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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.