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Preacher’s Son

Somewhere down the line, the Summer Songs 2000 inadvertently start to blur together for the listener. For me, that happens somewhere around “Preacher’s Son.” Trying to imagine the song’s different sections without first playing it, I imagine “Preacher’s Son” beginning with the guitar intro from “Modern Dukes” — and even though I get through the general gist of the verse and chorus all right, from there my inner stereo immediately goes into the post-chorus from “Mad Kow,” which takes me a moment to realize is actually not “My Brain.”  And these are all songs I’ve heard at least a couple dozen times before.

The actual “Preacher’s Son” is pretty okay. Musically, the song is a no-nonsense, 2-minute blast of pop rock energy that is bookended by some pretty great squalls of upper-fretboard abandon. The verses feature some decent vocal harmony ideas, and while the choruses narrowly miss giving the song the lift it needs to really go somewhere, the solo is an oft-overlooked shredfest that recalls the kind of tense guitar catharsis Rivers Cuomo used to conjure with songs like “Why Bother.”

The lyrics have momentary flashes of inspiration, but in total they just don’t add up. For starters, I’m not sure what the opening couplet about “living for peace till the day is done” as “the preacher’s son” has to do with the usual relationship case study that follows. And even that sounds self-contradictory in that Cuomo sometimes sings from a position of power (“I’m gonna mold you into something that I like”), and other times he seems self-depracting and helpless (“If you need a fix, then I will be your tool”). And then there’s the matter of the chorus (“Always take me back / Falling off the track”), which intentionally or not is a very direct lift from “The Good Life” (“I wanna go back / And I don’t even know how I got off the track”). And regardless of the band’s intention, in this context it feels more like an unwitting bastardization than a well-placed reference.

Oh, and inevitably we must mention the last line of the chorus: “I’m on fire to be with you tonight and make your body come.” This is about as crassly sexual as Cuomo’s ever been as a lyricist, and while it might read a bit ridiculous as a Weezer line on paper, something about the raunchy guitars and brash rock’n’roll confidence makes it work. There’s definitely a difference here, between this and the infamous “sex you” line…(Even then, “Preacher’s Son” is covered for never having been released proper)

Anyone used to hearing this trim 2-minute edit might be surprised to know that its actual live performances were often a minute longer. As a bootleg from 6/21/00 illuminates, the song used to have a second verse that was wisely cut from the final version, since it seems  to drag and makes the lyrics even less coherent (“I can’t be someone that you wish I was / Just a tag-along, like you too because / But I will never let you go…”). In addition, there’s a studio demo of the song that suffers from not only the addition of this cumbersome section, but also a subpar solo and a lack of the harmonies that drove the verses onstage. It’s also interesting because while it sounds rough and sloppy enough to be a live rehearsal take, Cuomo’s layered overdubs are the only backing vocals on the track, making one wonder if he was beginning to enforce his vocal track monopoly that would later characterize The Green Album as early as 2000.

In conclusion, I was wondering if someone a little more theoretically trained might be able to shed some light on why so much of SS2K sounds the fuckin’ same. Are most of the songs written in the same key? Are some of the progressions retreads, or close to? Maybe Cuomo’s formulaic writing style had simply grown too refined for its own good.