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Don’t Pick On Me

It’s convenient that we go from one Maladroit outtake to another — especially when this is one of the best from the era.

Also known as “Big Chip,” “Don’t Pick On Me” first appeared in September of 2001, during the Sage and Sound (SnS) demos — one of current bassist Scott Shriner’s earliest sessions with the band. And from the very start, this early take suggests something that had been (and would be) missing from the Weezer sound for quite some time. The thick guitars that laden the intro explode out of the speakers with immediacy, burdened by a certain weightiness that suggests a heavy heart, or at the least some kind of complex emotion. A nice, fret-sliding transition carries into the verse smoothly — a winningly catchy slice of pop melody that floats above the surging brawn of an agile power chord progression. From there the song veers into a more predictably Maladroit chorus, albeit one that isn’t compromised by its rawk’n’roll intentions — the stop-start AC/DC rhythm actually sounds pretty cool when set against the nimble verses and the pretty half time guitars that introduced the song. And when those guitars reappear as a sort of bridge after the second chorus, augmented by an airy “whoa-oh-oh” vocal, it feels like the perfect respite delivered at exactly the right moment. Just as you’re thinking a solo would be nice, Rivers Cuomo delivers exactly what you wanted with just the right touch of blue sky reverb — the beautifully descending figure sounds like a shooting star bright enough to cut sharply across the light of day. A retread of the chorus at this point feels a bit like a gamble, but some added harmonies from Brian Bell justify the second go around, and ending with that surging verse feels right.

The band would attempt a re-recording of this song several times during the January ’02 Maladroit sessions, but every one of them feels like a subtle regression from the last. Some of Bell’s early backing vocal additions add a nice counterpoint to Cuomo’s lead, and I like the addition of the “Don’t trifle, don’t stifle me” lyric; hell, even a couple of the alternate solos that Cuomo tries out are interesting, but nowhere near the perfection of that SnS original. By the time of the last surfaced attempt we have, dated January 9th, the song had become a casualty of the fast-developing missteps and bad habits of the Maladroit era: Bell echoes nearly all of Cuomo’s lines with unimaginative, melodyless repetitions that only clutter the soundscape, and some of the potentially good added harmonies and counterpoints are too lazily performed and thought out to sound halfway decent. The integrity of Cuomo’s beautiful original solo is here desecrated, replaced by something that sounds as busy and tasteless as one of John Coltrane’s worst saxophone jerk-offs.

In the end, it’s good that the bastardized “Don’t Pick On Me” never made it to an official release, but the band could have simply mixed down the original SnS “demo” and walked away with perhaps the best song on what could have been Maladroit. In any case, the SnS version lives on in the hearts of Weezer’s more dedicated demo archaeologists as a bittersweet reminder of what could have been — even with a mindless set of lyrics typical of the era, the song’s earliest band incarnation is a real winner. This is one of a handful of tunes that have me convinced that Cuomo’s collection of home demos, and even some early band recordings, from this era contains some yet-unreleased gems and gold.

43 Comments

  1. runnersdialzero wrote:

    This and “We Go Together” should have been released. They’re the best songs of the era, probably. But nah, we got “Space Rock”.

    W. T. F?

    Pretty solid melody, the later lyrics are nice and it sucks that they’re not on the SNS version. etc. etc. etc.

    Could have been a pretty nice song.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
  2. BrokenBeatenDown wrote:

    One of my favorites from the Maladroit sessions…

    “Don’t Pick on Me,” “We Go Together (should’ve been the opening track),” “Broken Arrows” and “So Low” should’ve been on Maladroit. Replace songs like “Gigolo” and “Space Rock” with these, and you got a much more listenable album.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  3. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    Am I hearing a different song? Sure the solo’s kinda rocking, and the melody is okay, but are you guys really creaming your pants over this? I mean I guess this is a decent song, but I wouldn’t consider it anything more than just one of those Mala outtakes that is just sloppy cock rock.

    and my comment on Seafearing Jamb when we got off topic belongs here, interesting lil snippet imo:

    Has it been discussed before that the third “we go” at the end of the chorus of Broken Arrows is the same exact lyric (”go”) and same exact note as the opening lyric of Don’t Pick on Me/Big Chip (”go with the flow…”)? Sing both of them – they leik totes sownd teh same!

    If I knew how to play guitar and bass, I could sing, and I had a means of recording what I played, I would totally blend those two for an A6 tribute album

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  4. runnersdialzero wrote:

    I’m certainly not creaming my pants over it – saying it’s one of the better songs from the Maladroit era isn’t saying a lot. I still think it’s alright, though.

    Although I will disagree with it being just another sloppy cock rock Maladroit song – stuff like this and “We Go Together” are in the vein of Weezer pop songs.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Soyrev wrote:

    Exactly. It’s troubling that this and “We Go Together” — pretty standard pop rock songwriting — are in contention for being the best of an entire era in the band’s life (a short one, but a very prolific one), but it is so. And I think this definitely deserves a place on the Grand Playlist…I’d give the SnS demo 3.5 or 4 stars.

    I sort of know what you mean about the “we go with the flow” idea. That’d be a cool cover.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink
  6. OOS wrote:

    I really need to listen to more of these Mala-era demos, this seems like something that i’d like. I also really like We Go Together and Diamond Rings, although I can’t compare them to the rest of Maladroit as I haven’t listened to it yet.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    I’m glad someone’s with me on the “Diamond Rings” love. Maladroit could’ve been a really nice, simple pop record…

    But I’d definitely place “Don’t Pick On Me” above “Rings.”

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink
  8. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I’d take Diamond Rings over Don’t Pick on Me.

    Listen Up is probably my favorite, though.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  9. BrokenBeatenDown wrote:

    Yeah, this being a favorite from “Maladroit” isn’t really saying much. Easily the weakest period of songwriting for Rivers.

    Haven’t come close to creaming my pants over anything from the Maladroit sessions.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  10. Art Vandelay wrote:

    ‘Big Chip’? More like ‘Big Shit’, sorry.

    The lyrics honestly sound like they were written by the kid in your 3rd grade class who hid in the corner and ate paste and/or crayons. Maybe the worst product of the Maladroit verbal diarrhea machine? Possibly… I can’t remember, because I haven’t bothered to listen through those demos in years. But these are REALLY bad, yo.

    “But Art, the melody is nice!!”

    yeah, fuck that noise. The lyrics make the whole affair a complete embarrassment. Screw the selective listening approach… I’m looking at the whole, and the whole is a tepid, smelly turd.

    I’m not willing to defend the guitar parts either. Theoretically they could have been used to make a decent song, but as it stands, they don’t. They are wasted on a bunch of bullocks about free donuts (or something? what the fuck is he singing about? Presumably there’s sex and a girl involved, but who the fuck cares? DONT PICK ON RICER EVARBODY.)

    Really, the less said about Scott and Brian’s BGVs the better. Not to mention the incessant bass noodling. Ugh.

    This isn’t even good pop. Supposedly he was trying to perfect the pop song formula at the time… Why, when a strong chorus is typically the most crucial part of that formula, did he continually opt for these little nonsensical one-liners that are over before they begin?

    “But Art! Her big chip spoilz teh sound!!!”

    uh, ok.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 11:45 pm | Permalink
  11. sandwiches wrote:

    A few years back I went about cutting down my weezer collection when mala demos kept popping up on my “shuffle songs” setting (before I knew how to make a playlist, which, sadly, was not too long ago) forcing me to constantly skip tracks. This was an early cut, and I even let Porcupine/Spend Some Time make the team. And to the commenter who mentioned listen up: I agree with you, but only if we’re talking the original demo that surfaced, not the gayly crunched up version. That must have ruined the song for me, as its also no longer on my ipod. I’m usually with you Soy, but I couldnt stand Dont Pick On Me on my Shuffle Songs, let alone my ultimate playlist (which I FINALLY know how to make).

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 1:02 am | Permalink
  12. OOS wrote:

    Having listened to this, I really like it. Great melody, and some nice guitar work. I like how everything just sort of melts in the chorus.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink
  13. OOS wrote:

    Also, I just went to Weerez and got some of the other Mala-era demos, and wow was that era boring.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  14. clore wrote:

    I just listened to this song again, and I realized that I have one of the ’02 versions. I never really liked this song, but I really need to find the SnS version because I might like it better.

    I enjoy some of the musical elements, like the airy bridge after the second chorus. However, the lyrics just annoy the hell out of me for some reason. I think Art describes my feelings about the lyrics pretty well, haha.

    The song definitely had potential; it just doesn’t add up(at least on the version I have).

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  15. CHUCK wrote:

    ….next

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  16. Soyrev wrote:

    Clore: The SnS version won’t resolve your issues w/ the lyrics (as has been mentioned, the later lyrics were actually slightly better), but that solo is more than worth a gander.

    I understand your (and Art’s) reservations about the lyrics — as I noted, they’re pretty much fuckin’ nonsense, and that certainly works to the song’s detriment. But I really love the guitar work and the musical feel of this song — to me, it feels like individual thoughts that were tried to extremes and failed horribly for it throughout the era: the hard rock excess of something like “Zep Jamb,” the emotional weight of “Broken Arrows,” and the pop punk verve of that fucking awful song that goes, “me and you, walking down the avenue” (forget the title at the moment, don’t wanna try to find it). But like OOS says, it takes all these kinds of (mostly simple) concepts and melts it all together really nicely. I understand that it can’t be a whole-picture knockout if the lyrics aren’t on point, but man, if the music is this good, I can dig…especially with that solo. Especially for this era! (Yes, you do have to lower your expectations a little bit when fucking “POSSIBILTIES” is an album track) It’s refreshing to hear something that’s respectably creative from 2001 — like OOS says above, it was one painfully boring time for Weezer.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  17. clore wrote:

    That’s a good argument, Soy. We do have to lower our expectations from this era, and this probably is one of the more standout tunes from that era. I’ll definitely admit to that.

    The lyrics of most of the songs from this era are just as nonsensical, and this definitely has the biggest potential to be a good song compared to most. “Living Without You” is probably my favorite from the era.

    Crap, now I have “Possibilities” stuck in my head.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
  18. Soyrev wrote:

    Also, in re-reading my prior comment, it sounds like I’m dissing “Broken Arrows.” Such was not my intention.

    “Zep Jamb” and that “avenue” tune can rot, though.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  19. WAITINGANDWAITING wrote:

    Its a nice but average slice of pop-punk., nothing too special. Just like the rest of those retched demo’s. I haven’t heard them all but I think SnS were best session and each time the band entered the studio each song died a little inside.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  20. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    I have to agree, most of my favorite Mala cuts come from the SnS session. Maladroit could’ve definitely been a lot weirder (both sound-wise and song structure-wise) and more interesting if more of these tracks had been used. (Maybe not much better, but more interesting.)

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  21. ThomYorke wrote:

    “I think SnS were best session and each time the band entered the studio each song died a little inside.”

    Well said. The SnS sessions were one of the key demos I pointed to when making the case that Weezer can often times make songs worse the longer they tinker with them.

    The A5 demo era suffered through this too. Many times, the 1st cut was the best one.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  22. sandwiches wrote:

    Soy, you’re referencing “How Long” with the avenue line. You probably didnt want to know that, though.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  23. brado8 wrote:

    I like this song! That is all. Next, please.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  24. runnersdialzero wrote:

    I just listened to one of the Maladroit sessions versions of this for the first time in a while. The guitar solo made me litterally bust up laughing when it came in. It’s so ridiculous in the context of the song. I like the original a lot, but I’m confused as to which I like more.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  25. OOS wrote:

    Today I was listening to Holiday and El Scorcho, and I just don’t get how someone can go from that to this. This isn’t even a BAD song, especially compared to most Mala-era/PP songs. But it just lacks any real spark. Grr, Rivers is so frustrating.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 8:35 am | Permalink
  26. Robin wrote:

    This comment isn’t so much on the topic of “Don’t Pick On Me” as it is on the general distaste for Mala-era Weezer going around. Also, I apologize in advance if it doesn’t make too much sense.

    While I totally agree that this was an indeed weak period of songwriting, Maladroit as an album is still much more enjoyable and fun to listen to compared to something like The Red Album. It’s consistently (if unfortunately mindless) rocking and catchy. Despite its lack of substance, it still makes me feel good when I listen to it. I sort of feel the same way about Make Believe.

    I don’t feel that way at all about Red. When it first came out, I listened to it a lot and dug it, but I think that was mostly just because I wanted to. “Troublemaker,” “Greatest Man,” “Pork & Beans,” and “Dreamin” were a blast to listen to at first, but I got kind of bored by them later on. The other four songs (not including “Angel and the One”) I just skip entirely.

    I guess my point is that I feel like this era of “nice, simple pop” is something that grows on you, and can be enjoyed for the pleasantness of what it is. Red, on the other hand, is just so inconsistent and is one of the only albums where I’ve kind of had the opposite experience, in which I dislike it more and more after each listen.

    Except for the bonus tracks. Those are a billion times better than practically every track on Red. (Well, maybe not “King.” Does anybody actually like hearing that much Scott?)

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 1:53 am | Permalink
  27. OOS wrote:

    Wholeheartedly agree with you Robin. That argument actually applies to MB as well, I think: it tries to be emotional and interesting and fails, which is worse then just trying to have fun and be catchy.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  28. Bimbly wrote:

    I really like this song in the context of the Mala era. It’s catchy in an interesting way, the bridge references the Beatles melodically, the solo KICKSASS in the 1-08 version and the title is endearing and not overly cloying like some Weezer imitators tend to be (coughOzmaFountainsofWayne). This along with Living Without You and Sandwiches Time would have made worthy additions to the album.. especially if they were in the place of a few others.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Permalink
  29. fact: When questioned if there were any Maladroit era tracks he wished to be on the album, Pat responded that he was pushing Don’t Pick On Me, but lost.

    And I think you are being a little TOO nice about this song. It is one of the better Maladroit era songs, but in the grand scheme of Weezer’s catalogue, it’s not more than a Cuomo fart.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 9:54 pm | Permalink
  30. And Diamond Rings! Man, they totally forgot about that song. Definitely should have been on Maladroit.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  31. Soyrev wrote:

    First off, thanks to everyone who’s commented. Being in the 30s range for a Maladroit outtake is pretty good (only five or so less than Longtime Sunshine…still don’t know what the fuck happened there).

    Bimbly: Is that Beatles reference in the bridge anything specific? I agree though, I too favor this (as well as LWY and Sandwiches Time) over much of what ended up on the album proper.

    OOS: I like the idea of a fun, simple Weezer album, but there’s precious little about Maladroit that is actually fun. “Burndt Jamb” and “Fall Together,” maybe…

    Lord: I think “Diamond Rings” is as good as any of the non-singles and non-“O Girlfriend” tracks on Green. That kind of simple, “We Go Together”-style pop would’ve made Maladroit quite nice.

    Monday, March 23, 2009 at 5:49 am | Permalink
  32. OOS wrote:

    Well, I think that had the Keep Fishin’ radio mix been on the album it would’ve been a great fun song.

    Monday, March 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  33. ThomYorke wrote:

    Radio mix of Keep Fishin’ is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the original. What’s drives me nuts is that they released that practically right on the heels of the album. Less than a month, wasn’t, it?

    Why on earth wouldn’t they have just put that cut on the album in the first place? What other band on the planet puts out an album than has a radio version that’s quite different than the album cut immediately after? Great video, though.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  34. allpwrtoslaves wrote:

    well soy you’ll be hearin alot more from me here.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  35. Bimbly wrote:

    Soy,

    I couldn’t tell you the song that sparked me saying that, but if nothing else the chords are somewhat similar to the breakdown in Take It Away (McCartney solo). I’ll stand by it though, especially the inflection on ‘sound’.

    Re: the harmony comment in the original article; I had never properly listened to the evolution of the song via all the recording sessions so I sat down and checked them out one after another. You’re totally right, in its last incarnation the backups are kind of obnoxious. I still really like this song though and I’m glad we have proper versions, I’d just like to have one mastered so I could slide it into Maladroit without it sounding out of place.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  36. Ludicrosity wrote:

    I think Weezer should just start recording demos and try to emulate them as closely as possible for the final studio versions at this point. How many songs have they regressed by “evolution?” It’s like they still have natural talent to write great pop songs but then when they decide to pick them apart and make decisions on where to go from there, they always choose the wrong ones.

    This is a theme that’s continued straight through to Raditude: Apparently Pardon Me was originally a lot better than the MB version. Brian’s original versions of Thought I Knew were better than what Weezer ended up doing with it; Can’t Stop Partying was ridiculously better in demo form and I’m Your Daddy was originally about Rivers’ daughter being sick in hospital until he changed it to a more “relatable” song for the kids. (Something he was actually proud about!)

    I really think the band has lost all ability to think critically and come up with the right decisions for a song as a result. I know this info is nothing new but it’s slightly amazing to see how long the band has been this inept for. Their good ideas seem to be more of a fluke than anything at this point.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  37. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’ve made that same observation 1,000 times, Ludicrosity. No band has ever been worse at recognizing its best material.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  38. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Yeah I don’t think it’s hit me as hard until now, it’s pretty f’n insane… which makes me excited for Odds & Ends since it’s probably gonna have a few of the gems from certain eras (since they are discarded tracks, after all.)

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  39. Soyrev wrote:

    Well, speaking of O&E on this particular thread, I’d say the best take of “Don’t Pick On Me” is the absolute worst quality of a track I’d want there to be on there. Karl said that only pretty much finished but unchosen songs from recording sessions would make it…which definitely means at least a bit of Fallen Soldiers (nice), definitely one of the finished but unmastered Green tracks (probably bad; the b-sides to that record are generally a sad lot), and quite possibly some Maladroit outtakes we’ve already heard (fuck). I don’t really know if there’s anything left from the Red or Rad sessions (let alone anything good), and I’d imagine that w/ the Deluxe editions the coffers are pretty much drained for Blue and Pinkerton…

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  40. Ludicrosity wrote:

    You have just made me depressed about O&E, lol. Like you said, the blue and Pinkerton deluxe CDs should take most of the quality material from that era of the band. Wonder if Burning Sun would be on the tracklist… that’d be something from Green that isn’t bad right? Some of the Mala outtakes wouldn’t be too bad like this one or Private Message. I am sure there is unreleased Red stuff because didn’t forum members say that the deluxe version, without Troublemaker and Pork & Beans, was shorter than the band members said the original version of the album was before the Jackknife recordings?

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  41. justbluemyself wrote:

    great melody. crunchy guitars. cool solo. that’s really all that matters to me.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  42. Soyrev wrote:

    Nothing special, but it’s definitely one of the nicest of the era and certainly deserved release.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  43. Julian wrote:

    Hello, I’m desprately looking where I can listen to the SnS Demos, recorded for the Maladroit album. Any idea where I can find them?

    Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

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