Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ at 30, the scene reflects: “It’s timeless”

Photo credit: Brendan Walter

Released on 10th May 1994, LA quartet Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ changed the course of rock, punk and emo music. An energetic yet melodic mix that drew on influences such as The Beach Boys and The Cars (the album produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek), it’s a landmark debut that’s sold well over 15 million copies worldwide and is regarded as a stand-out album of the ‘90s. 

Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It.), Jeff Rosenstock, Brandon Schwartzel (FIDLAR), Alex Cheung (Uzumaki) and BEX explain why, three decades on, this pioneering record still inspires and resonates.

ROCK SOUND: What do you remember about first hearing Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’?

Evan Weiss: “I had heard ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’ on our local radio rock station in New Jersey, Y100. I remember loving the slacker vibe of the tune and, being such a giant admirer of grunge, I was immediately drawn to this new thing. I couldn’t even articulate what I was hearing at the time, but I knew I loved it. I used all of my [pocket] money to buy it on CD. I was hooked on that record ever since.”

Jeff Rosenstock: “I remember ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’ being on MTV a lot growing up, liking it and thinking it was different. I fell in love with ‘Buddy Holly’ when the video came out, especially because I watched a lot of ‘Happy Days’. Funny, I guess they were a TV band for me. They were some of the first songs I ever learned on guitar. ‘Say It Ain’t So’ was really fun to play too.”

Brandon Schwartzel: “I remember being 12 and my brother showing his friend how to play ‘Only In Dreams’ on bass. In mid transition from pre-pubescent skate punk to post-pubescent emo kid, I found it to be the perfect gateway drug. The school band used to play ‘Buddy Holly’ at basketball games. The ‘Blue Album’ has its fingerprints all over my formative years.”

Alex Cheung: “The ‘Blue Album’ is one of those records which came to me artwork-first – there’s something so iconic and nonchalant about the cover, which I think lends to the tracks too. Growing up watching music channels I was exposed to ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’ and ‘Say It Ain’t So’ (via ‘Guitar Hero’!). The ‘Blue Album’ filled the ‘college rock without being corny pop punk’ void I didn’t know I had.”

BEX: “The ‘Blue Album’ was unlike anything I’d ever heard before, yet it felt so familiar. I remember thinking ‘I’ve got to hear that again!’”

RS: What are your favourite songs?

Weiss: “I was so impressed by the dynamics of how ‘Only in Dreams’ builds into such an epic crescendo. Bands weren’t really writing eight-minute songs like that at the time. Plus, I was (am) a bass player and that song is maybe the most memorable bass line ever written. That said, the riffs on ‘Holiday’ are just monstrous, and the lyrics are so excellent. It’s such a beautiful love song with such a commanding ending. Huge tune.”

Cheung: “‘In the Garage’ was the first on-repeat for me. But I’ve had an on-repeat phase with almost every song on the record. I think ‘In the Garage’ struck me hardest due to the sludginess of the bass tone and the laggy tempo.”

BEX: Obviously ‘Say It Ain’t So’ is the classic and I love it. The album has so many influences that you can pull out when listening to it.”

RS: How did the ‘Blue Album’ influence your music and band?

Rosenstock: “I noticed they never played power chords above the fifth fret (making them heavier), so I had that as a rule for some songs in the ‘We Cool?’ days. Their melodies are so huge, and it’s inspiring that you can put so many good melodies on one record. If it weren’t for Weezer and The Rentals, I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting a Moog Prodigy since I was a teenager, and when I finally got one, I put it on everything.”

Schwartzel: I specifically remember my bandmates buying me a pedal for my birthday and us talking about how we can get that huge bass sound from ‘In the Garage’. Also, a lot of my background vocals and live ad libs are heavily influenced by Matt Sharp via the ‘Blue Album’.”

Cheung: “Weezer (and maybe Pavement) inspired a lot of the general looseness and low attention to the words I write for Uzumaki. I’ve spent years digging into metaphors, trying to be a bloody poet. But I get so much more gratification just being straight up and expositional lyrically, which I think nods to this record.”

RS: 30 years since the album’s release, what do you think of the ‘Blue Album’ and its enduring influence today?

Weiss: “It’s their best work. Hands down. Still sounds awesome. Still rocks. Young people are still going to associate deeply with its slacker sound. Musicians are still going to want their guitars to sound as huge as those guitars. Bass players are still going to want to write hooky bass lines that only Matt Sharp could provide. It’s timeless and I love it.”

Rosenstock: I think great songs stand the test of time and this record has ten of them, which is no small feat. I think this record mixed some new elements into punk that transformed it forever, most notably their clean guitar arpeggios and melodies which inspired a lot of twinkly emo bands forevermore. I can’t picture modern emo if ‘Only In Dreams’ hadn’t existed.”

Schwartzel: “I think it will always hit weird high school kids in the same spot it hit me, the same way Radiohead and J.D. Salinger seem to always hit when kids go to college. Maybe that was just me? It’s one of those albums that makes you feel like you can start a band.”

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