By May 1994, when Weezer’s Blue Album was released, they seemed destined for a short fifteen minutes of fame: They joked about Dungeons and Dragons, scored a hit with the grunge novelty “Undone — The Sweater Song” and were produced by ex-Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, not exactly a paragon of hair-flailing hipness.
Ten years on, as this double-disc reissue attests, these four thrift-store-clad guitar boys seem almost like visionaries. Crunchy nuggets such as “In the Garage” and “My Name Is Jonas” were fuzzed-out enough to blend in with other radio rock of the time, but Rivers Cuomo eschewed rock-star posing and relied on harmonies, big-ass choruses and tunes that attacked your inner lullaby. Whereas Nirvana launched thousands of imitators who cranked up the distortion and plunged into darkness, Cuomo blended white-guy self-consciousness and personal pain into big, vibrant pop-rock that would inspire thousands of emo kids. Songs such as “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” and the excellent broken-family soundtrack “Say It Ain’t So” were endearing rather than howlingly cathartic, showing he had clearly studied at the Brian Wilson School of Melancholia.
Disc Two is a solid collection of mid-Nineties miscellany. “Mykel and Carli” and “Susanne” are catchy B sides that could have fit in nicely on the Blue Album. Live versions of “My Name Is Jonas” and “Surf Wax America” rock more cleanly than most bootlegs from the era, but the real gems are the “kitchen tape” demos: stripped-down, home-recorded versions of “Only in Dreams,” “The Sweater Song” and other tunes, proving that, underneath all the feedback, Cuomo was just a pop-minded bedroom poet with the Cobain blues.