silence breaks after just a few seconds. In a similar manner to “The Sweater Song,” “Surf Wax America” opens with another simple guitar progression. This time, instead of the party noise and faint conversation, Cuomo’s voice hits you with a happy, unrelenting drive. It says everything you need to know about Weezer in one three minute song.

“You take your car to work, I’ll take my board. And when you’re out of fuel, I’m still afloat.”

The breakdown in “Surf Wax America” is genuine Weezer moment. It’s just awkward enough to fit perfectly into a song that feels like a pop hit with only a soft bass guitar and Cuomo’s chorus of whispers. A driving kick drum and guitar return to take the song home.

Last up in this Triple Take is “Say It Ain’t So.” The final single from the album, it has become one of the bands most popular tracks years after its initial release. Instead of the steady guitar riff that is prominent in both “Undone” and “Surf Wax America” this track is different. Opening with an electric guitar noodle, there is an instant recognition that this song is more complex and detail oriented than many other tracks on the album.

The verse is syncopated, slow and melodic with the perfect amount of bass. A chorus can be used for many things. In this case, two bashing strikes of the guitar are repeated before Cuomo screams “Say it ain’t so, your drug is a heartbreaker” and the entire thing being repeated, set a perfect contrast to the verse.

Easily lost in the song is the intricate guitar work. The song has been named one of the Top 100 Guitar Tracks of All Time by Rolling Stone and it’s easy to hear why. There are little solos around every corner and even the way the chorus is crafted is a perfect remedy for the ears.

Weezer (The Blue Album) came out in a year that featured Green Day’s Dookie which not only stole the spotlight in 1994 but continues to steal it as one of punks great albums. But forgetting Weezer’s very first album is a crime of the highest degree. It was great then and remains great as it approaches its 20th birthday.

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