Thursday, June 17, 2010

One Hit Wonders: That was my shtick back then…

So it’s 1994, I’m a junior at DLU and I’m walking through the basement bowels of the Burton Bible Building on my way to some history class or other, and I can’t remember if someone else was singing it or if it was just stuck in my head, but the refrain of “Oo-ee-oo” keeps following me around and I’m wondering why anybody would write, much less like, a song about Buddy Holly that has absolutely nothing to do with him. As I’m walking, I can admit it’s a catchy tune, but I know that I hate it, even if I rather like the video, ‘cos it’s un-American to not like Happy Days no matter how indie cool you think you are.

In those days it seemed like everybody had Weezer fever and I wanted nothing to do with it, which was my shtick back then. They basically lost me from the get go with that stupid name and even Ric Ocasic producing wasn’t doing too much to endear me to the cause. Not that they needed me.

As other songs started to pop up as singles or in a friend’s car, I couldn’t help but toe-tap a bit, maybe even sing along as mindless familiarity took control…but I was still staunchly anti-Weezer. (That was my shtick back then.) It wasn’t until this DGC rarities compilation came out with the song Jamie on it that I really took a step back and said, “Well, maybe….” To cut a long and pointless story short, I next found myself recording Matt Hardin’s copy of Weezer’s self-titled debut, aka “The Blue Album,” from cassette to cassette (remember those days?) in Michael Andrew’s room ‘cos he had a dual tape deck. (FYI, the other side had Electronic’s s/t debut, but that is neither here nor there.)

I’m gonna go ahead and say right now that “The Blue Album” is one of the best albums of the 90s, possibly even ever. In the sickening wave of post-grunge, Weezer was creating a sound that borrowed heavily from every kind of power pop available, and yet was so unique in its construction that its sources were nearly impossible to trace. The fact that anything sounds like it now is because it existed in the first place. The 1-2-3 punch of My Name is Jonas, No One Else and The World Has Turned and Left Me Here is pretty much worth the price of admission alone, but the “ha ha” fun of Surf Wax America, self-deprecating-dork-bravado of In the Garage and heart on sleeve, pre-emo infection of Only in Dreams, make side two just as vital as side one. If you haven’t noticed, this is an album where I think the non-singles are the best of the batch, with the possible exception of the fabulous Say It Ain’t So, which has one of the greatest middle eight, pre-solo, angst ridden build ups in the history of pop music.

I listened to that tape front to back and back to front so many times that it finally snapped. However, I still wasn’t a Weezer fan, ‘cos (you guessed it) that was my shtick back then. Only my hatred for everything they’ve done since (hush up, I’ll get to Pinkerton in a minute) made me put off rectifying that situation. After the Deluxe Edition came out, I knew I could pick up the original cheap, and so I did (‘cos that’s how I roll). It had been a few years since I'd heard any of those songs, and it was like falling in love all over again - only this time without the biases and brick walls of being 22 and stupid (‘cos that was…oh, skip it). Finally I was able to embrace this fuzzy nugget of rock candy and truly feel the super sweet adrenaline rush I should have fully allowed myself years before. Oh indie credibility, you’re such a fickle and elusive mistress…how I love to hate you!

I pulled the disc out a couple of days ago (not sure why) and ran through it a couple of times to find that my feelings have not changed in the slightest, only enhanced with years and aging. There’s not a song on here that isn’t good to great or vital to the seamless flow of the album as a whole. In my opinion it’s one of the few perfect albums out there. Yes, I realize that this album set the foundations for emo, but I don’t think it meant to. And I also recognize the fact that its quirky, tongue in cheek awkwardness is a bit trite and overdone, yet the fact that these guys were basically a bunch of nerds who knew how to rock gives it a sincerity that makes non-coolness truly hip…if only for one brief and shining moment.

I’m still not a Weezer fan in any way, shape or form (not that they need me), I just like this album and a handful of stray tracks that surround this era. On my 23rd birthday Pinkerton was released and that evening JT and a few other friends came over to my apartment and he played it. That’s the only time I’ve ever heard it – I wasn’t fazed or affected in any way, and I have no interest in becoming more familiar with it, even though I understand from people whose opinions I respect that it’s a fantastic album even if it’s nothing like the debut (“except for the first two songs”) and half the band disowns it now. Everything I’ve heard from Weezer since then just sounds like a parody of what they were originally doing, an inside joke that only Rivers Cuomo gets and that thousands, maybe millions of fans are all the butt of. That’s fine, ‘cos he and his boys gave me an album that I think is pretty much timeless and yet reminds me of a time when I said no when I should have said yes and was glad when I finally did, ‘cos that was my shtick back then…and still is.

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