Ten Great Weezer Songs That Aren’t from the ‘Blue Album’

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At a Weezer live show a couple years ago I waited in vain for personal favorites from more recent albums as the band played most of their self-titled debut, known in fan parlance as “The Blue Album” due to the band’s tendency to repeatedly release self-titled albums most easily distinguished by their color.

I have nothing against the Blue Album. Although “Beverly Hills” from eleven years later was their only true top ten pop single, it was their 1994 azure-covered debut which spawned the essential post-grunge modern rock hits that concert fans truly cut loose to: “Undone–The Sweater Song”, “Say it Ain’t So”, “My Name is Jonas” and “Buddy Holly”.

But like other bands we’ve recognized in this series of posts, the artistic successes have come along more often than the commercial ones, and there are some overlooked gems in the band’s catalogue which truly show off the band’s main strength–Rivers Cuomo’s killer melodic knack.

So here are ten great Weezer songs that aren’t from the Blue Album.

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1. “Susanne”

As has been covered elsewhere in this blog, “Susanne” first appeared as a B-side and on the Mallrats soundtrack before shedding its rarity status with its inclusion on the bonus disc of the Blue Album’s deluxe reissue. The song has a great backstory, reprinted here from that album’s liner notes:

Susanne was a talented A&R assistant at Geffen. In the long months of limbo between completing the Blue album in October ’93 and its eventual release in May of ’94, she became a big Weezer supporter, doing her best to keep the guys optimistic about their future with Geffen. As the lyrics imply, Susanne did in fact help Rivers (Cuomo) out with her spare winter coat when he needed one, and made plates of brownies to cheer him up. Her devotion and aid were perfectly summed up in this song. Before she knew of the song’s existence, the guys performed it a cappella for her in her Geffen office. Needless to say, it surprised the hell out of her!

Originally the line “Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose, when I call you put ’em all on hold” read “Even Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose…” In April ’94 the shocking news came of Kurt’s untimely death. Though the two had never met, Rivers had found great inspiration in Kurt’s songwriting on Nirvana’s Bleach. So when it came time to record “Susanne”, Rivers decided to change the lyric, not wanting to disrespect the memory of one who had been such an inspiration.

 

 

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

When I met you I was all alone
Cold and hungry cryin’ on the phone
You baked me brownies and said “don’t you cry”
And gave me the coat off your back

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose
When I call you put ’em all on hold
And say to me that you’d do anything
And all I can do is say that
I haven’t much I can give you in return
Only my heart and a promise not to turn
But I’ll sing to you every day and every night
Susanne, I’m your man

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush,  drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted
Of a girl
YEAH! 

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2. “Island in the Sun”

Not really an overlooked song; this was an MTV staple at the time. One of their best, from perhaps their strongest album (The “Green Album”)

 

 

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3. “Perfect Situation”

This one starts out with a fairly assertive guitar solo (with some wah effect) before the heavy layers are stripped away for the vocals. It’s reminiscent of Steely Dan’s “Don’t Take Me Alive” and a dramatic way to begin a song.

Check out the great music video which accompanies this one.

 

 

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4. “The Damage in Your Heart”

And speaking of drama…the lyric and melody work together here to heart-wrenching effect. And a piercing three-note fill cements the songs joints together nicely. One of Cuomo’s best efforts.

 

 

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5. “Ruling Me”

Co-written with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson. Stop-start dynamics wind up a chorus that effectively explodes onto you with its sugary power pop rush. Possibly the band’s best pure pop song.

 

 

rollingstone.com

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6. “Da Vinci”

Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you
Stephen Hawking can’t explain you
Rosetta Stone could not translate you
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words
I couldn’t put it in a novel
I wrote a page, but it was awful
Now I just want to sing your gospel
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words

 

 

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7. “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing”

Songs like “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” make one believe that, far from being past his songwriting prime, Rivers Cuomo is only now perfecting the formula for the type of music he’s most interested in producing. Whatever post-punk or post-grunge or post-whatever paradigm gave impetus to their initial success, Cuomo has seemingly deduced that his singular talent lies in refining the sugar found in classic bubblegum rock and roll. I hear echoes of acts from Connie Francis to ABBA in the melodies and arrangements of Weezer’s recent albums.

And yeah that’s a good thing.

 

 

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8. “King of the World”

Being an admirer of Brian Wilson, it’s not surprising Cuomo’s songwriting arsenal includes a shrewd comprehension of the power of the nonsense syllable. It never sounds forced, but rather completely organic. Here he tags the end of the chorus with a melodic woah-woah-WOAH, woah-woah-WOAH…and it sounds like nothing so much as an intrinsic part of the lyric.

Check out another perfect example in “Perfect Situation” above.

 

 

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9. “Weekend Woman”

Bells and glockenspiel add melodramatic effect to a mournful lost love song. Pop magic.

I still believe your beautiful lies…

 

 

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10. “Sweet Mary”

To describe “Sweet Mary” is to repeat myself about Cuomo’s aptitude for a sweet melancholy melody and his great pop instincts. But I won’t let that stop me.

Note how the extended bridge lends tension that leads to sweet melodic relief and resolution in the final chorus. Masterful.

 

 

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See also:

Ten Great Asia Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Hollies Songs That Never Hit the U.S. Top 40

Ten Great Proclaimers Songs That Aren’t ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’

Ten Great Irish Rovers Songs That Aren’t ‘The Unicorn’

Songs You May Have Missed #484

weezer

Weezer: “Susanne” (1995)

To me, the only thing better than a great movie is a great movie that’s based on true events. I think it applies to songs too; once I know that a lyric has its origins in an interesting real-life situation, I usually have a greater attachment to the song.

Weezer B-side “Susanne”, which appeared on the Mallrats soundtrack, was a bit of a rarity for years; less so since its inclusion on the Deluxe Edition reissue of the “Blue album”.

From that CD’s liner notes comes the story behind the song:

Susanne was a talented A&R assistant at Geffen. In the long months of limbo between completing the Blue album in October ’93 and its eventual release in May of ’94, she became a big Weezer supporter, doing her best to keep the guys optimistic about their future with Geffen. As the lyrics imply, Susanne did in fact help Rivers (Cuomo) out with her spare winter coat when he needed one, and made plates of brownies to cheer him up. Her devotion and aid were perfectly summed up in this song. Before she knew of the song’s existence, the guys performed it a cappella for her in her Geffen office. Needless to say, it surprised the hell out of her!

Originally the line “Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose, when I call you put ’em all on hold” read “Even Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose…” In April ’94 the shocking news came of Kurt’s untimely death. Though the two had never met, Rivers had found great inspiration in Kurt’s songwriting on Nirvana’s Bleach. So when it came time to record “Susanne”, Rivers decided to change the lyric, not wanting to disrespect the memory of one who had been such an inspiration.

_____________________________________________

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

When I met you I was all alone
Cold and hungry cryin’ on the phone
You baked me brownies and said “don’t you cry”
And gave me the coat off your back

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush, drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted

Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose
When I call you put ’em all on hold
And say to me that you’d do anything
And all I can do is say that
I haven’t much I can give you in return
Only my heart and a promise not to turn
But I’ll sing to you every day and every night
Susanne, I’m your man

Susanne, you’re all that I wanted of a girl
You’re all that I need in the world
I’m your child
Make me blush,  drive me wild
Susanne, you’re all that I wanted
Of a girl
YEAH! 

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/01/30/songs-you-may-have-missed-313/

Songs You May Have Missed #313

hurley

Weezer: “Ruling Me” (2010)

Although Weezer fans’ patience is put to the test at times by their uneven output–not to mention confounding album art (such as titling an album “Hurley” after a character from TV show Lost)–Rivers Cuomo reminds us now and then that few in the business are his equal when it comes to the kind of glorious pop rock chorus that makes you want to crank it up and put the top down. (Even if you drive a minivan and not a convertible.)

To my ears this song shares DNA with the music of power pop founding fathers the Raspberries. With no disrespect to any current platinum-selling act, the fact that there’s no place on the current pop charts for this kind of pop speaks to our general musical impoverishment.

My favorite lines:

We first met/In the lunchroom/My ocular nerve went pop! zoom!

I’ve never observed such a beautiful face

Sweet lady/Don’t play me/If I am a knob don’t fade me

You can’t win the game if you pass the Ace

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/10/04/songs-you-may-have-missed-484/

10 Albums That Almost Killed Careers

career kill

(Reprinted from Ultimate Classic Rock)

by Matthew Wilkening

Rock musicians, much like professional athletes and romantic partners, are constantly in danger of being asked, “But what have you done for me lately?” Even the biggest bands and solo stars can find themselves suddenly out of favor and plummeting down the charts if their latest album doesn’t live up to either their own legacies or fan expectations.

From Van Halen‘s ill-fated attempt to prove lightning can strike not just twice, but with three different lead singers, Kiss‘s mind-boggling attempt at creating a critic-pleasing concept album, the mighty Rolling Stones wandering too far from their strengths and many more, Ultimate Classic Rock and Diffuser.fm take a look at the 10 albums that almost killed the careers of some of rock’s biggest stars.

As you’ll see, luckily in nearly every case the “offending” artists were able to regroup, learn from their mistakes, re-connect with the magic that made us fall in love with them in the first place and resurrect their careers. Now let’s see exactly how and where they went wrong in the first place…

van halen

Van Halen: ‘III’

As far as selecting lead singers goes, the third time was definitely NOT the charm for Van Halen.

After racing straight to the top of the rock mountain with original frontman David Lee Roth, and miraculously managing to stay there for another decade after he was replaced by Sammy Hagar, Van Halen chose Extreme singer Gary Cherone as the group’s third vocalist. Their first (and only) album together, 1998′s ‘III,’ was a shapeless mess that was panned by critics and avoided by fans. It would be 14 years before the group returned — with Roth on the mic — with the triumphant ‘A Different Kind of Truth.’

kiss

Kiss: ‘Music from the Elder’

After watching their reign atop the late-’70s arena rock scene disappear in a puff of disco smoke, Kiss knew they had to do something big and bold to get back in the game. Unfortunately, 1981′s ‘Music from the Elder’ was an even bigger misstep.

Producer Bob Ezrin, fresh off the success of Pink Floyd‘s ambitious concept album ‘The Wall,’ decided that the facepainted marvels, whose lyrical depth typically topped out with tracks like ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Christine Sixteen,’ should tackle an album-length suite of songs about a young medieval warrior’s epic quest to save the world… or something. The end product, while admirably daring, is one of the most universally panned and mocked records in rock history. To their credit, they righted their creative ship the next year.

stones

Rolling Stones: ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’

OK, here’s where we stretch the boundaries of this list’s title right up to the breaking point. After all, it’s not likely that any one album could kill the Rolling Stones‘ career, even one as odd, out of character and poorly received as 1967′s ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request.’

But it definitely sent them back to the drawing board. Clearly influenced by the psychedelic music of the era — and some would say, overly focused on keeping up with the Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ — the Stones delivered an ambitious but ultimately unfocused effort that made them look like followers instead of leaders — at least, until they kicked off perhaps rock’s most impressive four-album run ever with ‘Beggars Banquet’ the next year.

neil-young-trans-300x300

Neil Young: ‘Trans’

If ever a rocker has valued chasing the constantly changing sounds in his head over making commercially safe career choices, it’s Neil Young.

Young, who followed up his warm, lush commercial breakthrough LP ‘Harvest’ with the abrasively dark ‘Tonight’s the Night,’ dabbles in genres like rockabilly, country and R&B as quickly as others change shirts. Even by those standards, 1982′s ‘Trans’ stands out as his most risky move; a synth-heavy semi-concept album featuring heavily processed vocals that confused many fans. Together with 1983′s ‘Everybody’s Rockin’,’ ‘Trans’ led Geffen Records to sue Young for making “unrepresentative” albums. He won, and has continued marching to his own drum regardless of the chart results to this day.

Bob-Dylan-Under-red-sky

Bob Dylan: ‘Under the Red Sky’

Much like Neil Young, the creatively restless Bob Dylan has often — and seemingly willfully — tried to shake his fans loose from time to time.

Whether he was embracing electric guitars on 1965′s ‘Bringing it All Back Home,’ country and Americana on 1967′s ‘John Wesley Harding,’ or Christianity on 1979′s ‘Slow Train Coming,’ there have been plenty of times where Dylan risked alienating his listeners. But 1990′s ‘Under the Red Sky,’ filled with nursery-rhyme level lyrics and overly slick production, was the point where many wondered if the former visionary had simply lost the trail — or worse, given up. Luckily, the singer launched another (still going) winning streak with 1997′s ‘Time Out of Mind.’

Machine-300

Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Machina/The Machines of God’

According to Billy Corgan, there are numerous reasons that Smashing Pumpkins‘ 2000 would-be swan song sold fewer copies than ‘Adore,’ the divisive electronic-tinged album that came two years earlier. First, it’s a concept album whose storyline went way over people’s heads. And then there was the timing. The band was in the midst of breaking up, and the alt-rock scene was then ruled by the loud and dumb likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit.

“So the combination of those elements was a career-killer,” Corgan said in a 2006 interview. “‘Adore didn’t alienate the audience, they were just sort of like, ‘Oh, it’s not the record I want.’ [‘Machina’] alienated people.”

Corgan waited seven years to revive the Pumpkins and issue a proper follow-up, ‘Zeitgeist.’ The album divided critics, but it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Last year’s ‘Oceana’ seemed to fare better, at least critically, and many hailed the disc as Corgan’s finest since the early ’90s.

weezer-pinkerton-cover

Weezer: ‘Pinkerton’

After the success of Weezer‘s debut, 1994′s so-called ‘Blue Album,’ Geffen execs no doubt wanted more nerdy power-pop nuggets like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘The Sweater Song.’ Instead, mastermind Rivers Cuomo gave them a brutally honest, emotionally fraught song cycle based on the opera ‘Madame Butterfly.’ The tunes were catchy, but Cuomo’s sexual hangups and struggles with fame weren’t exactly the stuff of Top 40 singalongs. Critics balked, the disc peaked at No. 19 and Weezer went on hiatus.

When Weezer returned in 2001, it was with another self-titled effort, this one all about pop hooks. The ‘Green Album’ kicked off an unlikely second act that continues to this day. Interestingly, Weezer’s comeback was largely due to ‘Pinkerton,’ which had grown in stature throughout the ’90s. Whether better than ‘Blue,’ it trumps anything Cuomo has released since, though the middling likes of the ‘Red Album’ and ‘Raditude’ have done little to hurt the band’s standing.

REM-Around-Cover-Art

R.E.M.: ‘Around the Sun’

R.E.M.‘s unlucky 13th album missed the U.S. Top 10 and failed to yield a hit single. For the first time since the mid-’80s, the Athens alt-rock heroes found themselves outside of the mainstream, only this time, it wasn’t because they were a cutting-edge cult act awaiting a commercial break. As guitarist Peter Buck admitted, they were tired old superstars who’d lost the plot.

“[‘Around the Sun’] just wasn’t really listenable, because it sounds like what it is, a bunch of people that are so bored with the material that they can’t stand it anymore,” Buck said in 2008, the same year the band dropped ‘Accelerate,’ the first of two back-to-basics albums that reaffirmed R.E.M.’s relevance and ended their career on a relative high note. History was always going to look kindly on the group, but ‘Around the Sun’ would have been a dim end to the story.

U2-Pop-cover

U2: ‘Pop’

In the late ’90s, no flop was really going to kill U2‘s career, but ‘Pop’ was cause for concern. Following ‘Zooropa’ (1993) and ‘Achtung Baby’ (1991), the album capped a trilogy that saw these venerable stadium gods reinvent themselves as electro-rock experimentalists. The songs are built around loops, samples and the like, and while the band had made successful use of such techniques, ‘Pop’ suggested that Bono and the boys had run out of ideas and reached the end of a particular phase of their career. The public more or less agreed, and ‘Pop’ became U2′s lowest-selling disc since 1981′s ‘October.’

Having perhaps learned their lesson, U2 returned three years later with the more guitar-centric ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’ The album spawned four smash singles and won seven Grammys, and to date, it’s sold more than 12 million copies.

Clash-Sandinista1

The Clash: ‘Sandinista!’

No record better encapsulates the Clash‘s story than ‘Sandinista!’ Brilliant, infuriating, bursting with ambition yet bogged down with bad ideas, this 36-track triple LP perplexed fans and angered execs at CBS, who were strong-armed by the band into selling it for the price of a single album.

‘Sandinista!’ may have been a bargain, but it hardly flew off shelves. At a time when Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon might have become punk’s Fab Four, they went ‘White Album’ times 10, experimenting with soul, hip-hop, funk, disco, dub and even gospel, virtually ensuring there’d be no hits.

The Clash were already starting to splinter, and sessions for the follow-up, ‘Combat Rock’ (1982), proved extremely contentious. Remarkably, that album proved the band’s commercial breakthrough, and thanks to the singles ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ and ‘Rock the Casbah,’ the “Only Band That Matters” found itself on the pop charts, if only briefly.

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