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Weezer is more than just the 'Sweater-Song' band



David Geffen Company.

Concert at Local 186.

Sept. 25, 11 p.m.

By Brian Hoffman
Staff Reporter

An innocent student says, "Hey! That's the sweater song!" while idly listening to the radio. Instantly out of the sky drops a light blue compact disc, smacking him (whack!) in the head, rendering him completely unconscious. When he comes to, he rushes home, throws the disc into the player and stares numbly into space, completely entranced by the incredible sound pounding forth from the speakers.

Most people respond "Uh, what's that?" when the name Weezer comes up, despite "Undone - The Sweater Song" ranking among one of the songs recognized by most of America's college students right now. Those who have listened to the album have leapt to the next plane of existence. Those who have not should buy it - now.

Only two words need to be shouted from the nearest mountain top about Weezer and their album: absolutely amazing. From "My Name Is Jonas" all the way to "Only in Dreams," Weezer proves its collective musical talents in terms of artistic construction, sound, feeling, and effort. Every track on the album comes together beautifully.

With Rivers Cuomo on vocals and guitar, Brian Bell on vocals and guitar, Matt Sharp on vocals and bass, and Patrick Wilson on drums, the L.A. band Weezer meshes together musically - especially vocally; Rivers, Brian, and Matt harmonize very well. For an overall sound, picture the song constructions of the Beatles and amped up with a more modern-feeling guitar, although this description pales in comparison to the actual sound, which is best experienced rather than told.

"My Name Is Jonas" starts the album off with a breathtaking song, mixing light and hard guitar sounds - starting off with light, high guitar, breaking into some power chords, switching back to light guitar, then back to heavy guitar to establish a slow groove with great vocals. Speeding up towards the end and mixing in something that sounds like a harmonica, "Jonas" finally switches back to light guitar for a very artistic finish to the song.

"No One Else," written by Rivers about his girlfriend, sounds somehow like it might be Beach Boys-derived, with a great rhythm section and some rather crazy lyrics.

A very sad song about Rivers wondering why his girlfriend is gone, "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here," has an absolutely amazing vocal section: "Do you believe what I sing now" being sung over other lyrics to create an "overtone effect," for lack of another term, with some incredible rhythm guitar. This track works well.

Sounding like something that could have come from the '50s or '60s, but mixed with modern guitar, "Buddy Holly" has a very upbeat sound in parts, owing to its being written after they signed their record contract. The chorus "Ohhh e Oooh / I look just like Buddy Holly / Oh oh / And you're Mary Tyler Moore" sounds especially cool.

And then comes the infamous "Undone - The Sweater Song." Everyone knows this track, but most people interpret it as humorous rather than the sad song it was meant to be - "If you want to destroy my sweater / Pull this thread as I walk away / Watch me unravel / I'll soon be naked / Lying on the floor, lying on the floor /I've come undone." The vocals on this track totally make the song work.

"Surf Wax America," a great fast rhythm song with a few quiet moments to keep things interesting, is a "totally sarcastic call to hedonism," according to Rivers. The lyrics say something meaningful about the life of a person forced to go to work at a boring job day after day: "You take your car to work / I'll take my board / And when you're out of fuel / I'm still aboard."

On "Say It Ain't So" Weezer slows down for a little while before bringing it home with some crunching rhythm sections in a mellow song about sitting in front of the television with a beer, reminiscing. "In the Garage" was also written right after the group got their record deal and has some humorous lyrics about the place they used to play, which is pictured on the inside of the compact disc booklet. For example, "I've got the dungeon master's guide / I've got a 12 sided die" and "I've got posters on the wall / My favorite rock group Kiss" denote a teenage framework, but also says something about how they feel about fame: "In the garage I feel safe / No one cares about my ways / In the garage where I belong / No one hears me sing this song." "In the Garage" with its distorted guitar sound, some great harmonizing on the lyrics, and the strange harmonica sound again makes for an amazing track.

"Holiday," like "In the Garage" and "Buddy Holly," was written after the group got their record deal, and sounds like it could have come from the '50s or '60s but with a modern sound for a cool effect. It has got some great repetition in rhythm guitar which is not really brought to the forefront, in effect augmenting the lyrics rather than covering them up. "Holiday" slows for some quartet inspired vocals starting at 1 minute, 40 seconds into the song, before slamming back with rhythm guitar and the lyrics "Let's go away for a while /You and I / To a strange and distant land / Where they speak the word of truth / But we don't understand . . . / On a holiday far away."

The mellowist track on the album, "Only in Dreams," gets left as a fitting end to a wonderful album. With some great drums, selective guitar, and vocal contributions, "Only in Dreams" truly shines as a work of art. Everyone should have a chance to dance in the moonlight close to someone they love with this song in the background.

Listening to Weezer's album truly brings out something locked deep within all of us - something just changes in your mood when you listen to it. To put it another way, Weezer's album deserves to occupy a spot in the five disc changer at all times (as an example, it has not moved from mine since I first unwrapped it three weeks ago). If you do not have a compact disc collection, start one with Weezer: Buy it now! On a scale of zero to ten, with zero being Barry Manilow, and ten being Weezer, Weezer rates - Surprise! - a 10!

The performance

The line of people stretched on to infinity. Well, almost - down the street from the door of the Local 186. Slowly the hopeful concert-goers shuffled forward, got their ID checked at the door, paid 8 bucks for a ticket, and took their positions among the masses. The crowd buzzed while waiting impatiently for four musicians to appear. The appointed hour of eleven o'clock came and went. Another ten minutes passed. Heavy techno issued forth from the speakers overhead. Finally, the back stage door opened, spilling light forth into the darkened interior of the Local 186.

The members of Weezer took their places on the stage, with bassist Matt Sharp making a fashion statement by wearing a pair of blue sweatpants, and began the concert with "My Name Is Jonas." The sheer power of their performance washed over the crowd, parts of which reacted instantly by starting a pit in front of the stage. Other parts of the crowd grooved along with the music, screamed the lyrics, or danced in place.

The level of power and excitement at this concert rose much higher than earlier in the day when the group played an acoustic set at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. There, the crowd stood or sat peacefully and listened intently as the group sang and played on a couple of lightly amplified acoustic guitars and a cheap keyboard. The feeling in the room was very much like at Woodstock this summer.

"My Name is Jonas" ended, the crowd applauding wildly, and Weezer broke into "No One Else" with the pit picking up in intensity. Inevitably people ended up crowd-surfing in a room not much larger than a big dining room, which was an amazing sight. Although the room was fairly small, the sound quality was good, and Weezer, although loud, is nowhere close to being excessive (e.g., King Missile played so loudly when I saw them at a local club that it bordered on the physically painful).

After "No one else" Weezer played "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" and "Buddy Holly." The crowd mellowed slightly during "The World Has Turned" but came back stronger during "Buddy Holly," especially during the chorus. Yes, Weezer did play the first four songs of the album in order, but then skipped "Undone - The Sweater Song" for later. When they finally get to it (surprisingly not saving it for last as they did during their acoustic set), the crowd went absolutely insane, much the same as during the intense "Surf Wax America." The crowd surfing picked up especially during this song.

During the evening, Weezer played three new songs, all of which the crowd received well. An interesting choice was made for the last song, "Only in Dreams," which let people in the crowd dance with friends or just listen and relax.

After Weezer's emotionally-charged set, a friend of mine summed it up: "It was a lot of fun at the club. Weezer is a really cool group. I did listen to the compact disc many times, actually. They are awesome!"

Weezer definitely adds a lot to their sound by being plugged in, but their acoustic set gave them a chance to show off their vocal talents and gave them exposure to an audience that might not normally frequent clubs. On the whole, seeing Weezer live wasn't as mind-blowing an experience as being a couple feet from Trent Reznor when I saw Nine Inch Nails a couple weeks before Woodstock; but as far as club shows go, Weezer at the Local 186 kicked.