Rarities Edition: Weezer (Blue Album)

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Universal’s Rarities Edition series whittles their Deluxe Edition series down to a single disc containing nothing but the non-LP cuts; it’s a repackaging of a classic album minus the album itself, designed for listeners who never replaced their original copies with the double-disc reissue but want the second disc as a supplement. Like any other rock band or pop act of the first half of the '90s, Weezer had to produce material to fill out the B-sides of British, European, Asian, and Australian singles. This means that the band had a mess of stray tracks that never have appeared on one of its albums, and this disc, dubbed "Dusty Gems and Raw Nuggets," gathers all of the B-sides from the debut, along with the band's contribution to the DGC Rarities disc, five previously unreleased tracks, and the original album mix of "Say It Ain't So" (which was replaced by the single mix on the album in subsequent pressings). For hardcore fans, this is a blessing, since it gathers a bunch of rarities in one place, but this isn't just of interest to the diehards, since the quality of the material is very high. Thanks to the prolific songwriter Rivers Cuomo, Weezer was one of the handful of '90s alt rock bands that produced consistently engaging non-LP material. It could be argued that the live B-sides are merely good but not revelatory, and that the barbershop quartet excursion on "My Evaline" is simply a curiosity, yet all the rest of the non-LP songs live up to the high standards of the original album and could have fit comfortably on the record. Of these, the previously released "Mykel and Carli," "Susanne," and "Jamie" are all loud, tuneful punk-pop tributes to friends and colleagues of the band, and they're excellent examples of Cuomo's skill at writing catchy, clever pop miniatures. But what's more noteworthy is the first release of a clutch of previously unreleased early songs, all a little rough, but all very good: the stop-start epic "Paperface," the manic "Lullaby for Wayne," and the slow crawl of "I Swear It's True." These, combined with early versions of "Undone - The Sweater Song" and "Only in Dreams," which are notably different than the final versions, make for a great batch of unreleased material. While there's little question that this second disc does play like a rarities collection -- patches of live and acoustic alternate versions and demo-quality sound will do that -- it's a well-sequenced, highly enjoyable rarities collection that manages to enhance the original album.

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