In 2001, Weezer was poised for a comeback. The past year had been one of changes for the band, who had returned from three long, stagnant years to play their first “reunion” tour to rapturous applause and surprisingly sold-out audiences. These shows offered the debut both of a replacement bassist, Mikey Welsh, and of a new, streamlined sound in a batch of songs that would later become known as the Summer Songs 2000. The vast majority of those compositions would be rejected during the band demo process — be it by the label or the group themselves — and Rivers Cuomo would further streamline his songwriting into the catchy (yet deliberately nondescript) Green Album. Cuomo had recently finished writing the material for that album with “Knock-Down Drag-Out,” the late-2000 song that would be the last to make the cut for the album, although a few more would be attempted for the sessions.
The last of those attempts — and the very first song Cuomo wrote in 2001 — was “I Do.” Then untitled, the song went from conception to studio recording to official release in the span of just four months, when it was issued as the b-side to the US versions of the “Hash Pipe” single. Before then, “I Do” had served as an understated introduction for the band’s pre-Green live tour. Spare, slow and mournful, it was a clever way to dilate the audience’s senses for the onslaught of emotive power pop to come (which, in most cases on this tour, would begin with either “My Name Is Jonas” or “Photograph”). These nights would be Weezer’s last as crowd-pleasers par excellence: they had a fanbase, that fanbase’s desires were clear, and the band was well-positioned to deliver on them. As soon as Green dropped, Cuomo initiated a period of antagonizing his audience, often playing long sequences of nascent Mala-dreck and Green deep cuts before offering the audience even a taste of what most of them had come to hear (Cuomo’s stage banter during this time was also bizarre, at times taunting his crowd for what they wanted and what they were instead going to get). To wit, there’s a 6/21/01 bootleg of the band playing in Dortmund, Germany, wherein the band masochistically subjects the audience to 11 such songs before playing any pre-2000 material at all. The cathartic applause that greets the opening notes of “Only In Dreams” sounds like hard-won euphoria — but then the band only plays the 3-minute instrumental climax of the song, before dragging the room back into the mire with “Take Control.” (The band never played Dortmund again; probably no one who paid for this gig would mind.)
In the Weezer discography, “I Do” is an anomaly in just about every way. It is the first piano-based song that the band had ever released (Cuomo later claimed that “Haunt You Every Day” was the first song he wrote on the piano, but that is probably incorrect), and the simplicity of its arrangement had only thus far been surpassed by “Butterfly.” It sounds unlike anything on Green, and even less like anything Cuomo was writing during this time (“Keep Fishin’” was written just two songs before “I Do,” and Cuomo would quickly move on to pen “American Gigolo”). Despite clear superficial differences, “I Do” more closely resembles the spirit of the Weezer of yore than most else the band has done in the new millennium. The song begins with a pained squall of guitar (sanded by classic Weezer feedback), quickly giving way to Cuomo’s lonesome voice and keys. He sings with unapologetic emotion and remorse (something that only vaguely came to the surface on Green with “O Girlfriend”), with the simple refrain: “You told me that you’d always love me.” The strange guitar figure that opened the song returns for a brief, wailing solo, Cuomo repeats the chorus, and adds the concluding resolve: “Never more again / Will I believe the sun.” A beautiful song, and beautifully concise: it comes and goes in two minutes flat.
Sadly, the song bears blatant resemblance to Billy Joel’s “Leningrad,” as Cuomo takes what Joel used as an introductory theme and uses it throughout his own song (verbatim). To be a Weezer fan is to forgive such theft with some frequency, but this is one of the more glaring examples in the released Cuomo oeuvre – an unfortunate blight on one of Weezer’s best songs post-Pinkerton.