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Burndt Jamb

“Burndt Jamb” is, without question, one of Maladroit’s finest tunes. It’s got a summery jazz-funk groove to it, the likes of which the band has seldom attempted prior or since. Rivers’ lyric, while simple, is decently effective, contrasting the bright pop milieu against some humdrum mopery.  It’s essentially three brief verses, the first of which referencing “gothic flavor” (uh?), and the best (third) of which goes, “And the water / Running over / Me is growing / Ever colder.” The brevity of the lyric also highlights how this is a structural oddity in the Weezer catalogue: a verse, an instrumental rockout chorus, a sweet solo and an outro that’s all grace. Cuomo bragged about the nontraditional songforms the band was exploring during the Red Album sessions, but in truth, Weezer was already getting into some pretty weird stuff as early as Maladroit (weird for Weezer, anyway). On “Burndt Jamb,” it works.

Tons of versions of this song are in circulation. There is the live cut that is available as a b-side to the UK “We Are All On Drugs” CD single, which is remarkable for both Scott Shriner’s awesome bass intro and the band’s extended outro (adding nearly two minutes to the album version, this is Weezer in rare jam band mode), and Cuomo’s absurd Maladroit-era stage banter. Also, there appears to be a sort inhaling sound effect on the instrumental chorus — stoner humor, perhaps.

We also have three different attempts from the Maladroit sessions, all done in quick succession during January of 2002. Th earliest, 1/08, begins with a jammy tune-up (Cuomo counts into the song in German), and is best described as a looser, instrumental take (including a second, extended solo). By 1/10, the song had developed a modest bass intro and some lyrics that I vastly prefer to the album version’s (“Now you want me, and you need me / I have got to get to leavin’ / If you move on down that highway / I’ll be burning, I’ll be there” — one of the better arguments for Cuomo’s free associative lyric improv of the early aughts). Finally, the 1/11 version begins with some unintelligible band banter, including Scott’s remark that he has his “lucky shark’s foot.” By this point, the extended guitar solo outro was still intact, so where exactly this bit changed is unknown.

But that’s not all! We have not just one but two versions of this song performed with former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh, in the song’s earliest inception. The first is from the 5/27/01 DC Demos, which begins with some theatrical bong hits and the lead vocal melody tied to a simple, wordless “doo doo doo” — in all, it shows rather interestingly that, regardless of the changes the band attempted when Scott entered the picture, the album version’s structure was pretty much set in stone more than half a year prior (no second solo here). They also attempted the song a second time with Mikey for a 6/13/01 BBC session, which is similar but for the extra reverb. Both versions showcase how Mikey was a far more talented and creative bass player than many credit him, though I have a hard time choosing whose bassline I prefer. Both are great and suit the song well.

Also, some have noted how the main riff from “Burndt Jamb” sounds an awful like that of George Benson’s “Breezin” (there’s that jazz-funk), and for a moment the similarity is a bit disconcerting (no doubt Cuomo cribbed from here), but they soon diverge.

38 Comments

  1. Martin wrote:

    Interesting that you hear this is as a Summer feel-good jam. I hear it as exactly the opposite. In a sense, I’m reminded of the Sweater song in the sense that the verses counter with a raging jam (serving as somewhat of a chorus) in which the singer sounds like he is about to completely fall apart, lose his mind, etc.

    Truly beautiful lyrics here. For a long time Rivers had no idea what they should be and would make them up as the band rehearsed. Bell once recalled Rivers reciting the fat and calorie facts on the bag of a bag of potato chips.

    The riff really burns in my opinion. It just sounds like something is being set on fire. It’s incredible. Those delicate falsetto croons before the guitar outro seem to serve the singer returning to rest as the droning enters.

    The song never really says anything, but the words serve to strike up an imagery that speaks more than three verses possibly could. A girl who left? Water running over the singer? You can just picture someone racked with mental torment. It’s not exactly clear who or what the torment is, but it’s really taking it’s toll on the singer.

    My favorite line has to be the one about the water growing colder. Is someone drowning themselves? Are they taking a shower? Some people use the shower as a place to cry. Either way, it’s brilliant.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Dennis Moore wrote:

    This song is essentially what Maladroit should have been. Weird, absolutely rockin’, but with some pretty thrown in there to make it go down easy.

    And Maladroit, much as I like it, is NOT a pretty record.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  3. GumbyTom wrote:

    I think the song is more about the song than the actual song. It was always built around the riff sequence, and the earliest version (well, the DC demo at least) is my favorite version of it.

    Definitely a good song (adventurous, at a time when the Weez was anything but), even if it’s not about anything in particular.

    Brian once said in an interview, that when the band got together to record the track during the Maladroit sessions, that Rivers still didn’t have any lyrics. According to Brian in the interview, Rivers picked up a can of Pringles and read the ingredients to the tune of the song. That version I’d like to get my hands on.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  4. tapegun wrote:

    i agree with what everyone is saying thus far…that is it is one of the few tracks i really like off maladroit that stands up well over the years. in retrospect, i don’t really know if the lyrics brought anything to the table though….it’s still most enjoyable as what it is; a “jamb”. everytime i listen to it, i always want the outro to go on longer!

    i didnt know about the b-side version…(i was at an all-time low in my weezer fandom at the time)….i am enjoying it now. thanks for the head’s up.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  5. Soyrev wrote:

    Yeah, a “jamb” indeed — and the best of Weezer’s many from this period. I, too, wish that pretty outro went a little longer…Cuomo had a bad habit of cutting short the good songs from this era (D&D, anyone?).

    Re: lyrics, the album version’s kinda pass over my head, but I love the 1/10 lyrics so much. The highway, the burning…really cool imagery in very few words.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 8:53 pm | Permalink
  6. WaltDisney wrote:

    I love this song. One of my absolute favourites.

    “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band— or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.” (Not Rivers Cuomo talking about Burndt Jamb)

    A mulatto
    An albino
    A mosquito
    My Libido
    Gothic flavour
    How I miss you
    If I only
    once could kiss you
    i’d be happy
    for one moment
    of my liftime
    i’d be there.

    Fragmented lyrics don’t mean bad lyrics and i think anyone who thinks it ended up a jam and not a song should listen to it when they’re thoroughly miserable. It’s a finished product to be sure. But then I thought that Maladroit WAS ‘Weird, absolutely rockin’, but with some pretty thrown in’.

    I think that just as the process effects perceptions of this song, the process pretty much killed the reception to a really great album, Maladroit (Possibilities excluded).

    Monday, July 28, 2008 at 6:21 pm | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    Maladroit, a great album? I gotta say “fat chance” to that, but, I really do appreciate your insights into “Burndt.” The SLTS comparison is pretty ace, even if very subtle…

    Monday, July 28, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  8. ThomYorke wrote:

    They should have never changed it from its original, lyricless version where you can hear them supposedly smoking pot in the background and inhaling and giggling.

    Soyrev, I had to chuckle that you didn’t pick up on what “that inhaling sound” would be there for. The songs freaking called BURNDT JAMB! Smoke a little, will ya! 🙂

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  9. Soyrev wrote:

    Well, I did know that there was, at least at one time, a very obvious weed reference (“The earliest is from the 5/27/01 DC Demos, which begins with some (presumably) faked bong hits”). But, why is that shit all over the chorus of the live b-side? Is one of the guys standing at the mike, making inhaling sounds throughout the choruses? Its placement there definitely doesn’t make as much sense to me, especially considering Gumbytom recently posted an ’01 show on the A6 forums, where the exact same sound can be heard all over “Getchoo”…O_o

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  10. ThomYorke wrote:

    I guess I didn’t realize there was a different “inhaling sound” to be paying attention to on a different take.

    With that being said, I have no clue why this other sound would show up in the other songs as well.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  11. Soyrev wrote:

    What’s weird to me is that it’s on the live version.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  12. Soyrev wrote:

    Wow. You know the live b-side version, with Scott’s new intro that Rivers is hilariously entertained by? I just figured that out today, by accident. And I consider myself very much a novice bassist…

    O_o

    Friday, August 22, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  13. Ariase wrote:

    I never noticed it before, but in the area of the “22 seconds to go” mark on the album version of Burndt Jamb, I swear to god I can hear some sort of chatter. It almost sounds like radio interference. Very quiet, very unintelligible.

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  14. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    Soy: lol @ figuring out the bass part…

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  15. Waiting and waiting wrote:

    I really like the bass line from Scott’s version just before the end of the song, its a highlight in maladroit.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  16. Cirdan wrote:

    I never really understood the hatred Maladroit gets… True, it’s not TBA, but there are some nice tunes on it, the song selection is OK (my favourites from the demo sessions are all there, though I do think there were better songs than Gigolo or Possibilities), and with one and a half exception I think the final album mixes are the best versions of the songs out there. The half exception is Slave, I think it might have been better to play it slower, like in the Glenn Sound version.

    The big exception is Burndt Jamb. On the album it’s a nice little song. But in the live version you mentioned and the january demos it’s one of my favourite songs, not only by Weezer. I think it needs the intro and the outro, it needs to sound like a jam, like fun, not just like a song… should have been done like the kooks’ “tick of time”, with Intro and some banter as the album closer.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  17. nate wrote:

    I’m not exactly sure when the live b-side is recorded, but could that “inhaling” noise possibly be some sort of pyrotechnics? Like the fire blowing thing or something?

    That’d be a pretty awesome part to do it on, I think.

    Friday, December 25, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  18. Soyrev wrote:

    Possible. But I’ve heard it on a couple early studio takes too, I believe…

    Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  19. ThomYorke wrote:

    I just went back and listened to that live version – I had forgotten how much I love this song. I wish the guys would channel their inner jam band more often, because Burnt Jamb is so much fun to listen to.

    This tune should return to the live set pronto! Speaking of live sets, I’m still disgusted that the band won’t just simply play longer shows; thus, including far more “deep cuts” and even popular songs from all of their albums.

    Monday, December 28, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  20. Soyrev wrote:

    I think Weezer neglects the fact that the live show can also be a vehicle for getting casual fans into songs they haven’t heard before, rather than just trying to cater to their shallow interests. And I think a fun live tune like “Burndt Jamb” would be good for that role.

    Monday, December 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  21. ThomYorke wrote:

    Indeed, Soy. You know what’s really interesting? For all the big talk from Rivers over the years about how he can’t stand to do the same thing twice as an artist, Weezer’s live-set lists say quite the opposite.

    For years, the band has clearly been afraid of embracing their 2000 era work to the degree that they do their earliest hits. Their actions speak louder than words. 10 years ago, it made sense that the show was 90 minutes and covered 2 albums. Now, even with mountains of more material in 5 more albums they’re supposedly proud of, the set list no longer in length, and barely reaches beyond their first two albums.

    This band has remained complacent as a live act. They do NOT embrace their whole catalog, and they’ve put so much focus on “the show” as of late, I think they forget how to just be a good BAND.

    There are plenty of good songs since 2000, both in demo and studio form, and they have no excuse not to be working harder to make their concerts more musically compelling gig.

    Even though I am NOT a Raditude fan, I would have still liked to hear some of it live, if for nothing than the sake of something new. How many people have a tour in honor of their new album, and then proceed to barely even play it.

    The band deserves a good slap in the face on this subject matter.

    Monday, December 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  22. Nate wrote:

    I don’t know how to explain the early studio takes, but I watched my Camden DVD again (unaware until recently that the B-Side version is from that show) and that “inhaling” noise is definitely the pyro.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtPUSrEWySY

    Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  23. Soyrev wrote:

    Mystery solved! The next time I listen to the live b-side version of “Burndt Jamb,” sometime within the next decade, that sound will not bother me anymore. Thanks, Nate. : )

    Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  24. nonnymouse wrote:

    it really stinks that there’s no meaning to this song, as the lyrics are so mystifying, but knowing Cuomo didn’t have anything in mind lyric-wise, one can assume he just pulled words out of a hat.

    seriously, I really wish there was some meaning to this song, as its so chill and just so…indescribable, obviously the singer is concerned, but is it a positive thing he’s concerned about? negative?

    Lyrics are hauntingly beautiful though.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  25. weezerisok wrote:

    best weezer song ever. compared to everything else they have done it is very impressive.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  26. Soyrev wrote:

    ^hahahaha

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  27. weezerisok wrote:

    maladroit is alot of experimenting and it seems like for a lot of the songs on it they just threw two riffs together and made em into songs. but you gotta admit, the soft intro and rockin chorus in burndt jamb(which i still think they just threw together)makes you wanna dance!!

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  28. OOS wrote:

    Not the best Weezer song, but definitely up in the top 30 or so for me.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink
  29. Soyrev wrote:

    So, your top 10 outside of Blue and Pinkerton’s tracklists? That’s pretty nuts, yo.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  30. OOS wrote:

    Yeah, I absolutely love this one. Really wish it would be re-introduced into setlists as well.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  31. Ludicrosity wrote:

    I still cannot understand the praise fans give this song. I mean it’s not a bad song at all but I always felt like it was just kinda there — nothing offensive but nothing that would blow my mind. It is definitely one of the only songs on Maladroite that wasn’t under-cooked though, I’ll give it that.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 4:42 am | Permalink
  32. ThomYorke wrote:

    I love me some Burnt Jam, but I’m still partial to the original demo with no lyrics.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  33. yim_yecker wrote:

    The way the play this song live is excellent. It’s so funky and cool!

    btw, great recent/frequent write ups Soy. All this new =W= is very exciting!

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  34. AF wrote:

    I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I find that I pretty much agree with anything that ThomYorke posts.

    It’s damn uncanny.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  35. skiz65 wrote:

    I always took the 1st verse references to “gothic flavor” as being about the goth chick that Cuomo was seeing around the time.

    Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink
  36. Soyrev wrote:

    Is that pure speculation, or was there a “goth chick” Cuomo was notoriously seeing at the time?

    Friday, January 21, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink
  37. Jamekae wrote:

    Wasn’t there a (extremely short) period where Rivers painted his fingernails black and called himself gothic? If so, that means he was obviously interested in the whole aesthetic and it wouldn’t surprise me if during that time he went out chasing “gothic flavour”. It’d be nice if I could associate these lyrics with more than pretty Mala era nonsense, it’s a terrific track and some substance backing the lyrics would only make it stronger.

    Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  38. clonus wrote:

    Yeah, that was mentioned in the Rivers’ Edge book. It appears to have lasted about three days, which is a short phase even by Rivers standards.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

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