Off-Key with Eric D: Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ revisited

Eric D'Orazio

Ever get the feeling that we’re living 1994 all over again? After all, people have been heralding the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s passing for some time now, and Green Day is finally resurging as a major force in punk rock due to their iTunes hit “I Fought The Law.”

However, what repeat of ’94 would be complete without the likes of Weezer? Having single-handedly created emo-rock and procured a renewed interest in “Happy Days,” the band was a focal point of that year, and their legendary “Blue Album” brought about an outlet for all those punk rockers that lost their girlfriends, destroyed their sweaters, and went surfing instead of getting a job.

So, with respect to the return of that pivotal fourth year of the ’90s, Weezer’s debut album has been reissued, re-mastered, and re-angstified for 2004.

Coming in as a two-disc set, Weezer’s new version of their debut is under the highly acclaimed “Deluxe Series” of classic albums, which in turn allows it expanded liner notes, rare photos, and lyrics to all the songs on the release. But what really matters is the music.

Quite obviously, the first disc holds the 10 songs of the original album. From “My Name Is Jonas” to “Only In Dreams,” those songs all but bring back memories of a bygone era, back when punk-pop was unknown and MTV actually played videos. Yet unlike the original, this version was greatly remastered, so that every power chord and each falsetto may be savored to the fullest.

In spite of all the good things about disc one, there remains a certain flaw that makes the album unauthentic to the original. You see, the version of “Say It Ain’t So” on the new release is in actuality the single version.

Though to the casual listener it’s pretty much the same as the original, the single version is laden with slightly different drums and a good deal of guitar feedback, which in turn makes it sound pretty darn cool.

The band addresses this change in the liner notes simply by saying that they liked the re-mixed version better than the one that first appeared on the record. But don’t fret, the original mix of “Say It Ain’t So” can be found at the end of the re-release’s second disc.

Speaking of the second disc, this is where the new “Blue Album” shines greatest.

Focusing on the b-sides, demos, and out-takes of that classic album, it procures a feast for the avid Weezer fan. Starting out with b-sides like “Mykel and Carli,” “Jamie,” and the remix of “Susanne,” fans everywhere can finally rock out to these unsung classics, as well as find comfort in the fact that the major flipside action of early-Weezer has finally been committed to permanent record.

Soon enough, the second disc delves into some live goodness, fronted by performance versions of “My Name Is Jonas” and “Surf Wax America,” in addition to moving acoustic versions of “No One Else” and “Jamie.” Despite all the outstanding songs on the first half of disc two, the real out-of-this-world gems lie in the disc’s latter portion.

Launching into three selections from the band’s 1992 “Kitchen Tapes,” early versions of songs like the legendary “Undone,” with its rap by bassist Matt Sharp, the unreleased “Paperface,” with its punk aggression, and the heartbreaking “Only In Dreams,” with more emotional insecurity than a high school dance, allow a special insight into a time when the band’s greatness was only looming on the horizon.

Following up on those early endeavors are two studio out-takes from the “Blue Album” sessions, “Lullabye for Wayne” and “I Swear It’s True.”

Though the second of the two is kind-of cliché Weezer, in that it’s the average “boy meets girl, girl hurts boy” formula, the real masterpiece lies in “Lullabye for Wayne.” In what can only be described as “Surf Wax America” meets “Say It Ain’t So,” the song exudes pure genius, focusing on catchy hooks and giving up one’s disestablishmentarianistic intuitions so as to get “a brand new car and a mileage wife.”

It’s songs like this that really make it easy to see how and why Weezer became so awesome.

When all is said and done, it remains quite an amazing feat that the “Blue Album” has stood the test of time so well.

Through events like the commercial failure of “Pinkerton” to Weezer’s falling out in 1998, and to the emergence of the more pop-oriented Weezer of 2001 and on, the band’s debut album has aged quite gracefully, and still remains as potent today as it was upon its release. Yet with its re-release, many would consider that a simple, not to mention profitable, appeal to hardcore fans who long for the return of the old days. Well, those people are wrong, for the new version of the “Blue Album” is much less a rehash of an old classic, but more like a celebration of that classic, the songs that defined it, and even those tracks that just didn’t make the cut.

In all honesty, they don’t care what you say about them anyway. They don’t care about that.