In 1994, Weezer started its media attack by appearing on MTV, the Star Wars Insider, and every music publication known to man. To say their roll-out was unorthodox is fairly accurate, but then again, it does fit their style. The band's first album helped launch countless imitators and followers in a variety of areas, from the annoying emo field to the most delightful group Nerf Herder. The orginal version of this album (the contents of Disc 1) sold millions of copies and is a staple in CD collections the world over. So why buy it again?
Disc 2 and some liner notes are basically what separates this release from the one ten years ago. Die-hard fans of Weezer will have undoubtedly heard most of the second disc by way of b-sides from singles, bootlegs, and elsewhere. If the material is new to you, though, you're in for a real treat.
The first eight tracks on the second disc were releases, often internationally, and are somewhat hard to find. "Susanne" was a b-side that's probably best known as the closing song to Kevin Smith's film Mallrats, and Jaime appeared on a rarities disc as well as on the UK "Buddy Holly" single. The other tracks came from sundry b-sides of singles, and since those import singles cost about $10 for 4 tracks, well, odds are the collectors are going to be a little miffed that they're now widely available on the cheap. The live tracks are a little anemic, but the rest are great, cleanly recorded songs that probably should have seen wider distribution much earlier. Fans are going to love this stuff.
Legend has it that there are dozens of songs from the era of this first album that never were released, as Rivers Cuomo (the band's lead singer) is notoriously harsh on his own work. Tracks 9-13 are previously unreleased in, as far as I could tell as of this review, any form. The "Kitchen Tape" was a demo that featured Jason Cropper, co-scribe of "My Name is Jonas" and founding member who left the band shortly before they made it big to be with his pregnant significant other. (Cropper and the future Mrs. Cropper went on to found Chopper One a few years later.) The band sounds like a demo recorded in someone's kitchen, but it's quite clear and the songs are more energetic than anything you'd hear on Maladroit. Why the songs were left in the vaults for so long is beyond me, but they are compelling enough to check out.
The final track is the original mix of "Say it Ain't So." The original mix, so says the liner notes, appeared on the first 1.5 million copies of the blue album in 1994, and the remix, which appears on the rest and as track 7 on disc 1, is... different. Still, it's nothing groundbreaking.
One of the nicest things on this set, though, is an inclusion of several paragraphs explaining the origin of the B-sides. So now you know who they're about and where they came from. This is a really nice thing to have... but what about the main album? Who's this Jonas, anyway?
Disc 1, on the other hand, you either have heard at this point or just plain wouldn't care to read more comments on it. As such, if you like Weezer and haven't heard any of that first disc, go to the store and buy this new deluxe edition. If you have the first version, this is probably worth your while, especially if you find it for $20 or less. The album isn't as quirky as the stuff we usually review here, but it's a good, solid album from the mid-1990s and as anyone who had ears during those years can tell you, that's saying a lot. The two-disc collection concept is a little frustrating if you've already heard the first disc and don't wish to re-buy it, but it is a nice little package and as it is Weezer, it's really hard to find an excuse to not buy this set. It's a real treat... and it's got Matt Sharp on it. Which, of course, may not make this release so distinctive as he's rumored to be getting back with the band nowadays.
March 29, 2004