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High Up Above

This song was one of the earliest sketches for Maladroit, and the third song Cuomo wrote in 2001 (the first being Green b-side “I Do”).

We have two versions, the first recorded for the BBC (one of the four songs from that session the station would air) on 6/13/01. It is distinguished by its prominent use of organ, and the presence of Weezer’s second bassist, Mikey Welsh (who would have to spend some time in rehab by the end of the summer; the band replaced him with Scott Shriner in time for fall touring and recordings, swiftly and without remorse). By that time, the song would be translated to the guitar, but in those months before Welsh’s exit, the band would play the song on European stages with the organ intact (a rare instance of Cuomo playing keys live).

On the BBC version, the organ lends the song its warm heart, pleasantly coalescing with Brian Bell’s guitar chords and Pat Wilson’s lone hi-hat. It’s a nice backdrop for Cuomo’s contemplative first verse and chorus. In the former, he ruminates being left behind by a girl (her “fair face” quite like the “fine face” of the second person in Green‘s “Smile”); in the latter, he sings, “I really miss your love / When you’re high up above / And I am waiting here / Alone and by myself.” A simple sentiment, an obvious rhyme — 13 songs after “High Up Above,” Cuomo would write “Diamond Rings,” another tune that uses the cliched love/above rhyme in its chorus — but at this point, immediately post-Green, it must have been encouraging to hear Cuomo sing with a bit of feeling in his voice. The build from there is a little predictable, and the post-chorus shredding that Bell indulges not once but twice (in the span of 2 minute song) is a little much, predicting what would prove one of Maladroit‘s biggest pitfalls. But it’s a nice performance of a passable song, even if the repetition of the non-line “will agree” over the outro is a jarring instance of laziness even in an era of Cuomo songwriting defined by it.

By the time the band attempted it for the official Maladroit sessions that December, the organ had been obliterated, the tempo raised, with some pretty nice background vocals doing the “just a little bit out-of-sync” thing added, a la “Waiting On You.” The superfluous shredfest remains, as does the damnable “will agree,” but this time the band graces the song with a real outro (not a fadeout), Wilson doing some nifty fills and Cuomo pulling it together for an agreeable “whoa-oh” outro. The BBC version is still best, simply because the instrumentation gives the song its individual mood, whereas by December it had become another faceless outtake. The solo on the BBC version is much nicer, and clearer, to boot.

This song doesn’t sound like Maladroit to me, but rather an Early Album 5-style demo. Some have made the insight that Early A5 is essentially just Maladroit songwriting plus pianos and keyboards, so maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise…But either way, the observation’s a fine one: the little guitar lick that ends every phrase of the 12/18 version of “High Up Above” is identical to that which ends every phrase of the 4/22/02 version of EA5‘s “The Victor.”