April 02, 2004

Weezer "Weezer" (Deluxe Edition"


Has it been ten years? Has it really been that long? Damn, where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday that the Blue Album was required listening in the college dorms, that "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain't So" were in constant rotation on the radio, and that Rivers Cuomo was considered to be the Brian Wilson of Alternative Rock. The Blue Album was, is and evermore shall be one of the Greatest Summer Records Of All Time. Listening to it instantly sends me back on a nostalga kick. It seems weird to think that this album's a decade old. Time flies when you're getting older, it really does, and now the Alternative craze is just heading into Retro Style. (I blame Malkmus. It's his fault.) Be that as it may, Weezer has been given the Deluxe Edition treatment, and it's a really great package.

Let me state for the record that I got sick of Weezer. I got sick of hearing them on the radio. I got sick of hearing them at the dorms where I lived. I got sick of seeing the shirts around campus. I got sick of hearing girls and guys talk about them as if they were The Greatest Band Ever. It wasn't until one of my friends snuck in "Surf Wax America" on a mix tape a year or two later that I decided to give the album another try. When I finally broke down and bought the Blue album for myself, I was impressed. True, "Say It Ain't So" and "Buddy Holly" were overplayed when they were released, and "Undone" was nothing more than a novelty song, but there was more to the band than those three songs, as I quickly learned.

Weezer is a classic record. If you're reading this review, you've probably owned it, or you've heard it at least once. It was a big record back in 1994, and it's still a wonderful collection of pop-rock. I'm still enthralled whenever I hear "Buddy Holly," and it's hard to only listen to it once. "Say It Ain't So," which always sorta reminded me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is another song that's stood the test of time. The album is the perfect document of my life at the age of 21, and for a generation of alternative-rock listeners, Weezer also serves as a polaroid of their life a decade ago. I'm happy that the label decided to leave the album alone when they put together the Deluxe Edition, because it's a classic record that deserves to stand alone.

Of course, the big bonus with this deluxe edition is the second disc, entitled Dusty Gems & Raw Nuggets.. I'll just come out and say it: it's not essential listening, because Weezer is still the better record. Don't get me wrong, this collection of B-Sides, outtakes and alternate versions is a fun listen, but like many B-side collections, most of the material on Dusty Gems is indeed of lesser quality, and in the case of Weezer, much of this material is repetitive. As stated in the too-brief notes, the overwhelming success of the band left them high and dry in terms of B-side material (they only had four songs in consideration for B-sides), so they simply released live recordings to cover this shortage. Six of the songs on this second disc appear on the album, and one of them is an alternate take of a B-side. "Paperface," "Lullaby For Wayne" and "I Swear It's True" are fun yet lesser songs, and it's understandable why they have not seen the light of day until now.

The four B-sides, though, make the second disc worthwhile. It's interesting to note that three of these songs are all autobiographical, and are written to specific people as a thanks for helping Weezer out in the early days. "Suzanne" is written for an A&R assistiant who took a liking to the band and served as a friend during the band's post-signing downtime. It's quaint, silly and touchingly poignant: "Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose/When I call you put 'em all on hold" makes me smile, but it also serves as an interesting historical document, in that it shows how the label's former superstars were now less important to the label than these soon-to-be superstars. "Jamie" is similar in nature to "Suzanne," written for the band's first lawyer.

The best song on this collection is the touching "Mykel & Carli." It was written about Mykel and Carli Allan, two sisters who befriended the band early on and took the initiative to organize the band's fan club. Though the song is somewhat fictional (Cuomo asked the girls for personal details, to make it seem as if they'd known him for years), it became a bittersweet and oddly prophetic song when, in 1997, Mykel & Carli were killed in a car accident. For years I had thought that this song was written in tribute to the girls, because the first time I heard it was on a benefit record for their family, Hear You Me. It's a touchingly sweet song, even if the line "Said I had these two best friends/Till the school bus came/and took my friends away/Now I'm left alone at home/To sit and think all day" is heartbreaking to hear. (Indeed, their deaths are generally considered one of the reasons for their five-year absence.)

While some of the bonus material is repetitive and the liner notes are criminally brief--it would have been interesting to read more in-depth notes about the sessions, the bands feelings, or their history in general--these flaws do not take away from the simple fact that Weezer is one of the best records of the Nineties. It's a record that's lanuched a thousand imitators, all of whom generally fall well short of this band's simple songs--heck, Weezer have never been able to succesfully top Weezer! A great, simple and downright fun record that deserves a respectable place in the annals of rock history.

--Joseph Kyle

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