Let’s face it, 1994 was a perplexing year in music. With Generation X still obsessing over the ever-nearing self-destruction of grunge, while narrowly worshiping their unofficial spokesperson Kurt Cobain and his growing, even if not entirely intended popularity in the music community. We rejoiced in his ruinous disheartenment and anger, clamoring to him like seagulls in a trash yard, as if we knew it wouldn’t last.
And last it did not. With Cobain’s untimely death on April 8, the devastation of which spelled an almost certain doom over the music industry trying desperately to replace the idol of a generation.
Reluctant to take on another basket case like Cobain, the music industry began to heavily promote alternative music. Bands like Green Day and The Offspring offered a punk/alternative fusion where The Smashing Pumpkins made epic layers of guitars and raging solos. Despite their differences, all of these bands still had one thing in common; they were still holding on to the thematic direction of grunge, anguish. Then along came Weezer.
Signed to Nirvana’s same label, David Geffen Records, Weezer released their eponymous first album -the first of three, this one being code named “Blue”- in May of 94 and offered a very different idea of alternative music. Whereas other alternative acts looked and sounded like Rock Stars, Weezer looked like nerds, but that rare variety of nerds; happy ones.
From the first seconds of the opening track, “My Name is Jonas” Weezer was a different album from its competitors by beginning with an acoustic guitar. Recorded by Cars producer, Ric Ocasek, much of the album has the same thick Butch Vigg-wall-of-guitar sound that Nevermind and Siamese Dream featured, but without the screeching vocals, and in its place, beautifully piled harmonies or singer and chief songwriter Rivers Cuomo’s sweet, almost brittle croon.
Given its guitar-driven production style, Weezer was sonically similar to many bands of the time, yet it was with Cuomo’s lyrics that they were separable. Where other bands lyrically recalled nostalgia with a despairing dagger, Cuomo reminisced with a homesick adoration and an extended hand. In the more melancholy arrangements such as “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” and “Say it Ain’t So,” the messages are of love, an unwillingness to let go of his golden-age, even though she might have split his heart in two.
What differentiated Weezer most from their depressive alternative counterparts was their unabashed geekiness. Trivial songs such as “Surf Wax America” and “Buddy Holly” with its practically inane chorus almost chanting, “I look just like Buddy Holly, and you’re Mary Tyler Moore” make it difficult not to want to smile and hug Cuomo for being so damn endearing.