Nostalgic 1994 Songs: “Undone (The Sweater Song)”

Even if Weezer had faded away after putting out Pinkerton (which has since become something of a classic) their singles from The Blue Album would still be considered classics.  No other band in the 90’s combined pop hooks with loud guitars as well as Weezer.  Nirvana made taken their cues from punk and The Pixies, while Weezer used Cheap Trick as a influence, updating the pop sensibility for a rock radio format.  No other song from The Blue Album would endure as much as “Undone (The Sweater Song)”.  Everyone knows the chorus, and will joyously/drunkenly sing along whenever it is played.  Even the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” never achieved that, as famous as it is.

Even before the chorus, the opening guitar riff is hypnotic.  It’s the same note played over and over again for a minute.  The dream-like riff is pulls you in – you’re forced to listen to the song.  Even the conversation that takes place in the background of the song seems adrift compared to the guitars.  It takes over the conversation and perhaps that was Weezer’s intent – to force the listener to take in the song.  It feels like it could go on forever, reminding me much of The Beatle’s repeated riff at the end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  Weezer does it at the beginning of the song, but the effect is no less enthralling.

And this even before Rivers Cuomo starts singing.  The listener is already hooked, does it really matter what he sings about at this point? In most slow verse/loud chorus songs of this era, the singer would scream through the chorus as a form of catharsis. Undone does explode in the chorus with Cuomo suggesting, “if you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.”  It’s so ridiculous, yet brilliant.  Everyone who heard that chorus the first time surely must have thought: “What the hell did he just say?”

The second chorus takes it even further.  “Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked.  Lying on the floor.”  And just as Cuomo finishes that line, the rest of the band chimes in and repeats it for extra effect.  “I’ve come undone!” Cuomo announces.  The band then takes lift-off, into a guitar-solo that never seems forced.  After the final chorus, the band itself seems to come undone – thrashing away for almost a minute.  But even among all the noise, Cuomo fires series of “ooo-ooo-ooooohs” that recall the signature riff at the beginning of the song,retaining the song’s pop elements.

“Undone” contains many stock elements of 1990’s grunge/post grunge songs.  Even by that time, the soft verse/loud chorus seemed to be dying a slow death.  But “Undone” is so different in its approach, that it seems unique among that style.  It’s little wonder that teenage kids who would later create their own bands listening to Weezer would see them as influence, and in turn take their rock-pop format foundation creating their own sub-genre of rock called Emo.

For me, Weezer was one of the first “new” bands that I grew attached to in the mid-90s.  I never had my own copy of The Blue Album, but instead had a dubbed copy of it on a cassette that I used to play all the time.  By the time “Pinkerton” came out in 1996, I had moved on to other artists.  That Christmas, I remember my brother Pete telling me I should buy “Pinkerton”, and for whatever reason I didn’t.  (I could have been ahead of the curve!)

I still enjoy many of Weezer’s songs on the radio, but like almost everybody else (and perhaps the band themselves as they are now playing The Blue Album in its entirety) I think they’ve never bettered The Blue Album, and more specifically “Undone”.

“Undone (The Sweater Song)”:

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