The year was 1994. From Nirvana to Blink-182, angry distortion, complex drum rhythms, and depressed, introspective lyricism had become the norm. “Breaking the mold” had quickly become the mold. And armies of cigarette smoking, flannel-wearing teens snuck out of their houses to flock to the nearest Pearl Jam concert, sweeping the country in a rebellious movement that inspired young people all over the world.
However, all over the country, there were still plenty of Dungeons and Dragons-playing, sweater-wearing high schoolers sitting in their garages, remaining distinctly unaffected by this mass culture shock. Unaffected, that is, until Weezer released their ‘94 debut, The Blue Album. The record focused, musically, on taking Rock and Roll back to its roots. From their chord structures to their album cover, which featured only the four members in front of a blue background, Weezer billed themselves as simple. And to an extent, they were. The Blue Album features comically simple lyricism, heavily distorted guitars, and extremely basic drum beats.
The group went on to be one of the biggest acts of the nineties, evolving, while staying true to their simple, punk-infused roots to create a new genre of music, often referred to as “post-punk.”
Upon entering the 2000’s, however, Weezer struggled. Lead singer, Rivers Cuomo’s increasing interest in the Buddhist religion and meditation drove their lyrical content to a new, more serious tone. On top of that, bands like All American Rejects and Fall Out Boy had taken the “post-punk” sound in new directions, leaving Weezer to make a difficult decision with their music: evolve, or become a relic of the nineties like so many others. Recent albums, such as Make Believe (2005), Raditude (2009) , and Everything Will Be Alright In The End (2014), seemed to suggest a new path for the group, which was heavily criticized. To many, it seemed that Weezer was no longer standing against the overly introspective writing and “cool kids” image of a rock star, but had instead become what they had once so fiercely mocked. They were following the trail of a genre that they had pioneered. Weezer once again had something to prove.
Luckily, The White Album is everything fans could ask for and more.
The entire piece flows from song to song, all the while clashing wonderfully with background beach sounds that shine through in the dead space, creating the concept of a concert on the beach.
California Kids and Wind in Our Sails open the record with a refreshing breath of air. They’re lyrically simple, holding their depth in words unsaid and implied. They each featured crunchy distorted guitars and basic drum beats that force listeners to tap their feet. From the opening chord, through the trademark dissonant feedback finishes, these tracks are pure Weezer, prompting smiles from any and all listeners.
They continue to my personal favorite track: Thank God For Girls. Coming off of the upbeat tone from their two-song opener, Thank God For Girls feels like a flannel-covered slap in the face, from the nineties itself. Cuomo uses the track to mock societal gender stereotyping, stating “You may encounter dragons and ruffians and be called upon to employ your testosterone in battle for supremacy and access to females…” Writing like this defines Weezer. They make an outright point, by stating something much simpler in their lyrics, which causes you to reach their conclusion on your own. They just don’t write songs like this anymore.
This is followed by (Girl We Got A) Good Thing, a simple love song, which reconnects the listener to their happy beach sound completely, featuring a memorable solo from lead guitarist, Brian Bell.
The next tracks, Do You Wanna Get High? And King of The World lean heavily into the harder, punk-influenced side of their sound. These, above all others, are the most reminiscent of The Blue Album of ’94, featuring the classic heavy guitars, ironic drug references, and melodic riffs. These tracks flash the listener back to Weezer’s beginning.
Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori follows, another personal favorite. This song showcases the group’s ability to write on a sad topic like loss of love, while being infectiously catchy and upbeat. Cuomo writes on the loss of love from two vastly different women, comparing the man he was while dating them. Ever the master of implicit arguments, he goes on to possibly suggest that he may miss the man he was around them more than the girls themselves.
This leads directly into L.A. Girlz, yet another incredibly catchy, vaguely sad song, featuring another wonderful solo from Bell, as well as a somewhat intricate drum line, which isn’t seen across the rest of the record.
They finish with Jacked Up and Endless Bummer, finally toning down the catchiness of their tunes in favor of more flavorful writing, and inventive use of instruments. The two songs contrast well, Jacked Up’s heavy feedback and grungy electric guitar cutting straight into Endless Bummer’s well placed acoustic guitar. Bummer gives listeners one last taste of the old Weezer with the line “ I count my steps because I’m OCD,” before finishing with Bell’s final solo and a fitting crash out fading to the simple sounds of the beach once again.
As the beach fades away, listeners are left to contemplate what they’ve just heard. What is The White Album?
To me it was many things. It was catchy, and remains in your head for days. It was well written, touching on lost love, drug abuse, and gender stereotyping in their own special way. But overall, it was utterly and defiantly 90’s. The commercial and critical success of this record is due, I believe, to a decision by the group to take their genre back. Weezer followed groups like Green Day and Fall Out Boy for the last few years, trying to adapt their sound, but for this album, it seems as though they remembered that they had created this genre, and if it really wanted them, they could do what they want and it will follow. So far, that seems to be the case.
And foremost, this album, despite it’s catchy nature, should be respected. Groups like Weezer don’t take themselves seriously, and therefore many fans don’t either, but twenty-four years in the industry, ten studio albums, and countless tours later, I think it’s clear that they are talented musicians, and have forever changed the landscape of music.