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Weezer’s California Dream: A Love Letter in 10 Songs

The White Album is only the latest chapter in the band's love affair with California

weezer in 10 songs
Weezer, photo courtesy of the band
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    This article originally ran in 2016; we’re dusting it off in honor of Rivers Cuomo’s birthday on June 13th.

    Ever felt overwhelmed by an artist’s extensive back catalog? Been meaning to check out a band, but you just don’t know where to begin? In 10 Songs is here to help, offering a crash course and entry point into the daunting discographies of iconic artists of all genres. This is your first step toward fandom. Take it.


    Southern California is a strange place. You could call it a disjointed hellscape or a perpetually sunny paradise, and you wouldn’t be wrong in either case. The paradoxical nature of a city like Los Angeles is liable to send plenty of transplants running back to their East Coast enclaves, but not Rivers Cuomo and Weezer. The band have called LA home from the very beginning, and they’ve not only embraced the weirdness of a land defined by its sandy beaches and lack of distinct seasons — they’ve internalized it.

    Weezer’s 10th studio album, which they’re unofficially calling The White Album, is a sort of love letter to California. Cuomo has said that songs like “California Kids” and “L.A. Girlz” were inspired by his experiences “hanging out with people in Venice and Santa Monica, the beach, the Hare Krishnas, the Sikh on roller blades with the guitar, girls on Tinder within a four-mile radius, seeing other bands, the kids from La Sera.”

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    That’s all fine and good, but this isn’t the first time in Weezer’s career that they’ve turned to the Golden State for inspiration. Cuomo’s professed love of The Beach Boys dates back to The Blue Album, and it’s only the tip of the surfboard in terms of what his songwriting owes to California. Let’s examine 10 songs from Weezer’s catalog that trace their roots back to the West Coast.


    We’re Going Surfing!

    “Surf Wax America” from Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)

    Any song titled “Surf Wax America” is going to draw comparisons to The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, regardless of whether its call to grab a board and ditch the rat race comes with a tidal wave of sarcasm. While Weezer’s own version of Californ-i-a isn’t quite the surfer’s paradise that Brian Wilson envisioned, the band’s love of The Beach Boys is well documented and slathered into every pore of this Blue Album ripper.

    But here’s the thing: “Surf Wax America” ain’t no feel-good ‘60s pop song. Cuomo’s snotty declaration that he’s “goin’ surfin’ cuz I don’t like your face” fits right in with the slacker mentality that permeated Southern California’s punk scene in the ‘80s. It’s the kind of lyrical loogie you’d expect from a guy who’s got Milo Goes to College filed right next to Pet Sounds in his record collection, as Rivers Cuomo almost certainly did at one point in his teens.

    A Strange and Distant Land

    “Holiday” from Weezer (The Blue Album) (1994)

    Cuomo finds himself “on the road with Kerouac” in the final verse of “Holiday,” but his reference to the San Francisco Beat poet isn’t the only lyric that hints at a California setting. The opening line, “Let’s go away for a while,” is almost certainly an allusion to the Beach Boys song of the same name, and the doo-woppy vocal harmonies in the bridge solidify the song’s connection to Pet Sounds.

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    Cuomo’s lyrics often touch on the theme of escapism, and it’s probably no coincidence that his home state predominantly exists in the popular imagination as a place to escape to. Think of “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and the Papas (“I’d be safe and warm/ If I was in LA), or switch mediums and go as far back as Steinbeck’s 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. Cuomo internalized the myth of California early on, and he draws on it liberally to create the postcard-perfect dream of “Holiday.”

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