#51, "Say It Ain't So," Weezer (1994)

Weezer’s Blue Album is impossibly good. I’ve written about my Weezer Origin Story, in which “The Sweater Song” seemed to have been written specifically with me and a handful of my friends in mind. “Buddy Holly” is great,* but kind of suffers from Basket-Caseism in my mind. Like Green Day’s “Basket Case,” Weezer’s biggest hit on their breakthrough album is a fine song, but brought them to the masses in ways their other, more moderate hits did not. By the time “Buddy Holly” took over America, I was already firmly an Album Fan of Weezer’s and their ensuing popularity aided significantly by the admittedly INSPIRED music video irritated me. 


*If I’m being charitable to “El Scorcho,” I’ll credit “Buddy Holly” with being a prequel to a superior song, but realistically, I think “El Scorcho” is just a retry to do “Buddy Holly,” but better, which mission accomplished. 


I’d like to blame my irritation with “Buddy Holly” for not noticing that a third single was released off of the Blue Album. But to be completely fair to me, the Internet states that the music video for “Say It Ain’t So” wasn’t released until the year of our lord NINETEEN NINETY FIVE?! Well, no, I *wouldn’t* have noticed a music video released in July of nineteen fucking ninety five, why would I?? I was also losing focus at that point and less into Weezer than I’d previously been, despite having just about worn out my compact disc copy of the Blue Album (if only that were possible).


I mentioned in my post about “Why Bother?” that in my mind, Blue is extremely tight. There’s no wasted space. It’s pure excellence, beginning to end. It would be hard to pick a second favorite on this album. I think I tried. However, with another non-controversial proclamation, I’m saying firmly that “Say It Ain’t So” is a very easy favorite. Musically, it’s a slight variation on the quiet-verses, loud/rockin’ chorus (“getting to the cool part” if you recall from Beavis and Butthead) that was so prevalent in the 90s. It also includes one of my favorite recurring elements in music: the distinctive callback. It starts and ends on the same guitar lick. I guess Rolling Stone called it one of the 100 best guitar songs of all time, a distinction that makes me want to stop making lists. 


Musically, this song is super compelling but I think what makes it a classic is the grief, dread and regret in the lyrics and vocal delivery. Before yesterday, I had some sense of it. It’s a well-written song in that it’s thematic enough so that it feels relatable but nonspecific enough so that everyone *can* relate? Angst aimed at how parents were and are comes loud and clear (“Dear Daddy, I write you in spite of years of silence”). There also seemed to be themes related to alcohol abuse? But I didn’t fill in the gaps until doing my pre-post research and found some evidence that Rivers is recounting a memory from high school in which he finds a beer bottle in his mom and step-dad’s refrigerator and began to imagine that marriage unravelling the same way his parents’ marriage did. Rivers also acknowledges his own dependence on alcohol (“like father, step-father, the son is drowning in the flood”). My goodness! How incredibly sad and impressively candid. I want to give him a hug.


I don’t recall exactly when I first saw the music video. I can tell you it sure as shit wasn’t 1995, but when? I know it was on YouTube maybe the turn of last decade ~2010 or soish? It was a cool experience because it’s an aggressively 90s video. Not having seen it until it was starting to be firmly reasonable to be 90s-nostalgic, it made me want to crawl into the TV and live in the Grandma’s House setting and play hacky sack and share Rivers’ juice box. It was a collision between the completely stale stale and completely fresh. The intersection between familiar and brand new. 


I’m trying to conjure up something eloquent to say about Weezer’s legacy and I’ve got nothin’. It’s not necessary to point out that they’ve sucked longer than they were good (though they were SO good). I don’t want to talk about Rivers having lost his ability or desire or both to put out actual good music (again). This is the first artist repeat on my list and despite their Simpsonsesque, frustrating and interminable inability to get it together or pack it in, their influence on me musically and personally is very special and I will never not ultimately love Weezer.