As it happens, the song Cuomo referred to as “Daydreamer” in his notes on “This Is The Way” wound up being titled “Dreamin.” That’s not all that had changed: instead of being 6 minutes long, it clocks in at a trimmer 5:12. And “Dreamin'” is perhaps the finest example of Cuomo’s tendency to overstate his talents: the song is not “epic,” neither “symphonic,” nor “bold” or “gigantic.” And I would certainly not call it an “art song.”
At first, it seems like Cuomo might deliver on his word. There’s a synth-string and feedback intro that tantalizes the listener for a full 15 seconds…which eventually breaks into a chord progression that Cuomo has already used on relatively straightforward songs like 2005’s “Hold Me” and 1996’s “Why Bother?,” with a vocal melody and lyrics that, aside from being ridiculously amateur, might very well have been inspired by the Bagel Bites commercial (“I’m dreamin’ in the mornin’ / I’m dreamin’ all through the night / And when I’m dreamin’, I know that it’s all right,” versus “Pizza in the mornin’, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime / When pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime” — even the rhyme scheme is the same!).
The verses, thankfully, are a little bit better. While sung from the perspective of a high schooler upset with his parents and teachers (c’mon, Rivers…), there are some maturer themes to be sussed in the “family of [his] own” that he’ll someday have, and a nice personal reference to the Widener Stacks library at Harvard, where Cuomo studied. Finally, at 1:51, we hear Cuomo begin to come into his element (with some nice backups by Brian Bell) above some tastefully sloppy drumming from Pat Wilson, just like the days of yore. There’s a slow build, and then…
Well, and then there’s perhaps the weirdest little section of music in Weezer history. Everything breaks down and, rather suddenly, we are treated to Bell singing lead about a “dream sequence” in a meadow, replete with birds chirping and a simple guitar line that seems to mimic the gentle ripples that the goslings make as they paddle along the river (yes, Bell actually sings the word “goslings”). Cuomo joins in for a rather funny sequence of dream-like echoes, as he sings about running through the meadow below angels watching on high. At last, the song begins to build more momentum and, with a triumphant cymbal crash, we enter boom-chop arena rock heaven. Not bad for a song that began with bagels.
Still, some things are kind of inexplicable and annoying. The band’s decision to spoil the wonderful ending by adding in a 15-second outro where Cuomo abruptly and obnoxiously intones, “I don’t wanna get with your program,” is almost offensive in context (and obviously indebted to the ugliest tendencies of Green Day’s overwrought comeback album American Idiot). Elsewhere, the riff that interrupts the “dream sequence” has symbolic significance — it is supposed to represent the harsh reality encroaching on Cuomo’s imagination, which he soon disregards and continues spacing out — but musically, it’s so jarring and basic that it can only be counted to the song’s detriment. I like the idea, but wish they had thought of a better way to convey it.
And so, “Dreamin'” just about sums up The Red Album: wildly inconsistent with what fans were lead to expect, and a mish-mash of strange concepts that sometimes work but often don’t. At the very least, one can tell that the band is clearly enthusiastic and enjoying themselves in the studio for the first time this decade.