The Blue Album: A Nostalgic Trip

reposting this because today is the 20th anniversary of The Blue Album…dig.

The Blue Album

ATTENTION: hack-ish omphaloskepsis set to commence.

Every single last living person on this Earth has that album – that one album – that they will hold on to for the rest of their lives. It’s a peculiar type of ownership, this listener-to-album relationship. For most people, there’s several “favorite albums,” but the kind of album I’m talking about is the one that you’ve listened to a million times and still can’t find the point where you’re supposed to grow tired of it. Most of time, you never will. Ever. It’s a peculiar type of ownership. I’m talkin’ ’bout the kind of album that you connect in your mind with the monumental moment(s) in your life, and from this the album becomes a part of you on an almost cellular level, like a friend or an old love or – maybe this is more fitting, since albums become infectious – like a disease would. Maybe it reminds you of summers spent in the suburbs, laying on the grass with a boombox and a blanket; or, maybe it reminds you of an old girlfriend and all the wonderful memories you have of her, as my “special” album does. Maybe you were listening to it right before your car crashed, and now you can’t help but get goosegumps as that guitar solo comes up, the one that hit its high notes just as the front of your car wrapped itself around a tree-trunk all those months ago. It’s cellular, it’s infectious, it’s the album that will probably get played in an endless, sonic loop at your funeral. There’s also the weird chance that it gets played endlessly in your version of the afterlife, but that’s retarded.

Like a film that you love, or a book that you’ve read every goddamn summer since that summer you exclusively wore Superman pajamas and ate S’mores under the stars, it has become apart of you and will never leave you. Some people will tell you with wide eyes and a hushed voice about the time they first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, how the acid they had dropped earlier on in the afternoon made the album come alive and POP! and push their state of mind past the bounds of reality. They’ll remember that album and the crazy persian rug they were laying on and all those wonderful colors that assaulted the room as they were led through a kaleidoscopic look at The Summer of Love. My mom still talks about the first time she heard Frampton Comes Alive, discussing it as if she were describing what it was like to bump in to Jesus at the supermarket. I can understand listening to a Beatles album and describing it as if you had bumped in to Mr. Jesus Christ himself in the bread aisle (no, I don’t care that the dude buys whole wheat bread instead of the cheap stuff) but I can’t understand acting that way about Peter “wah-wah-wah-wah-wah” Frampton. To each their own, I suppose.

You get my point – in fact, you (probably) did several sentences ago. My bad. We take these significant songs and albums and artists that we listen to and we internalize what we’re consuming, and by doing that the art becomes part of who we are as an individual.

For me, that album is Weezer’s 1994 self-titled debut, Weezer, affectionately known by fans as The Blue Album. Is it my favorite album of all-time? Nope, it is not; my favorite album – caveat: at the moment, since my pick has been known to sometimes change daily – is always a question that’s in a constant state of war with itself, but right now – if I had to pick – it would be a toss-up between In the Aeroplane Over The Sea or London Calling with The White Album waiting in the wings. I’m a pretty big music nerd, so it would be impossible for me to even try to pick a favorite album of all-time, but in terms of meaning pertaining to my own life, no album comes even close to this one. In fact, it might as well be the soundtrack playing in the background over footage from the first twenty-four years of my life so far, the words “Joshua, This Is Your Life” in big, bold, blue letters at the bottom like subtitles. The only thing that compelled me to even write this article in a flash was that while I was working on something else earlier, my Spotify jumped to the next song (on random) and it turned out to be “My Name is Jonas,” the opening track from The Blue Album.

Now, as I started writing these words, I realized that writing a “standard review” was out of the question – I’m not a very good critic, and whenever I think of this album and all the memories I’ve attached to it, I knew that there was no way for me to be objective, which is a very, very good way to explain why I do such a terrible job at writing reviews. Whether I hate something or love it unconditionally, my passion often drowns out all attempts I make at being unemotional (I blame it on discovering that I loved to write at eight years old and deciding to follow that love to the ends of the Earth). And, since I knew that there was no way in hell I was even going to come close to being objective about this album, I decided to write something a little more navel-gazing, a little more unencumbered by rules and critical nature, a little more, I done’no, “spacey,” or, if you prefer for me to use words like a fully-grown adult male, free-form and lackadaisical…

I remember the first time I heard it, this would be back in 1994 which would make me six years old, and like most stories that involve a cherished song or album, my first run-in with the music that I’m writing so lovingly and vividly about involved cooler, older cousins coming to visit during the summer, their cooler, more sophisticated and varied collections of music in tow. I’m standing in my old living room while my cousins Ali and Emily watched the video for “(Undone) The Sweater Song” on MTV. Blue stage. Dogs running around. Steadicam-shot done by Spike Jonze. A catchy song blasting forth, immediately arresting to my incredibly young ears, and maybe if I wanted to go over-the-top I could argue that, on that day amongst many, I displayed one of the earliest symptoms of what doctors would later go on to diagnose as “an instinctual and obsessive love of music, particularly of the rock ‘n roll category, an affliction that is life-long and takes on many gross, expensive manifestations, not to mention the eventual hearing loss and bouts of incredible immaturity.” I struggle with it daily, as I’m sure many of you out there do too. We’ll get through it individually, but I like to think that we all struggle together. Strength, brothers and sisters. Strength. I remember where I was when I first discovered John Lennon, too, but that’s for a much different and much, much lengthier and personal article next month. Due to my “an instinctual and obsessive love of music, particularly of the rock ‘n roll category, an affliction that is life-long and takes on many gross, expensive manifestations, not to mention the eventual hearing loss and bouts of incredible immaturity,” I often find myself daydreaming about childhood, and when I daydream about my childhood it often has a soundtrack to it. That childhood home movie of the head is usually scored by the music of my parents and it consists of all the ones you would usually expect: The Beatles (a little bit of dad, a little bit of mom, but mostly dad), Johnny Cash (dad), Led Zeppelin (mom), The Rolling Stones (mom), Creedence Clearwater Revival (both), etc. etc. But outside of my parents I have my own stuff, such as the obscure indie music I went nuts on in high school or the wild, varied collection of quality crap I blare far too loudly this very day. Of the latter days – the college/young adulthood days — in this movie’s soundtrack, you’ll hear the assertive, confident righteousness of The Clash or the wonderful, accessible weirdness of Modest Mouse (particularly The Moon & Antarctica…I fucking love that goddamn album). But, really, all this stuff gets thrown in to the cauldron and gets played endlessly, weird mixture of sounds that this bubbling brew is indeed, until the day that you drop dead and the music suddenly stops for you and plays for someone else somewhere else at the same time, music rising and falling with life like those pretty red and green decibel-level lights you’ll see on a stereo. I hope someone can tell me what exactly I just wrote there, because I’m not too sure myself.

I remember listening to the album – here comes that word “endlessly” again to haunt me – with an old girlfriend, her favorite song from the album being “Only In Dreams.” She was a big fan of the album too, as I’m sure she would attest. We would listen to it while we took one of our legendary trips to the coast, the big, blue waters of the pacific ocean accompanying that now iconic album cover. Somehow, like some kind of ubiquitous pop music phantom, the album would always show up during our too long and yet too short amount of time together. It would somehow wind up playing when we were fighting, it would play during the silences of a long drive, or when we were making out, or laughing, or fighting, or doing homework while we were fighting and then make-up and make-out, or maybe we were both listening to it individually back in the ancient days of talking to each other late at night on AOL Instant Messenger, most of our epic conversations consisting of variations of “lol” and an army of pointless emoticons at our disposal. No matter how it all ended up, it’s still kind of great to be able to look back on that sort of thing with at least some holy fondness for that beautiful face of hers, or that dorky laugh she had that I got to hear whenever I did an impression in front of her. She’s almost encapsulated by the music, beautiful memories of her trapped in the thick, forever-and-ever amber of crystal-clear guitars and sunny-day harmonies. Pinkerton was there too, but it was mostly reserved for my days of acting like some kind of dorky, modern-day libertine stoner. “El Scorcho” really fits the groove – so to say – when you go around acting that way.

I remember all of this crap because memories have a way of sticking in my mind like – just you fucking wait for it – a really catchy pop song you hear on the radio. As a writer, I harvest this shit for material constantly because, as all writers know, childhood is the place where all these dreams and ambitions kind of take root. Maybe it’s a parent pretty much forgetting about you after a messy divorce (I’m a product of one of those divorces, raise your hand if you are too) or maybe it’s the feeling you get from looking up at the stars and find yourself dreaming of life on other planets. When you’re young and little and scared out of your goddamn mind about just how big the world appears, the world takes on the shape of some massive, all-powerful enigma. It’s this massive thing that you exist in, day-in and day-out, but your life is structured and uniform, and this can only make you feel secure, even when you’re living in scary and insecure times. And, as that affliction I wrote about earlier makes clear (“instinctual and obsessive love of music, particularly of the rock ‘n roll category, an affliction that is life-long and takes on many gross, expensive manifestations, not to mention the eventual hearing loss and bouts of incredible immaturity”), I find security in the things I know so well. I find security by writing or talking to people. I find it by hanging out with friends or by talking to a girl I like, or maybe I find it getting stoned and watching Citizen Kane. It’s that familiarity that has always made me happy – though, I just want to note, I also find myself happy when I’m out of my element and trying new shit – and I guess my point with this short, omphaloskepsis-laden blog post is that The Blue Album has always been there for me, just like The Beatles or The Clash have always been in constant rotation in my six-disc CD changer…or my mom, too. And my dogs, too.

And writing. Yeah, writing.

Jackson Williams.


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