On May 10th, 1994, one of the most renowned and influential albums of the ‘90s was released when Weezer put out their self-titled debut album. Often referred to as the “Blue Album” due to the blue background behind the four band members on the cover of the album, and partially due to the fact that there are now six self-titled albums in their repertoire.
Highlighted by heavy distortion and catchy lyrics, the “Blue Album” slowly gained momentum before skyrocketing the band into stardom. Weezer continued to find success with top 10 alternative albums and radio-friendly singles for the next three decades. Yet, it is this debut album that continues to receive radio play and influence bands today. As the band prepares to headline Friday, the first day of BeachLife Festival in Hermosa Beach, we take a look back on the 28th anniversary of the “Blue Album.”
May of 1994 was both a tumultuous and exciting time for music. This was the same year that saw Nine Inch Nails release “The Downward Spiral,” Green Day release “Dookie,” and the Beastie Boys drop “Ill Communication.” While Pearl Jam would celebrate the release of their third album, “Vitalogy,” later that year, May was just three months after the grunge community received the devastating blow of losing Nirvana lead singer, Kurt Cobain. It was amidst this pop punk and grunge era that Weezer managed to establish a name for themselves.
Clocking in at just over 40 minutes (the bulk of which goes to the album’s closing track, “Only in Dreams,” a surprising eight minute saga), Weezer would change the face of alternative music for years to come in just ten tracks. I think the “Blue Album” represents the perfect storm of a young, talented songwriter in lead singer and guitarist, Rivers Cuomo, mixed with the production talent of The Cars’ front-man, Ric Ocasek.
The album’s lead single, “Undone – The Sweater Song,” gained buzz after debuting on MTV’s “120 Minutes” and receiving regular rotation on the channel’s sister show, “Alternative Nation.” However, it would be the follow-up single, “Buddy Holly,” which launched the band’s career into being a household name. The instantly-recognizable video directed by Spike Jonze (who would direct all the videos from this album) featured then-new technology splicing the band into an episode of “Happy Days.”
The song would reach as high as number two on Billboard’s Modern Rock Charts, and the digital version went gold by the RIAA in 2006. “Buddy Holly” would just barely squeak by at #499 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. The third single, “Say It Ain’t So,” would rank as high as number seven on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks.
Whether or not they intended to, and despite their protests otherwise, the “Blue Album” helped establish music that would later be categorized as “emo.” Bands such as Panic! at the Disco, Taking Back Sunday, and The Get Up Kids would all cite Weezer as an early influence.
Just a year after the “Blue Album” was released, it was certified triple platinum, selling just over three million records. The band would team up once again with Ocasek for their sophomore album, “Pinkerton.” While a much darker and emotional-themed album, I immediately thought it was a beautiful follow-up to the “Blue Album.” The world, however, seemed to feel differently as “Pinkerton” initially proved to be both a critical and commercial failure. Yet, people would eventually come around and realize the staying power of this album and just how great it was. To give you an example of the dichotomy that “Pinkerton” had at first: Rolling Stone readers voted it the third worst album of 1996, only to have readers then name “Pinkerton” to be the 16th greatest album of all time in 2002.
Over the years, Weezer has seen their music get played on “The Simpsons,” Honda commercials, and even included in a skit on “Saturday Night Live,” featuring a heated debate between Matt Damon and Leslie Jones about the band’s discography. Last year, Weezer played stadiums across the country as part of the Hella Mega Tour alongside Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and openers, The Interrupters. The foursome look to continue that tour in Europe this summer.
To me the “Blue Album” emanates Southern California beach vibes, with songs like “Surf Wax America,” which makes them the perfect band to take the stage Friday night at 9 p.m. They will be joined by fellow California acts Long Beach Dub Allstars, The Aggrolites, and Jim Lindberg of Pennywise will be doing a solo acoustic set to kick off the day’s events.
Weezer will carry in the laidback rock vibes of 311, who play right before them. Weezer is sure to play songs from the “Blue Album,” and as the opening track “My Name is Jonas” says, they will no doubt show the crowd why and how “they’re still making noise.”