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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.”

15 Comments

  1. CountChocula wrote:

    I really dig this song. And the experts will agree.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Adroit wrote:

    “Will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee……”

    First time hearing this number.

    It’s pleasant enough, but to my ears that ‘shredding’ sounds more like a sample of bad 70’s prog a la Yes/Rick Wakeman.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  3. skiz65 wrote:

    I must agree that the version with Mikey on it is the best. You can’t beat the organ. It was nice in the post-Green haze to hear something like this, although the Maladroit outtake version is horrendous. So many of those Summer 2001 songs got butchered by the needless overrock of the Maladroit sessions. Also, i may be mistaken, but i believe the lead guitar (all the guitars actually) on the BBC version was performed by Brian.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  4. Soyrev wrote:

    My friend’s played with the guy from Yes. He showed me a video of a Yes song once, and my only reaction was, “Too many notes…”

    Weezer butchering formerly decent (or great) songs is nothing new. I love ’em, but the Weezer gang really began to lose their ability to self-appraise somewhere around 1999. By 2001, they were completely in the woods.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  5. Art Vandelay wrote:

    This one stood out to me back when it was first released… The organ sound was a nice break from all the faceless distortion-pop Green material, it had some dynamic shifts, the melody is kind of nice in parts, and in my estimation Rivers hadn’t done anything remotely creative on the guitar for the entirety of the Green era. I had a few enjoyable listens before I got bored with it.

    Listening back to it now, it seems MUCH MUCH lamer.

    The lyrics are a DISASTER. I’m more than fine with the ‘unrequited love’ theme, but there’s certainly a right way and a wrong way to do it. These are just semi-coherent ramblings, apparently sung by a total pussy. You listen to something like ‘The World Has Turned’ after this, and you just want to tell Rivers to fuck off for foisting this lazy garbage on his fanbase. I also seem to be the only one that is bugged by the pointless redundancy in the main hook: “I am waiting here, alone AND by myself”. Holy shit, what a vivid, powerful image! I knew the singer was alone, but he’s ALSO by himself??? Who would have guessed?

    The music is more redeemable, though nothing inherently special or noteworthy.

    Some fans seem to like it, but this tune is weak, and the experts will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee, will agwee…..

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  6. CountChocula wrote:

    ““I am waiting here, alone AND by myself”. Holy shit, what a vivid, powerful image! I knew the singer was alone, but he’s ALSO by himself??? Who would have guessed?”

    “an empty space has filled the void” wait wait wait, you mean to say it’s an empty space, AND a void? holy cow man! Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with using repetition to get your point across.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    To be fair, I think there’s a difference between these two examples. The WHTALMH quote seems to be conveying an image of “emptiness being filled by…more emptiness” (which is pretty deep), while the HUA quote is simply repeating itself (in a cliche). I don’t take too much issue with the HUA line, because like Chocula says, repetition is a pretty acceptable way to convey the intensity of an emotion…but TWHTALMH isn’t really a fair comparison.

    And it doesn’t change the fact that the songwriting is pretty lazy and uninspired, even if the organ and guitar is really pretty at the beginning (wish they hadn’t taken the predictable route from there…). I like your verb choice, Art: “foisting.” Cuomo really did just shit out this kind of dreck on his fanbase, and he did it profusely. His songwriting got ridiculously masturbatory around this point in time.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  8. Art Vandelay wrote:

    Sorry, chocula… that is in no way an apt comparison. If you can’t discern the difference between repetition for artistic effect and simple lazy redundancy, well then… (shrug).

    Rev – I’m beginning to see the one flaw in the randomizer method… With all these demos in the mix, Weezer’s unfavorable ratio of interesting songs to turd songs is probably going to be felt quite a bit.

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
  9. Jonny wrote:

    Isn’t it Brian who does the “shredding”? He did it live as far as I can remember, and I think it very much sounds like him on the recording. He does not have the HM chops like Rivers, hence it’s pretty sloppy in a way which I think sounds pretty un-Rivers.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 5:27 am | Permalink
  10. Soyrev wrote:

    Art: You’re certainly right. You can imagine I groan, too, when after “Diamond Rings” gets little discussion, I’m hoping for a big draw…and up comes HUA. Kind of sucks…But I don’t think there’s any way to temper that, really. By this point, Weezer has definitely released more dreck than gold, and if you count the Maladroit sessions that dreck count rises exponentially. Alas…

    Jonny: Fair enough, I’ll change the post now!

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  11. CountChocula wrote:

    I still stand by my comparison. I mean, I’m not putting this song anywhere near world has turned standards, don’t get me wrong. And it may be lazy song writing, but I just felt you can’t rip on repetition just because it’s repetition. Artistic or not, the lyrics share that part in common. However, I definitely see where you’re coming from. I mean it’s obvious which of those lines simply works better in context. I was just trying to say that I never really found that lyric in this song to be “lazy” simply because it’s repetitive.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
  12. H wrote:

    I don’t have any thing noteworthy to add about this song, but I feel obliged to hop in and defend the “bad 70’s prog” band Yes.

    Yes is awesome. While they certainly have their share of superfluously lengthy songs and pretentious arrangements (ahem, Tales from Topographic Oceans), one needs only to give The Yes Album a good once-over to appreciate the great music that Yes was capable of producing. Fragile and Close to the Edge aren’t platinum albums for no reason. (And no, sales do not vary directly with quality, but I think that in the case of Yes – and their era – such a reference is a fair one)

    I understand that the Yes reference was made in fitting context, but I felt compelled to present a case for Yes as something other than definitively “bad” music.

    Sorry for the aside.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink
  13. WaltDisney wrote:

    I really like this one. It’s quite mysterious. Is the girl dead or just out of his league tonight? I love the experts will agree line too. Always makes me think of sports punditry. Alone and by myself was, I thought, alone (not with her, or any girl) and by myself (not with anyone, so dwelling on it). It’s not great but, like Sandwiches time and Walt Disney, it’s one of those quirky sounding, odd idea songs that I find really appealing.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 4:23 am | Permalink
  14. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    This song is a perfect example of how my opinion of Weezer’s music fluctuates with the era it was released in. I like this song – I know it has pretty corny lyrics, a predictable melody, an awful vocal performance, etc… But hey, it’s not “Take Control”!

    The organ is pretty nice, though.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    yeah, the organ is great, and i love the way the guitar’s progression softly melds with it. that’s about all i can give the song, though.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

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