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20 years of Weezer's Blue Album

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Just as the dust that was the end of the grunge-era began to settle, an unknown quartet of rock geeks quietly released their self-titled debut LP, later known as "The Blue Album" due to its cover background color (and to differentiate it from the band's two other self-titled albums). At first, the record generated little notice, but soon, their earliest singles, including "Undone: The Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly," each with its own memorable music video directed by the great Spike Jonze, began to create an interest in this weird little group and their creative take on garage-pop.

Weezer paired off with grunge and hard-alternative rock the way new wave paralleled, and eventually surpassed, the second wave of punk rock in the late '70s. The songs were far more accessible and radio-friendly, and while the subject matter could sometimes still represent angst, it could just as often describe a romantic daydream, or an evening playing Dungeons and Dragons, listening to Kiss, and reading X-Men comics with one's friends. Certainly Rivers Cuomo and company were not the first rock band to enjoy such nerdy pursuits, but how many other bands were singing songs about them?

The secret to a lot of Weezer, and the album's, early success was their unique combination of players and vocalists that allowed the band to take on two and three-part harmonies that might reference Brian Wilson as often as The Cars, whose Ric Ocasek produced the album. Drummer, Patrick Wilson, and guitarist, Brian Bell, perform with a consistent snappiness throughout the album. Bassist Matt Sharp, who only performed with the band during their first two album eras, is heard hitting the highest of the falsetto harmonies throughout the album (and 1996's excellent follow-up, Pinkerton). Aside from being an excellent bassist, Sharp's harmonies and strange vocal adlibs brought a sound and feeling that the band was unfortunately never able to replicate after his departure during a lengthy band hiatus in the late '90s when he formed his own band, The Rentals.

Another special element of this particular record is the band's ability to come across sounding humble, yet genuine. Passionate, yet innocent. After the massive success of "Buddy Holly" and, to a lesser extent, the follow-up single, "Say It Ain't So," songwriter, Cuomo, began experiencing anxiety and social disorders that took the band in many strange directions over the decade that followed (when it was even active at all). He put the band on hiatus for years in order to concentrate on finishing a BA at Harvard, only to drop out one semester before graduating (though he later went back to complete the degree). The Blue Album is from a time before all of that. 10 simple songs that get mostly to the point, often with a catchy, up-tempo beat, that add to the ongoing chronicle of American Adolescence that is, in part, the history of Rock and Roll.

Other albums celebrating 20 years:
Bush-Sixteen Stone
The Cranberries-No Need to Argue
Meat Puppets-Too High to Die
Smashing Pumpkins-Pieces Iscariot
Sponge-Rotting Piñata

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