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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.

26 Comments

  1. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    I can’t remember this song at all.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  2. tsarczar wrote:

    There might be 1 or 2 tracks from the psuedo-album SS2K that I would consider definitive versions of those songs. If I remember correctly, Weezer “released” this album shortly after Green, so of course it sounded the same. The live versions (in other words, actually from the Summer of 2000) were much better versions (compare Too Late to Try, for example).

    That said, I do agree that this song is middle-of-the-road for this particular era.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  3. justbluemyself wrote:

    You’re right, I’m trying to sing this in my head right now but all I hear is Modern Dukes and a bunch of other SS2K stuff. It’s really forgettable. It lasted awhile in the SS2K survivor though, for whatever reason.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  4. Sacamus wrote:

    Good work Soy 🙂 As far as I can tell/remember, Rivers stuck mostly to the standard ‘pop-rock’ keys for SS2K/Green:

    A major (Photograph, Teenage Victory Song, My Brain,) and it’s relative minor, C# minor (Oh Girlfriend)

    G major (Modern Dukes, Ev’ry Night)

    C major (Knock-Down Drag-Out, Brightening Day, New Joint)

    E minor (Island In The Sun, On The Edge)

    D major (Don’t Let Go)

    And the others hover around those points as well I think (there are probably a few in E major as well)

    (Please don’t take this as a definitive summary though, I’m only human!)

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  5. Joe Blow wrote:

    Gotta tell you, this is actually one of my favorite SS2K songs. Mainly for the swagger of it. Lyrically, for example, there are lines like “if you need a fix, then I’ll be your tool” which I think is intended to be brash and suggestive, rather than submissive. And of course, the final line of the chorus.
    I also rather enjoy the vocals during the chorus. And the guitar solo is a standout, too.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  6. clonus wrote:

    In the Alone 2 liner notes, Rivers made some comment about worrying that all of the Green songs sounded the same, so I’m sure he was aware of it. I actually think this one would have worked on Maladroit.
    And I always liked the “I will be your tool” line, if only because it goes against the Generic Pop Lyrics that Rivers was writing at this time.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  7. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’m with “Joe Blow” here, I couldn’t disagree with you more, Soy.

    Preacher’s Son is a fun, raw, uptempo song that served its purpose well live, and perhaps could have been great 2:00 studio track too. Joe puts its well, the songs “swagger” really set it apart. And you’re right, the messy shredding guitar sounds are kind of reminiscent of Why Bother, and that’s a good thing! Swagger is a good term for a lot of the SS2k material, actually.

    I believe they lyrics all lean more brash and suggestive as well, and that’s the fun of it. It’s great to hear Rivers singing with a little bit of balls for a change, like the Rock Star he craves to be ala Superstar.

    To steal a buzz word from the campaign season, I simply fundamentally disagree with your belief that SS2K is forgettable. I’ve said this before, but the rawness and energy of these songs makes up for a lot of their simple structure.

    The band needs this kind of fire and conviction more often live, and SS2K tunes tended to give them an outlet to do it with. I WANT to see Rivers writing songs like this with contradictory lyrics, double-entendre, and occasionally sounding like an ass with a dirty mouth.

    The definitive cut of this song is the 2:00 minute live version, and that’s certainly not too long for the song to lose its luster. You don’t like the guitar solo? I can see where you’re coming from. Still though, he would have had plenty of time to write an even fiercer one had they really kept this song in the lineup and even put it on an album some day.

    I can see your angle on some of SS2k melding together, but my favorites like Preachers Son, Superstar, Slob, and O Girl can stand alone as solid songs.

    Part of the issue with the perceived similarity is that the only versions with have of these for the most part are live, or unfinished demos. Had they made it to the studio, I’m guessing they could have done some work to make each on a little more unique.

    I’ve always felt songs like this from eras of unfinished business can’t be looked at as finished products. Preacher’s Son, and a lot of the rest of SS2K, are at the very least solid foundations for a great songs, if they aren’t already a great song in their current form (Superstar).

    Room for growth on a lot of it? Sure, I’ll admit that. Even if you don’t like it that much, there’s an argument to made that this material had some serious potential.

    But I refuse to dismiss the entire era so easily when stuff like Superstar, O Girl, Slob, Modern Dukes, Mad Kow and Preacher’s Son really get me fired up. I’d take those over a lot of the Red album tracks like EGD or Spider.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  8. GuessWho wrote:

    If I’m not mistaken, Why Bother? is actually a Brian solo.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  9. Fro wrote:

    I’ve always heard the opening verse lyric as “I’mma speak my piece ’til the day is done”. (2:01 version)

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  10. Soyrev wrote:

    Thom: Re-read my post, the “Why Bother” reference was definitely a compliment (the “Good Life” reference is not).

    Also, I don’t dismiss the era out of hand entirely — I did give “O Girl” the Very Best, after all, and I’ll be giving a couple more songs from the lot the Grand Playlist distinction. In general though, this stuff gets ridiculously samey ridiculously fast.

    GuessWho: Now, does Brian just tend to play it live, or did he write it?

    Fro: That’s a plausible (and better) interpretation for sure. I’ll have to relisten and check for that soon.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  11. GuessWho wrote:

    Soyrev: He played it on Pinkerton, at any rate. All I could find on it is this old Rivers AIM interview, where he credits Why Bother and El Scorcho’s solos to Brian:

    http://weezerpedia.com/wiki/index.php?title=AIM_chat_with_Rivers_Cuomo_excerpts_-_January_10%2C_2002

    He doesn’t say whether that’s just playing it or writing it.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink
  12. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    I actually find “Preacher’s Son” to be one of the only SS2k songs that’s worth a damn. That squealing riff is practically seething with sexual frustration, and it gives credence to lyrics that, as others have said, show Rivers with a bit of swagger and confidence rarely seen. But I think it’s also worth mentioning that the crassness of the lyrics does not seem to be lost on Cuomo, as the final line of the chorus is not as much shouted as it is stuttered (“I’m on fire… to be… with you… tonight… and make… your body come!”). I’d definitely place this with “O Girl”, “My Brain”, and “Hash Pipe” as one of the very, very few memorable and thoughtful SS2k songs.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  13. runnersdialzero wrote:

    I don’t think the, “If you need a fix, then I’ll be your tool” line is too helpless or self-depracting. Think about what the song is about, and the “crassly sexual” line that occurs later in the song. It’s a clever little line that always gets at least a smirk out of me.

    I agree with Fro’s intepretation of the opening lyrics, too.

    I like the SS2k stuff sans a couple songs – I agree that “O Girl” is probably the best of the bunch that never saw the light of day. But stuff like “Superstar”, “Slob” (albeit better executed on Maladroit), “Preacher’s Son”, and especially “Modern Dukes” are pretty enjoyable, too.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink
  14. blueguy wrote:

    i am in agreement with the other posters…the raw passion sets it apart and i love that messy introduction on the 6-21 version (the definitive version in my opinion).

    i guess being that you became a =w= fan after 2000 i can kinda see where songs can get lost in the shuffle though..this was one of the first batch – along with dope nose, my brain and o-girl. so it always sticks out to me.

    as for the lyrics, the song is about living a double-life…so they are supposed to contradict each other – it makes sense to me!

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  15. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    I think I may have said this before, but I think that most of the SS2K songs have one or two really great aspects or sections of the song and the rest fails to make much of an impression. Hence, when I (and apparently you too soy) try and remember these songs, I get an amalgam of various bits and pieces that I really like instead of one full coherent song.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  16. BrokenBeatenDown wrote:

    Completely agree with PKMN Trainer Red. Along with “O Girl,” “Hash Pipe,” and “My Brain,” this is the best of SS2K. Song never gets old for me.

    Also, I’m pretty sure it’s “I’m a speak my peace/piece till the day is done.”

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 12:09 am | Permalink
  17. Soyrev wrote:

    You guys have managed to convince me about the opening line and the connotations of the “be your tool” line. I’m still not sold on the song as having any real lasting merit, but it’s not bad. When I get there I’ll probably give it 3 stars in my iTunes.

    Oh, and for me, it’s the 2-minute edit or nothing…If you have the “I can’t be the person who you wish I was” verse in there, I have to turn it off. It’s just so poorly put together.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  18. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    One of the many criteria that we often use when judging Weezer songs is whether or not the vocals are emotional or sung with conviction (Anything off Pinkerton vs. Crab for example). People often rate a song much higher if the vocals sound more powerful and emotional. Listening to Preacher’s Son (specifically, the “Alllllwaaaaayyyyss…” part), I wondered if that vocal performance would qualify. Then I started thinking, ‘What constitutes an emotional/powerful vocal performance?’ Does Rivers need to identify personally with the song? Does he need powerful lyrics or not? Does he just need to belt it out as loud as he can? Does the melody have to be inherently melancholy? Is it a combination of all these things?

    So I guess I’m wondering what you all think of the matter. Is IWTTYHT an emotional performance because it’s loud as Rivers noted in the Alone II booklet? Could a song like Crab ever be sung with emotion and conviction or do the lyrics cripple it too much? Our satisfaction with Rivers’ vocals seems to play a large part when rating a song (i.e. people bashing Green for the robotic vox). What defines and constitutes a top-notch vocal for a Weezer song?

    (Sorry if this comes across like a standardized test prompt, although it would be the most kick-ass prompt ever to grace the SAT)

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  19. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    I like the idea of joining together all the best bits of the SS2k song bar O’ Girl and My Brain and makes one ultimate SS2K song that combines all the great bits of each song.

    Also I just listened to it and I’m still having trouble not thinking its Modern Dukes (which I like).

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  20. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into SS2K. I’ve listened to it just as much as anyone else, and I jam along to pretty much all of it, but it’s all so damn bland.

    There are only two SS2K songs I can actually claim to be familiar with (Modern Dukes and Mad Kow) and thats only because I like the Album 5 demo versions of them. Weird.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  21. OOS wrote:

    I quite like the melody here. Like others said, it’s got a nice swagger. While it wouldn’t have fit on Green, I think that this one could have gone nicely on Maladroit. Granted, I haven’t listened to all of Mala, but based on what i’ve heard, this could be included.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  22. Soyrev wrote:

    Noobs: I just like Rivers’ vocal to be believable. His detachment works on “Island in the Sun” because it sort of sounds like it’s removed from reality — like, of course this place doesn’t actually exist. But you get that same detached delivery on a song like “Don’t Let Go” and it’s just not interesting. He sounds bored.

    So there’s not one typecast answer — it just has to fit the persona and the mood of the song he’s apparently trying to convey.

    MNIJ: You seriously need to listen to “O Girl” till it sticks out in your mind. That’s the ultimate what-Green-shoulda-been song in my mind.

    OOS: Yeah, I can see the 2-minute edit of this fitting quite nicely on Maladroit…over a song like, say, “Possibilities?” Yes, please.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink
  23. Burgess wrote:

    I like this song! I only have 2 versions on this computer, but the live version I have has soooo much more energy than the “demo fix.”

    I think with proper recording this could have been a classic. It has one of the best solos of the summer 2000 songs, a lot of cool little lead guitar parts, nice harmonies, and while the lyrics do have some of that era’s randomness, there’s a darker edge to them than those of, say, “don’t let go.”

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink
  24. ThomYorke wrote:

    Agreed, Burgess.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  25. OOS wrote:

    It is quite a great song, and one of the better SS2K-era tracks to be sure.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  26. Casey wrote:

    I have a strong memory attached to this song, as I could hear Weezer soundchecking it through the brick walls of the Glass House in Pomona, right after they came off of the Warped Tour. I remember in particular feeling the power of that descending “I’m on fire…” riff and just thinking that the new album (when they finally got to it) was going to be EPIC. They played it at a few of the other club shows I caught that summer, and I thought it was the best of the new material, followed by “Mad Kow,” “Slob” and “The Sister Song/Your Sister.”

    A few years later, I was disappointed that it didn’t make it onto “Maladroit.” I think it would have been an excellent replacement for “American Gigolo,” and would have given that album a sort of different feeling from the get-go.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

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