Skip to content

The Sister Song

One of the hundreds of tunes that Rivers Cuomo wrote in 2000, “The Sister Song” is one of the few from the era to have been placed on the semi-official live document, Summer Songs 2000, a document of the touring period named in the album’s title. It finds itself an interesting intersect of the many musical identities Cuomo was then trying to negotiate: the confessional honesty and personal lyrics of the now increasingly-maligned Pinkerton, the structural formulaism of the upcoming Green Album, and the stoned angst and paranoia of that album’s quick follow-up, Maladroit. It should be no surprise, then, that the result is a bit of a mixed bag.

The dark tone and feedbacked self-hatred from the intro certainly recall a lite version of the band’s 1996 classic, as Cuomo cryptically intones, “Fleas, and games, and hundred dollar bills / Lies, and pain, and nauseating pills.” But it’s a bit disappointing when the winning melody and lyrical promise of the chorus begins, “Why am I so hung up on your sister,” only to degrade rather unbelievably into the next line: “Why am I so hung up on your mom?” By the next couplet — “I thought that I would never even miss her / I thought that I would never use the bong” — whatever empathy and intrigue the song had established collapses outright. “I wonder how you touch yourself, and curse myself / For being across the sea” is chilling because it is so vividly desperate, pathetic, and almost frighteningly relatable; what’s going on here is chilling only insofar that it’s embarrassing and kind of repugnant. Whatever morning-after regrets and shame Cuomo had from the Pinkerton experience would be better placed on a song like this one, or perhaps its not-too-distant cousin, “Slob.”

By the time we hit the second verse, it’s like seeing the half-baked coherency of Maladroit bubbling to shape in a crystal ball (or some bong water). “Thieves, and pain, and jagged-color tears / Still remain and cover up the years” has to be one of the basest thoughts to ever come out of this brilliant mind. The bridge is also a total tossaway, though the concluding “never lose my mind” nicely ties in with the insanity themes of other songs from the era, such as “My Brain” and “Mad Kow.” Then those barbed duelling solos enter, and it really makes you wish that the band had given this song enough sober thought to reap the untapped potential here — even if Green-mode Rivers insists on cutting the segment short before it can go where it wants to, it has the makings of a damn fine moment. Likewise, Pat Wilson’s drum work from there to the conclusion deserves recognition, as does Brian Bell for his impassioned backups.

There are many unofficial bootlegs of this song in circualtion as well, some of which capture the song’s syntactical promise even better than the “official” cut. It’s also worth noting that Cuomo’s decision to edit out the first instance of the bridge from the final mix spares us from one of his most annoying post-Pinkerton habits (using the bridge at least twice in damn neary *every* song), but also excludes a powerful guitar rockout that surged the band and its crowd into the second verse. Worth tracking down if you like the SS2K version enough to care.

If the Recording History tells no lies, it appears that this song never made it to a real studio session. It did, however, briefly have the alternate title of “Your Sister.”

24 Comments

  1. brado8 wrote:

    Meh.

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  2. skiz65 wrote:

    Eh, i thought this song was “kinda cool” when it first came out, but it had no staying power. You’re very correct in calling it a “cousin” to Slob. The guitar rock-out part was a highlight of the song for me, and i was dissapointed to see it edited out of the “official” release. There’s a bootleg of this song from either the Portland or Seattle show, and it’s the best performance in my opinion. They also play Slob and TLTT and the sound quality is spetacular.

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  3. well, yeah, comparing a lyric from this song to a brilliant line from Pinkerton isn’t gonna flatter this song.

    I enjoy this song. I prefer it over the average Green song (the 4 minute live version you speak of particularly, with the extra guitar section, repeating chorus, etc). “I thought that I’d never use the bong” reminds me of the Rivers who was afraid of alcohol in SIAS.

    As for what the song means (surprised you didn’t talk about this)…a boardie once posted a theory that the song was about calling your girlfriend’s house and hearing her mom or sister answer the phone, but now that they have broken up, he misses the little things, such as when he’d speak briefly to them. I’ve pretty much thought of it that way ever since.

    Overall, it’s not a particularly memorable song, but I dig it.

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  4. Low wrote:

    i like it more than “slob”. sounds kinda 50s-ish. wouldn’t bother me if it made it as far as green album b-sides. maybe even a-sides.

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  5. Soyrev wrote:

    Lord: I’m pretty sure I addressed my understanding of this song over the course of the post. There’s the lewd “sister”/”mom” love quadrangle thing, the rather tasteless bong reference, and the usual SS2K theme of insanity/losing your grip. The idea that Rivers misses hearing his ex’s mother or sister pick up the phone is a very nice one, but there’s nothing in the song to actually substantiate that: wishful thinking aside, this is just Cuomo being creepy about his ex’s hot sister and MILF.

    And yes, I too like this song more than “Slob.” And I like it more than much of TGA musically, but the lyrics, thank God this was never officially released…Although as far as b-sides go, this is no crasser than “I wanna do you.”

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  6. ThomYorke wrote:

    Soy, I don’t think you have any greater proof or logical ground for your assertion of what the song means that does LORD.

    I happen to agree with Lord on the angle of the lyrics being less creepy, and more about missing odd little things he associates with the girl. Also, since when is referencing a bong tasteless? I myself like a good bong now and then, and I’m not going to hold it against Rivers for writing a lyric about it. Again, I lean more with Lord’s perspective.

    On a side note, I find Slob to be FAR superior to this song for a log of very concrete reasons of which I will wait to delve in to once you cover it. I warn you, if you come out with the gloves off against Slob, you’re going to receive a keyboard lashing the likes of which this site has never seen. Slob is misunderstood these days, where it was once an SS2K favorite. I think the Maladroit version made people forget how good it used to be.

    Anyway, I’ll fight that battle when the time comes.

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    Just the fact that he rhymes “bong” with a line about wanting on his ex’s mom is kinda tasteless, if you ask me.

    And I think it’s possible to view the lyric that way after you hear it (the way you and Lord are talking about), but I don’t think there’s anything IN the song to substantiate that. If you read the lyrics, actually, the bulk of the song is ostensibly about nothing, just various “dark” imagery — there’s actually very little to suggest that this is directed to an ex-girlfriend, or even a girl at all. Probably, but not necessarily. The “I thought that I would never even miss her” line (in reference to who, Rivdog? the sis or the mom?) is the only thing that miiight suggest a breakup, but he could be missing “her” for any number of reasons. The point is, even if Cuomo meant that he missed hearing them on the phone because he no longer has a reason to call whoever this song is being sung to, he failed spectacularly in communicating that clearly in his song. Fact is, if you play this song for anyone who hasn’t unhealthily obsessed over the Weezer catalog for several years, their first reaction will invariably be: why the fuck is this guy creepin’ so hard?

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink
  8. will wrote:

    who’s maligning Pinkerton? i always thought it’s status as a classic just kept growing.

    Monday, January 12, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  9. Melack wrote:

    I’m not a big fan of the Summer Songs in general.

    No one of them is really horrible but most of them are just kind of meh, this song is no expection.

    And no matter if you go with soys or lords understanding of the lyrics they are still bad.

    I’m glad The Sister Song didn’t show up on any studio album, that’s for sure.

    And to clarify I didn’t bash every summer song in this comment I really like some of them but the majority of them are boring, this song is surely one of them

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  10. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’d agree that it’s one of the weaker SS2k songs too, but it’s still decent. The best of SS2k would be SuperStar, Slob, O Girl, Preacher’s Son, Mad Kow and Modern Dukes.

    SuperStar and Slob in their earliest versions are absolutely phenomenal. After hearing those first cuts, I was seriously excited for album 3, as it sounded like it was going to be a rip-roaring up-tempo rock fest. Some of the newer fans forget what it was like only having Blue and Pink as a reference point: stuff like Superstar & Slob really sounded like somewhat of a natural progression.

    Damn it, I wish we could just talk about those two songs right now, I’ve got all kinds of ideas that are more interesting than Sister Song conversation.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  11. Ludicrosity wrote:

    I am not a big fan of this song. I just don’t find it all that remarkable by any stretch of the imagination — both instrumentation and lyrics are lacking. There are definitely better SS2K songs that come to mind (Slob being a prime example, the Maladroite version of the tune does no justice to it.)

    On a slightly unrelated note, but in reference to a SoyRev comment, I thought the same about the Oh Lisa line until a couple of years ago. Now I am wondering if he isn’t actually saying “I wanna, do you?” Although I never paid attention to the rest of the lyrics from the song so I could be very wrong.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  12. Art Vandelay wrote:

    I was about 15 or 16 when this batch of songs hit the net… even back then, I was completely apathetic to this song.

    I wouldn’t describe it as overtly offensive, it’s just lazy and uninteresting from a songwriting standpoint.

    I will say that on the ‘official’ cut, Mikey did an admirable job of trying to inject some life into the thing.

    And yes, the lyrics are pretty awful by anyone’s standards.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Permalink
  13. Joe Blow wrote:

    Several years ago, a boardie on one of the fansites did piano renditions of several Weezer songs. One of these was The Sister Song. In my opinion, that solo piano piece is probably the best version of the song. With the lyrics out of the way, I think one can see beauty in the music that would be otherwise missed.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink
  14. Soyrev wrote:

    Will: I meant in Rivers’ own mind. Though even by that point, it had definitely not yet been re-evaluated as the cult classic it’s deemed to be today.

    Ludicrosity: Ummm, your “O Lisa” lyrics interpretation miiiiiiiiiiiiight have some merit to it, but it seems pretty doubtful. Keep in mind, as hardcore Weezer fans, we are always subconsciously trying to find ways to better appreciate Rivers and the band’s post-2000 failures. It’s just in our nature.

    Joe Blow: That sounds like it would be interesting to hear.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 8:35 am | Permalink
  15. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Hey Soy, I’m not defending Oh Lisa as a song. I hate the holy fucking hell out of that tune, just pointing out a thought I’d had about it. Out of all the Green b-sides I think it’s the worst by far… the vocals are terrible and the music/lyrics suck too.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  16. OhWeezer96 wrote:

    Yes, O Lisa is by far the worst Green b, but it is also, imo, the worst Weezer recording to date, demo or studio.

    Great job again Soy, thanks!

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  17. Soyrev wrote:

    “O Lisa” definitely sucks. It’s like Rivers’ worst, most grating attempt at being Green Day.

    And no, OhWeezer — thank you!

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink
  18. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    Melack’s comment is my exact opinion of this song.

    The chorus kinda gets stuck in your head a little, though. Doesn’t make it good, but it is decently catchy.

    And i’m with you on the anti-bong reference. While I think its cool for Rivers to talk about that kinda thing (a la the fear of alcohol in SIAS), it does NOT belong in the flippin chorus. it is a lyric meant to be interpreted, not a hook meant to drive the song’s final pucnhes home.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink
  19. sandwiches wrote:

    When i was in high school and these songs came out, this is one of the ones I actually liked quite a bit. But as Skiz mentioned, that sort of faded away. In general i was never all that big a fan of the summer songs, though there was a time around the Maladroit demoing era where i was hoping they would use those songs rather than some of the stuff they were putting out around then.

    And Soy, as you mention, there are moments of this song, and many other “meh” songs from the 2000-2002 era that had potential, whether bits and pieces of songs be lifted and used in another form, or with refinement and further fleshing out ideas and revising lyrics. I saw potential in this one. For a time anyway.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  20. ThomYorke wrote:

    The melody of the chorus if probably its saving grace, but yeah, even I’ll admit this is deserves no gold-stars for songwriting.

    Friday, January 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  21. SICK NICK wrote:

    To me, this was always one of the most underappreciated PP songs. I remember loving it when they played it in 2000 at irving plaza. Before green came out I was really rooting for this and Slob to make the final cut. At least we got Slob (in a lesser form an album later).

    Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  22. Martin wrote:

    Haha this is my favorite Ss2k song.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink
  23. Soyrev wrote:

    What!! It cannot hold a CANDLE to “O Girl”…or even “Mad Kow” or “My Brain.”

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  24. Casey wrote:

    Calling the bong reference “tasteless” kind of slaps of knee-jerk puritanicalness, imo. It’s a sad line, if you really think about it, and I think it’s about being disappointed in himself or maybe not living up to some of his childhood ideals*.

    I remember in “Rivers Edge” (not the greatest resource, I know), a quote from Justin Fisher about how Rivers (and some others) confronted him about his alleged dalliance with pot at a party and how they wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to do that kind of thing anymore.

    Fast-forward several years and Rivers’ band/career/life is in limbo and he’s basically hanging around smoking pot with Mikey all day, and maybe we can get an idea of where he was coming from when he wrote TSS.

    *see also the line “I never swear like that.” In an old interview, Rivers said that he and his brother had to teach each other to swear when they left the ashram and enrolled in public school.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *
*
*