My adolescence was a Weezer album. But then, that's how it was for every boy roughly my age who blamed his girl troubles in high school on being too smart, too nice, too quirky.
Though those excuses ring a little hollow today, my original copy of Weezer's self-titled debut, 1994's so-called "Blue Album", still gets spun at least once a month. A delirious 41 minutes of crunchy riffs, indelible hooks and geeky charm, its mastery of punk-pop has become clearer with every passing year of humiliation, rejection and even, finally, redemption.
I'd go so far to declare the "Blue Album" one of the greatest records of the last 20 years. If that's so, then the 2004 Deluxe Edition reissue is one of the greatest records of the last 20 years, plus three or four great B-sides and about 10 tracks of worthless rarities of interest only to the rabid Weezer completist.
In short: Unless you're even more obsessive than I am, save your money for some future reissue of Weezer's arguably superior follow-up, Pinkerton.
The first disc, which presents the original album without any of the usual remastering, still sounds dizzying in its pop sweetness, like a Milky Way dusted with Pixi Stix. "My Name is Jonas" begins with those familiar acoustic arpeggios -- the sort of nuance largely lacking from the band's post-Pinkerton releases -- and "Only in Dreams" still soars to an anthemic "Bohemian Rhapsody"-worthy conclusion. (Full disclosure: In eighth grade I thought this song was too long. I've grown up a lot.)
The hits, too, sound as relevant today as when they served as a fun-filled alternative to the angst of other 1990s alternative rockers. "Buddy Holly" instantly evokes its now-classic video, directed by Spike Jonze and featuring footage from Happy Days. Yet despite the legions of disciples who have followed it, the track's clever punch would still fill a unique niche today. Try as they might, the Get Up Kids could never top the delirious geekdom of "Undone (The Sweater Song)" or the playfully earnest "Say It Ain't So".
The extended CD booklet includes snippets of hand-written lyrics, but a complete transcription remain jarringly absent. Who among us hasn't wondered what Rivers Cuomo yelps in "My Name is Jonas" before the phrase "got a box full of your toys"? Was it "Weepil"? "Winfield"? "Weezer"? I don't know, and maybe I never will.
Still, the album's real flaw is its rarities-filled second disc. A few of the b-sides here rank with Weezer's best work. But this is 2004, not 1994. Though I would have killed for this disc as recently as 1999, now anyone who wants to hear these songs has, thanks to the miracle of file-sharing.
"Jamie", a plaintive ode to the band's lawyer, is strikingly brilliant in both its electric and acoustic renditions. "Mykel and Carli", "Suzanne", and the acoustic "No One Else" all also could take their place alongside Weezer's finest material.
But the live renditions of their other songs fall far short of the album versions. Cuomo's vocals falter, and the band's playing gets sloppier, not more energetic. Weezer is a pop/punk band, not a jazz band, and like most other groups of its ilk, its concerts don't translate well to tape -- not well enough to justify buying a CD you already own, anyway. The rare "Kitchen Tapes" songs like "Paperface" and "I Swear Its True" are dull punk numbers for only the most die-hard Weezer cultists. And "My Evaline" was only ever a mildly amusing joke.
Worse, such excellent Weezer obscurities as "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly", from the Angus soundtrack, for some reason missed the cut.
In short, if you don't own this record, buy it today. A used version is likely available at your local CD store.
If, like any self-respecting music geek, you already know every word (except that frustrating "Winfield/Weepil/Weezer"), save yourself the cash. Download the rarities if you must, but rest assured that most will languish in some obscure folder on your C: drive.