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Seafaring Jamb

What a weird little tune. “Seafaring Jamb” is another in the Maladroit-era series of “jambs” (see also: the rather snazzy “Burndt Jamb” and the frankly awful “Zep Song” a.k.a. “Zep Jamb“), and it’s kind of in the middle of the bunch when it comes to quality. Like all the “jambs,” the song’s title does not appear anywhere in the lyrics, but it’s easy to see why they chose it: the circular little riff at the tune’s heart resembles a sea shantey in its own way, bobbing up and down as though along the ocean waves.

There are three versions of this song that I possess. The first is from November 8th, 2001 — a live version that was semi-officially released on Weezer.Com as part of the two-disc, download-only Extended Hyper Midget Tour document. The lyrics are a bit esoteric, with a one-line chorus that trails off, “I’ll tell you my weakness…” (Hence the song’s alternate title, “My Weakness”) The structure is otherwise founded on two verses, which go:

Everybody, don’t make me laugh
‘Cause it’s not so insane
In the morning it comes to pass
And there’s no one to blame

And if you knew the things I’ve seen
Then you’d have to believe
In the spirits above the sand
And the man in the tree

Say what? Then again, there’s a sort of mysterious quality to the lyrics that intrigue — it feels like there’s more at play here than Rivers Cuomo’s usual Maladroit-era rambling and non-sequiturs (read: bullshit). Plus, there’s some pretty neat imagery at play here: “the spirits above the sand,” “the man in the tree.” It’s all delivered in a rather fine melody that is, while not particularly inventive or interesting, enough to carry along the song. Scott Shriner does some neat bass riffs in the second verse, and there’s enough subtle variation going on to build up a pretty cool little aura.

Then there’s that bridge. The guitars rise up, Pat Wilson handles the ride cymbal in an almost jazzy way, and Cuomo commands with noticeable passion: “Tell me to stay / Need me to stay.” The solo runs up and down the fretboard a bit, and it’s pretty swell. The repetition of the bridge is a bit unnecessary in a quick song that clocks in just over a minute and a half (hey, I’m a Guided By Voices fan — the shorter the better, sometimes!), but it’s not a huge fault. This is a serviceable performance of a pretty okay song.

The song was, to my knowledge, then attempted twice for the Maladroit sessions in early January 2002. The version from the 9th is pretty similar to the live take, albeit with a far lesser solo that meanders aimlessly before getting cut off by a repeat of the brief chorus. It also adds an outro that is more or less dead weight and does little to aid the song. The version from the 12th adds a second guitar harmony to the main riff (making it even more of a seasick melody), and Shriner adds some pointless backups-for-the-sake-of-backups to the verses (ah, Maladroit) — but damn, this solo might be the best of the lot. Still, that pointless outro is here reprised, which works to the cut’s detriment.

My favorite version is probably the live take — as seems to be a theme of this era in the band’s history (hell, the entirety of the post-2000 era, really), the less the band thought about these tunes, the better. But that’s also the problem here: “Seafaring Jamb” feels half-baked in the typical Maladroit way; there’s just something missing. It’s crazy to think that the song was actually mixed and mastered and very nearly officially released on the album (though I wouldn’t mind hearing that outtake, for the hell of it).

Albumsix.Com forum member Baby Britain did a pretty good job of remedying the issues at hand. On the first A6 Boardie Tribute Album, he delivers a cover that transposes the song’s riff to a sleepy acoustic, buts out some pretty chords on the chorus, and replaces Brian Bell’s backing vocal tracks with a honey-voiced female backup that really does the trick. Oh, and his deuling acoustic solo takes this dream of a cover even deeper into Rapid Eye Movement bliss. He even makes a slightly altered version of the outro work quite nicely. Getting ahold of his version wouldn’t be an easy thing at this point, I don’t think, so I’ve done a nice thing and uploaded it for all to download easily: check it out, right-click save as.

Development, development. Just the thing Maladroit mostly lacked — especially considering that when the band tried, the song in question almost inadvertently regressed. As the Weezer version stands, “Seafaring Jamb” is  an inoffensive and mildly enjoyable song that, in my estimation, comes up short for a lowest-rung placement on the Grand Playlist.