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Crazy One

“Crazy One” was perhaps the pleasantest surprise of Rivers Cuomo’s first-ever home demos compendium, Alone. Dated 1998, smack in the middle of that mysterious period of Weezer inactivity between Pinkerton‘s implosion (1997) and the band’s triumphant “reunion tour” (2000), “Crazy One” was tough to predict. 1997 was the year of Cuomo’s alt-country side-project Homie and experimental solo band compositions, the last time we would hear Cuomo’s adventurous side for nearly a decade. 1999 was more elusive, but songs like “Island In The Sun,” “Always” and “New Joint” showed that by this point Cuomo’s intense de-personalization process had taken hold, auguring 2001’s The Green Album. But 1998 was a question mark all its own: Weezer fans had never heard any of the hundred-odd compositions written during that lost year.

Sonically at least, it’s perhaps unsurprising that “Crazy One” lies at the midpoint between the experimental leanings of Cuomo ’97 and the increasingly cold songcraft machine that was Cuomo ’99. On the one hand, it’s just another post-Pinkerton exercise in strophic composition, another attempt at meticulous and practiced repetition (per Cuomo’s overthought analysis of more instinctual songwriters like Kurt Cobain and Noel Gallagher), this time communicated through a classic ’50s pop syntax (verse-verse-bridge; repeat). On the other, the production is a revelation: the endlessly layered guitars, subdued drums and dreamy, multi-tracked vocals owe as much to Phil Spector’s wall of sound techniques (and songwriting sensibilities) as they do to ’90s shoegaze rock.

Then there are the lyrics, which seem so unremarkable that one would have a hard time imagining they’re remotely personal — and yet, Cuomo insists. Evidently, it’s about a girl he was seeing at the time, and whom he jilted in the hopes that she’d come back begging for him. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t quite go according to plan, and Cuomo was left in his bedroom to pine and regret. Fair enough – but lyrics like, “Baby doll / I’m still afraid of it all / I’m hoping that you will call / I wanna see you again” seem all too much like a Brill Building case study to truly come from the heart. But then there’s that sniffle at the beginning of the song, which Cuomo refers to in the liner notes as a “whimper,” and the fact that it’s a pretty lovely song either way – so I can’t say I much care either way.

As for the refrain – “A friend to tender friend / A heart to tender heart / A love that never ends / A love that never starts” – some have noted a family resemblance to Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire,” which also contains the “heart to tender heart” lyric, as well as many of the same rhymes (“heart / apart / friend / end”). Given that Cuomo made extensive research into this kind of critical darling rock when crafting Pinkerton, the possibility of deliberate reference or subconscious appropriation seems plausible, especially given Cuomo’s track record with rehashed lyrics and riffs. In this case, it could only be a plus.