Songs from the Black Hole (or just shortened as SFTBH) is the second studio album by American alternative rock band Weezer, released on November 18, 1995. After finishing tours in promotion of their 1994 album Weezer , The band recorded a space themed rock opera/musical. SFTBH is, in the words of songwriter Rivers Cuomo, "supposed to be a whole album of songs transed together," meaning a seamless flow from one song to the next (previous examples of this technique include the closing medley of The Beatles' Abbey Road and various Pink Floyd albums including The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here).
Despite its initial mixed reception, SFTBH has had enduring sales, and in later years, garnered much critical acclaim. SFTBH has appeared on many "Best-of" lists and the re-release is one of few releases to achieve a perfect score on aggregate review website Metacritic. As of August 2009, Songs from the Black Hole has sold 1,852,000 copies in the U.S, and it is certified "Platinum" by the RIAA.
Most of the album was written and recorded solely by Rivers Cuomo on an 8-track at his home in Connecticut in 1994. The characters were to be Jonas (voiced by Cuomo), Laurel (voiced by Rachel Haden of that dog.), Maria (voiced by Joan Wasser of the Dambuilders), Wuan & Dondó (voiced by Brian Bell and Matt Sharp of Weezer), and a robot, M1 (voiced by Karl Koch, a friend of the band and roadie at the time). At the time, Wasser was unaware of Cuomo's intention to have her play a role on the album. In the words of Cuomo, taken from an interview in the November 15, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, "There's this crew - three guys and two girls and a mechanoid - that are on this mission in space to rescue somebody, or something. The whole thing was really an analogy for taking off, going out on the road and up the charts with a rock band, which is what was happening to me at the time I was writing this and feeling like I was lost in space."
Songs from the Black Hole is a dramatic rock song with a high-reaching melody and shifting dynamics. The song takes place on the main deck of the spaceship Betsy II on May 10, 2126. The lyrics are a conversation between the main character Jonas and his shipmates Wuan and Dondó. Jonas is excited yet reserved about the prospect of doing what he thinks is his dream job. Wuan and Dondó are much more upbeat about the experience. In the middle of the song M1 interjects via vocoder to remind them of the task at hand. In the last verse we find that a female character, Maria, the ship's cook, has entered the scene and that Jonas has a history with her from back at Star Corps Academy.
The reception for SFTBH was mixed by critics on its initial release. But there were some critics who highly praised the album on its initial release, Allmusic gave the album a near-perfect four and a half stars out of five, stating, "...Songs from the Black Hole will stand as an idiosyncratic gem in his catalog, showcasing him at his eccentric best." Even Pitchfork Media gave SFTBH a positive review, stating, "[The Album] remind[s] us why we fell for dorks with horn-rimmed glasses and flying-V guitars in the first place,' and that, 'If nothing else, Alone reminds us that a lot of those over-ambitious, silly-on-paper ideas often blossomed in Cuomo's hands, and [that] there is more to Weezer than just crisp power-pop and cute videos.'" Popmatters claimed that the album featured "...some of the strongest material that Cuomo has ever recorded."
But as mentioned, there we're mixed feelings towards the album on its initial release. The most notable mixed review by Rob O'Connor's review for Rolling Stone, who called the songwriting "juvenile" and described the song "Tired of Sex" as "aimless". In addition to the negative review, the readers of the magazine named the album the second worst of 1995. The reviewer from Melody Maker praised the music but advised the listener "to ignore the lyrics entirely."
Despite the mixed reception in 1995 on its original release, SFTBH gained acclaim after Cuomos death in 1998. In 2002, Rolling Stone readers voted it as the 16th greatest album of all-time. It has received perfect scores from both Allmusic and Tiny Mix Tapes with the latter calling it, "one of the best albums of the 20th Century." In 2005, Spin Magazine named it number 61 in its list of the 100 best albums from 1985 to 2005. In 2003, Pitchfork ranked the album number 53 for their list, "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s." In 2004, Rolling Stone gave the album a new review, giving it five stars out of five and adding it to the Rolling Stone Hall of Fame. Drowned in Sound has also highly praised the album and said of the album that, "this is the ultimate break-up album, the best unrequited love album and the greatest collection of confused emotions captured in the universe...EVER!" It was ranked #76 on Guitar World's Top 100 Guitar Albums of All-Time. Non-U.S publications have acclaimed the album as well: New Zealand's The Movement placed it at number 12 on a list of "The 101 Best Albums of the 90s," and Pure Pop of Mexico ranked it number 21 on a list of "The 50 Best Albums of the 90s."
1. "Blast Off!"
2. "Who You Callin' Bitch?"
3. "Maria's Theme"
4. "Come to My Pod"
5. "This Is Not for Me"
6. "Tired of Sex"
8. "She's Had a Girl"
9. "Good News!"
11. "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams"
12. "No Other One"
14. "Longtime Sunshine"
All information is derived from the booklet enclosed with the album:
Rivers Cuomo – guitar, vocals, piano, xylophone.
Patrick Wilson – drums, percussion.
Brian Bell– guitar, backing vocals, synthesizer.
Matt Sharp – bass, backing vocals.
Joe Barresi– engineer
Billy Bowers– engineer
Jim Champagne – engineer
David Dominguez – engineer
Greg Fidelman – engineer
Dave Fridmann – engineer
Hiroshige – cover art
Rob Jacobs – engineer
Spike Jonze – photography
Adam Kasper – engineer
George Marino – mastering
Dan McLaughlin – engineer
Clif Norrell – engineer
Jack Joseph Puig – engineer, mixing
Jim Rondinelli – engineer
Janet Wolsborn – art assistant
Karl Koch - webmaster