In honor of tomorrow night’s tribute to Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ at the Bug Jar (full details HERE), Hayden Ford wrote a bit about his experience with the album, what it means (and continues to mean) to him, and how it’s okay not to be cool. His band, The Skirts (along with Secret Pizza and Department), will also be performing tomorrow night. Be sure to come check out the show, and read up!
When you’re not cool you have to find ways of getting through the day. You find ways to cope with your awkwardness, to quell your social anxiety, to stifle your insecurities. Different people have different strategies, some turn to hurting others, some begin hurting themselves, and others find a way to leave altogether. This is what I did: I became an avid day dreamer. Whether it was fantasies of climbing buildings as Spider-Man, or digging an underground passageway to another part of the continent, or building a castle in my bedroom, much of my young life was spent staring off into space, reveling in the freedom that escapism offers.
I like to think that Rivers Cuomo was a daydreamer, too. His songs on the ‘Blue Album’ are often surreal, but hardly absurd. They have a nebulous, not-all-there quality to them. The lyrics, while coherent, aren’t always sensible; the guitars fuzzy but still ethereal. Songs like “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” convey an easily identifiable longing for someone who doesn’t love you back. I get the feeling, however, that Rivers is more in love with the idea of his crush than the crush herself. This love of abstractions is a theme that remains consistent throughout the album. Songs like “Holiday” present a quintessential escapist fantasy, while “Only In Dreams” is a woozy ode to another intangible romance. Despite this almost childish idealism and naivete that Rivers cultivates throughout the album, there also exists a streak of anxiety. Gloomy musical and lyrical undertones coarse throughout each song, as if to remind us of the dark side of becoming too preoccupied in fantasy: that while shutting yourself off in the garage may offer comfort, it comes at the price of further alienation from the outside world.
For me, however, the most important aspect of the ‘Blue Album’ wasn’t musical. It was in the way Rivers, and the rest of the band, looked and acted. The album was an existential companion to my life, a reassurance that it was, in fact, okay not to be cool. Whenever I felt like shit for not being able to play sports, whenever I wanted to join a school play, whenever I sang in chorus or drew pictures, whenever I felt the desire to read and write and learn and be excited about it, whenever I felt like I wasn’t being tough or manly enough, I could turn to the ‘Blue Album’. Weezer became my frame of reference. They were the coolest band ever, but they weren’t cool at all. They made it acceptable to say fuck it, and do whatever I wanted to do. For this reason I still maintain that they were more punk than any hardcore band I slam-danced to in high school.
They were noticeably apolitical, but for me their existence had increasingly political implications. It got me thinking, if rock and roll can be for ners, where are the other people who look and act different? Why was rock and roll still filled with macho posturing that I couldn’t identify with? Where are the women? Where are the queer people? What about minorities? These are questions that I don’t think Weezer meant to ask, but by making a weirdo like me feel included, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people rock and roll is leaving out, how many others could benefit by its emotional catharsis, its promise of negotiating escapism with reality, its ability to give outsiders a voice? These are questions that I hear every time I listen to the ‘Blue Album’, questions that we should still be asking ourselves.