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Island in the Sun

“Island in the Sun” is the most released song of Weezer’s career. Too released. More released than any one song ever should be. To wit:

THE (MAYBE IN)COMPLETE “ISLAND IN THE SUN” DISCOGRAPHY

  1. The Green Album (2001)
  2. Radio-only promo CD (2001)
  3. UK retail CD single #1 (2001; with “Island in the Sun” music video CD-ROM)
  4. UK retail CD single #2 (2001)
  5. UK retail yellow vinyl 7-inch (2001)
  6. Japanese retail CD single (2001)
  7. The Lion and the Witch EP (2002; live)
  8. Japanese Maladroit CD (2002; Green Album version)
  9. Australian Maladroit CD (2002; Green Album version)
  10. UK Maladroit CD (2002; Green Album version)
  11. Video Capture Device DVD (2004; music video Version 1)
  12. Video Capture Device DVD (2004; music video Version 2)
  13. UK “Beverly Hills” CD single (2005; live)
  14. Japanese “Beverly Hills” CD single (2005; live)
  15. “Island in the Sun (Live)” iTunes single (2005; live)
  16. UK Make Believe CD (2005; live)
  17. Japanese Make Believe CD (2005; live)

SOUNDTRACKS/MISC. APPEARANCES

  1. Holiday in the Sun movie (2001; used as theme song, as covered by the Olsen Twins)
  2. Island in the Sun karaoke single (2001; as imitated by a band called Obscure; incls. regular, Karaoke Remix, Tiki Bar Remix, and Unplugged Remix)
  3. Mr. Deeds soundtrack (2002)
  4. Triple J’s Hottest 100 compilation (2002)
  5. Smallville: The Talon Mix soundtrack (2003)
  6. Aquamarine soundtrack (2006; as covered by Emma Roberts)
  7. The Definitive Tom Dunne Vol. 01: 2000-2006 compilation (2006)
  8. Lance Armstrong: Run Longer Nike+ Playlist (2007)

And probably scores more.

In truth, it is a great song. Great enough to warrant 17 official Weezer releases and a handful of spinoffs and soundtrack releases (including shows like The Sopranos and The Simpsons, which use the song but have never issued it on a soundtrack)? Maybe not. I mean, in Japan and the UK, the song was released on three consecutive, official, studio albums: The Green Album, then Maladroit less than a year later (with the Green version simply being tacked onto the end — not even a different mix!), then Make Believe (as a live rendition). What the fuck!

It really is Green‘s top standout, though. “Sun,” along with “Photograph” and “Hash Pipe,” is one of the album’s few songs not mixed and compressed to sound middled-out and bland — it actually has some depth, a sense of space. The arrangement is one of the album’s sharpest, as well: the verse bassline is one of the best of the era, lending the song its central buoyancy (if you replaced its danceability with something more plodding (like more Weezer-typical straight eighth notes), it probably wouldn’t have been a hit). The intro, production of the lead rhythm guitar, addition of a second (acoustic) rhythm guitar on the verse, the simple lead line, those great “ooooh” backups (which, to be fair, shouldn’t have been all but buried), etc. The bridge rockout is predictable (practically inevitable, coming from these guys; see also “Burndt Jamb”), but works nicely here, and the guitar solo is one of the few instances of the Green album verse-melody-solo working so well. The lyrics are nice, as well — a rare example of Cuomo’s purposefully detached lyrics working to a song’s advantage.

The live version we have from The Lion and the Witch EP is somewhat disposable (though still probably my favorite cut from that disc), but I do like Cuomo’s delay-heavy outro, especially when it’s just him singing at the end with Scott Shriner’s bass for company. A lovely little ending, which certainly fares better than the studio version’s simple fadeout.

The other live version we have (are there really no more than two between all those releases?) is interesting for taking a slightly faster tempo (a little more energetic than its usual performance), for Pat Wilson’s unusually busy (pretty cool) drum work, and for Cuomo’s new and much improved solo. The band attempts a similar outro to the Lion and the Witch version, but it doesn’t take nearly as well.

Finally, of the live versions in any form of circulation, there is the “re-worked” arrangement from the Extended Hyper Midget Tour of 2001 (live cuts from which were, for a time, distributed to fans via weezer.com). It is comparable to the other two live cuts we have, minus any kind of outro at all.

And believe it or not, there are versions of this song that have (thus far) escaped official release! Cuomo’s home demo from 1999 is an endearing take on the song, with a synth-organ on the bridge rather than a rockout. However, as some fans have noted, to contrast his vocal performance here with his on “Velouria” just a year prior is remarkable. In 1998, Cuomo’s voice was the best it has ever sounded; in 1999, he sounds like a pitch-challenged teenager coughing his way through this first home recording. The only tenable explanation is that he is trying (quite audibly) to sound like Liam Gallagher, as Oasis was a huge deliberate influence of Cuomo’s at this time, and (just as audibly) failing.

There’s also a 17-second clip of an early full-band recording of this song that has been lifted from the Video Capture Device DVD. It is notably more upbeat and uptempo, and with a crazy solo that Karl Koch had apparently grafted into the mix from “No More Confusin’,” which was demoed several times with Weezer at Cuomo’s home studio. Recorded in 2000, these come from the uncirculated “October Demos.”

Two music videos were released for this song. One was directed by “Hash Pipe” director Marcos Siega, which is notable for both the presence of Mikey (lookin’ sharp) and the absurd Mexican wedding setting. The band was understandably displeased with the result, so they reunited with Spike Jonze (Mr. “Buddy Holly”) to do one of the band playing outdoors with various zoo animals. It marks a bizarre point in the band’s history when Mikey was “missing” (in rehab, actually) and the band still had not yet found Scott to forcibly replace him, so the band is erroneously presented as a three-piece.

18 Comments

  1. clore wrote:

    Soy, what’s your favorite Beach Boys album (besides Pet Sounds)? Just wondering.

    Monday, October 12, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink
  2. Soyrev wrote:

    Noob: When I saw the title “Tripping Down the Freeway,” I was certain that it was a reference to the Beach Boys song “Honking Down the Highway.” The clip sure doesn’t make it sound that way, though.

    Also, there’s an early Beach Boys rarity that has the line “an island in the sun” on it. Coincidence? Perhaps…

    Clore: The Beach Boys are my favorite band of all time. Aside from Pet Sounds, there’s Sunflower, Surf’s Up, Friends, Wild Honey (the precursor to the Green Album), etc etc etc. I could go on all night, but those are definitely a good deal of the records I revisit most often. Songs like “Forever,” “Cool Cool Water,” “Til I Die” and “A Day in the Life of a Tree” are certainly Pet Sounds worthy, and a great deal of the records are completely different but totally amazing in their own right.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 12:14 am | Permalink
  3. clore wrote:

    Thanks, Soy. I realized you were probably the expert when I saw all of your listens on last.fm.

    I have always enjoyed the Beach Boys ever since I was little, but I only started appreciating them more when I started college back in 2005 and when realized not all of their songs were about cars and surfing like I had stupidly assumed. I think the Brian Wilson story is a fascinating and tragic.

    Since I recently recovered my abandoned turntable that I gave to a friend in high school, I’ve been listening to some of my parents records including the Beach Boys, although they mainly have the compilation albums and hits albums :(.

    I actually recently picked up Smiley Smile and Wild Honey, and I also seem to revisit my dad’s copy of Surfer Girl quite a bit. I’ll be sure to check out the ones you mentioned. Thanks!

    Sorry for the long comment. I’m writing this on my phone and it’s hard to edit/go back, haha.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  4. Soyrev wrote:

    Smiley Smile is not a favorite of mine, but I’ve come to appreciate it more than I used to…can’t compare to Smile though, the album it should have been.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  5. Dr. Melack wrote:

    The Beach Boys Today! for the win. I love the early stuff just as much as the later stuff.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  6. Soyrev wrote:

    I love pretty much every era minus the ’80s and the ’90s. Those got really fucking abysmal.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  7. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’m surprised there isn’t more traffic here considering the A6 boards have been down.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  8. Soyrev wrote:

    Yeah. Fuck everything.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  9. Burgess wrote:

    I think, what with the new Weezer album being what it is, and the top song on this blog being one of the (if not THE) band’s worst, nobody feels very motivated to kick them when they’re down.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  10. Burgess wrote:

    That said, I’d like to do some kicking of “Island In The Sun,” which I think is overrated. No time right now, but I’ll be back!

    Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  11. Burgess wrote:

    I first heard “Island in the Sun” the last time I saw Weezer live, on the Yahoo! tour with the Get Up Kids and Ozma. I found it kind of boring, but I hoped the album version would be an improvement. My sister, who’s not super into music, said she thought it was pretty good. And, you know, it was fine. But it was toothless and monotonous compared to the new songs we’d seen played on the previous tour at Lupo’s. It gave me a really bad feeling that the upcoming album would be a huge disappointment as a follow-up to Pinkerton.

    IITS, to me, just sounds really depressing. In fact, that’s its one redeeming factor for me, and I don’t know if it’s intentional. The detached way Rivers sings, coupled with the lazy drone of the song, makes it sound to me like a guy who’s clearly never going to play and have fun on a sunny island, and knows it. It’s kind of like a very sad rendition of a Sandals resort jingle.

    I don’t know if the contrast was intentional. At that time, Rivers seemed to have a hard time displaying real emotions in anything. But who knows? Maybe I’m being too harsh because I found the green album so crushing, but I think this song is pretty boring and overrated.

    That said, it’s one of the finest on its album.

    Friday, October 16, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  12. Soyrev wrote:

    I like your interpretation of the song, Burgess, and whether or not it was intentional it’s certainly a very noticeable and defining facet of the tune.

    And I’ll agree that it’s one of the finest on Green, but I think that little handful of tunes is among the best work Weezer’s done since Pinkerton. Green might not be a great album, but it’s a good album, and that’s more than you can say about any other record Weezer’s released this decade.

    Friday, October 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  13. Burgess wrote:

    I have a hard time judging the post-Pinkerton stuff as albums, since I never really got to know them as such. Green just stings me more than the subsequent albums because the green album was the follow-up to Pinkerton.

    I would really like to know if IITS is supposed to sound sad. I could see it going either way. An undercurrent of sadness would really play of IITS’s lyrics well, but that could be coincidence. I think a lot of that era’s stuff has an underlying sadness.

    Friday, October 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  14. clore wrote:

    Didn’t Brian Bell once say this was his favorite Weezer song ever? I remember reading this in an interview a few years ago, but I can’t remember where I read it or if my memory is serving me 100%…

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    If we’re speaking of the same quote, it was his favorite song on Green. he said this around the time of Green’s release.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  16. nate wrote:

    Sorry to bump this, but I kind of have a idea of why IITS was released a billion times in Japan (even if it’s not important).

    I’m a Japanese major, and because of this, I have a lot of Japanese friends. From what I gathered from the ones who actually knew about Weezer, was that TGA was HUGE when it hit Japan and was really what made them popular. Obviously, as ATS shows us, they had fans before but it was really TGA that made them famous.

    Because clearly IITS is the best song on TGA, it’s pretty much Japan’s favorite Weezer song. If you gathered up a selection of Japanese people who know about Weezer, I’m sure the majority of them will say IITS is their favorite song.

    Case in point: One of my friends last year said he liked Weezer, but only had TGA. Even after I gave him all of the Weezer studio albums, he still likes IITS the best. My girlfriend even said that she had TGA on mini-disc around the time it came out.

    Hell, on the Japanese Weezer tribute album “Across The Sea,” the first song is IITS and played by the most famous musician on the entire album (the album, by the way, is a real interesting listen (if you can get your hands on it), the songs range from a slight variation from the Weezer original to ‘holy shit.’ Despite this, this tribute album is a lot better than that shitty American one that came out).

    This probably explains the different version of them playing it live in that performance that was posted. Just mixing up Japan’s classic Weezer song.

    By the way, I’ve been reading this site over the past few days. I absolutely love it. You are an incredibly talented writer. Keep up the good work!

    Friday, December 18, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  17. Soyrev wrote:

    To stress again — never, EVER apologize for a “bump” on TVS! Nothing makes me happier!

    Thanks for the cool insight into IITS and TGA’s disproportionate cultural capital in Japan. For some reason, I can totally see TGA being the quintessential Weezer album in Japan.

    And thanks for the kind words! Please do keep a-readin’ and a-commentin’ — that’s exactly what ensures I don’t throw this site under the bus-load of other work and creative projects I should probably be doing instead. Speaking of which, finals are over soon and I should have a new entry up before Xmas…

    Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink
  18. Melack wrote:

    This is one of my favorite melodies of all time. It’s just makes me feel so good and at the same time long for better days.

    There is something very longing in both the melody and Rivers voice that makes this song to emotional even though it’s just a catchy pop song.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

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