The great “In The Garage” is a rare entry in the all-too-shortlist of Weezer songs with harmonica, which also includes the esteemed likes of “Mykel & Carli,” “Pig,” “Wanda (You’re My Only Love),” “My Name Is Jonas” and “Freak Me Out” (one of these is not quite like the others). The mouth organ riff that begins the song is nicely accompanied by a pretty finger-picked acoustic – a classic Weezer touch, like the heavy electric guitars of the driving verse. The chorus is pure melody, its lyrics offering a more universal counterpoint to the verse’s personal childhood references: “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.”
The song brims with subtle moments of brilliance. The way that, on the second verse, everything drops out but Cuomo’s voice, Matt Sharp’s bass, and Pat Wilson’s simple drumbeat,the guitars crashing back in on the “and” of the fourth beat with a great big cymbal crash, and Brian Bell’s backup harmonies. The strange little scream that Cuomo lets out before tearing into the solo — perhaps the weirdest and most narratively compelling solo of Weezer’s entire discography (the beginning of the solo is Cuomo picking up the guitar for the first time, just making noise; playing around a little longer, he’s able to make some cool, flashy sounds; and finally, it ends with a graceful passage that fits the song and moment perfectly, as though as a player he has gradually honed not just skill but taste). The vocals rising up on the outro — the cute, perfectly cheesy repetition of “no one hears me!” — and the return of the harmonica for the final chords.
Notable variations: in 1994, the band did a couple great live acoustic versions for FM radio (wherein that wild guitar solo is actually played on the harmonica!). As late as their most recent tour in 2005, they’ve been playing the song live — which, being one of Cuomo’s earliest and most personal gems, inexplicably featured late-period bassist Scott Shriner on lead vocals. The band also did a version for their all-killer MTV All Access set in 2001, which also featured a new bassist (Mikey Welsh), but sensibly left the lead to Cuomo. Lastly, there’s a brief clip of Cuomo playing the “Garage” melody on a harpsichord on the Video Capture Device DVD, which sounds quite nice.