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O Girlfriend

Even Green‘s most personal song – written about the same flame who inspired other top-shelf songs of the era, “O Girl” and “Do You Wanna Get High?” – is a product of the album’s commercial calculus and strophic simplicity.

In discussing the penultimate song on the record, “Glorious Day,” I praised this formulaic monomania for the trance-like state it can induce – probably unintentionally – over the course of a full album listen. (The reuse throughout of key lyrics and musical motifs is a crucial component of this effect, as with the faint déjà vu that accompanies the identical reappearance of the “Photograph” ohh ba-by in “Simple Pages.”) But “O Girlfriend,” as both the album’s conclusion and sole reach for some catharsis, is one place the spell maybe should have been broken.

For proof, we need only revisit the version performed in Toronto on July 14, 2002, a little over a year after the record’s release. Freed of Green’s tight production yoke, the guitars, bass, and drums expand into the ample breathing room of the Molson Amphitheatre, Cuomo’s voice and its melody sounding far less self-conscious. The album’s readymade guitar solos – note-for-note recitations of the verse melodies, as inspired by “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – often work surprisingly well even when considered separately from their pleasantly hypnotic qualities. “O Girlfriend” is an exception: as the emotional climax of Green’s climactic song, a rote repeat of the verse’s melody – especially stretched to 16 bars, whereas most on the record are twice as economical – can’t help but ring hollow. But in Toronto, those extra bars give Cuomo plenty of room to improvise one of the prettiest, most expressive solos of his career. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the band felt no apparent need to ever play the song again.



Still, even in its studio iteration, “O Girlfriend” is moving. As with most of Green, the verse melody is as strong and graceful as any of his prior work – albeit truncated, simply reiterating one or two excellent ideas where Blue or Pinkerton songs would develop them. The autobiographical reference to “taking pills and mellowing out” together nicely balances the rest of the lyrics’ broad-stroke cliches (“Though we’d fight I loved you so much / Now I can’t feel your touch”) to paint a picture that is both personal and relatable – something that once came naturally to Cuomo, and after this song would prove a much bigger challenge for him. In the outro, there is plaintive humming where a younger Cuomo might have placed harmonica, but forgoing an intermediary feels like the right decision here. In sum, it’s very nearly one of the group’s brightest moments, but without that final live performance, it’d be much harder to tell how close they came.

9 Comments

  1. Soyrev wrote:

    Lots of Green lately because I’ve been listening to it a bunch, and because I noticed how close I was to finishing the entire record. Green is now the first completed album on TVS.

    Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 12:01 am | Permalink
  2. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I had never heard that live version. It’s a nice update for sure.

    I’ve always thought this song gets more credit than it deserves. While I agree that a line like “takin pills and mellowing out” injects at least a little idiosyncrasy, the rest of the song (lyrics, melody, and like the rest of green, mixing) are so phoned in I can’t really buy in. It’s sterile and uniform but it poses as emotional.

    If Lifetaker is still taking lives in the Weezer world, i’d love to see his next tribute album as a major re-arrangement of Green. Big, ambitious restructuring of those songs would rock.

    Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Wildabeast wrote:

    Toppermost of the poppermost album that is green. Never thought of the harmonica as a potential substitute for the humming, and it does make perfect sense in a 90s weezer world – good call there.

    While I have been a fan of that specific live performance, I never realized it was the final performance. Definitely adds to its epicness. O gf would’ve benefited from being on a different album (for production, guitar solo, etc purposes) more so than any other song on green.

    Monday, December 21, 2015 at 12:21 am | Permalink
  4. Jaeger wrote:

    I don’t have much to say about this song, but I just want to say I think it’s really cool to see you come back to this blog. I found it a few years after you stopped writing, and kept thinking about how I hoped you would start writing again, and here it is. I would like to see some in depth thoughts you have about more songs on Raditude and EWBAITE.

    Thursday, December 24, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  5. Adroit wrote:

    Should have ended the record with ‘I Do (Variation On That Billy Joel Hymn)’.
    Something, anything, to break up that incessant, claustrophobic guitar tone.

    Monday, December 28, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  6. Plumtree wrote:

    So good to see you updating again!

    I do think one of the worst things about Green is the production, and how it kinda squeezes everything together, but it’s pretty cool how better they sound live.

    Monday, January 25, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  7. panicathediscosucks wrote:

    “I Do” fucking sucks. Man, that song sucks.

    Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Novemberton wrote:

    Gorgeous Piano cover. O Girlfriend has become one of my favorite Weezer songs over the past few weeks and this really solidifies that for me.

    https://soundcloud.com/robert-w-weber/o-girlfriend

    Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  9. StayOutoftheBasement wrote:

    And just like that, the site is dead again. At this point, I’d rather he just allowed another guy on to write, since I really love these articles.

    Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

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