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Hot Tub

The Weezer discography is one fraught with criminal omissions. Why didn’t “We Go Together,” “Broken Arrows” or “Diamond Rings” make Maladroit? How did songs like “O Girl” manage to elude The Green Album, or official release of any kind? How can a song as good as “Longtime Sunshine” have been recorded and attempted time and again, only to wither in Rivers Cuomo’s closet for over a decade — and even then, only seeing release on a demos compilation?

It’s true that Cuomo often overlooks his brightest gems. Even up to the present day, simple song selection often severely compromises the quality of Weezer’s output (which is to say, better songs are recorded and sometimes even mixed, but simply aren’t put on the album for…reasons). Sometimes there’s an oversight so glaring  it simply boggles the mind. “Hot Tub” is one of those cases.

Even by the time Rivers resuscitated this song for his Boston-based Homie sideproject in 1997, “Hot Tub” had been around for a while. He recorded a home demo of it in July of 1993 (presumably having performed all instruments and voices himself) — so it predated Weezer’s first album by nearly a year. On first listen, it seems pretty obvious why this was never considered for the band. At once, the song comes alive with a Feelies-style rhythm, Princely synth fanfare, and a lead vocal about inviting oneself over to an easy lay’s house to “drink champagne and smoke a bowl.”

Then there’s that chorus, ample with macho confidence: “I wanna get in your hot tub, baby / I wanna get in you now.” It’s the complete antithesis of Blue‘s emotional core, and, considering that at this point in time Rivers and bassist Matt Sharp had a running joke between themselves that white people should not, under any circumstances, attempt to make “funky” music, it’s easy to hear how this song would be discounted. Band historian Karl Koch has even confirmed that Cuomo at one point submitted this song to Tom Jones for his sincere contemplation.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. In the verses, a second vocal track sings in a register so low and suave as to be vaguely comical (have we ever heard Rivers sing so low since?), and the tail end of the chorus implores the girl to get in her car and pick him up, or else, as Cuomo threatens, “I’m gonna put you down.” The image of this wannabe Adonis needing to have his squeeze drive him around is certainly ironic, as is his childish threat to insult her if she doesn’t.

And then there’s that bridge. Suddenly, perfectly, the white-boy funk disappears in a swell classic Weezer distortion, that cheesy synth now a mournful organ, as a plainly vulnerable Cuomo sings some of his very best lines ever:

Sometimes I’m so disappointed
I can’t be more of a man
Sometimes my life feels so empty
Not letting love play her hand
Sometimes I’m so disillusioned
All my relationships fake
I admit this is a problem
To be solved another day

The pelvic thrust of the verse’s bassline returns, but an onslaught of out-of-tune guitars now ruin the mood, and when the chorus returns, the masculine illusion is all but gone, Cuomo sounding pathetic and confused as he tries to corner the girl again. The bridge drops one more time to conclude the song, the first four lines accompanied only by the sad organ, the last four by a bare acoustic guitar.

Simply put, this is one of the greatest, most subtle songwriting triumphs in Cuomo’s catalog. The way he builds up the detestable macho persona we all know and (probably) hate, only to tear it down with a vulnerability and air of regret that one almost never associates with the stereotype…the way that second to last line is delivered in an unexpectedly sensitive falsetto…the gorgeous, contemplative melody that seeps through those confessional words, especially after the dense and dull-witted repetition of the chorus…It’s all brilliant, subtle songwriting. For one song, Cuomo embodies the archetypal man’s man and makes him a portrait of pity.

When Cuomo revived this one for the 11/4/97 show at T.T. the Bear’s in Boston (with Kevin Stevenson of the Shods on guitar, Drew Parsons of American Hi-Fi on bass, and Fred Eltringham of the Gigolo Aunts on drums), he left it mostly intact, except for a critical and thorough revision of that fantastic bridge. Although the vocal melody, lyrics and chord progression are all completely different, the impact and immediacy remains, as does the general intent: I can’t quite make out all the words, but he wails about his fears of loneliness and begs the girl to take him home again. I doubt they’re as spot-on as the 1993 version, but whatever shortcomings might be found there are nearly redeemed by the addition of a euphoric, mind-melting, bleeding-heart guitar solo that completely shreds the outro to beautiful little pieces. I get chills every time.

Even as the band played that night, Cuomo practically dismissed the amazing Homie band as his “goofball country” outlet; during a fan interview with readers of Blender magazine in 2005, Cuomo answered a question about the (apparently finished) Homie album’s release status by saying, “There’s too much garbage out there already.” Whether this is simply self-deprecation or an honest dismissal of some of the best songs he’s ever written, it’s clear that Cuomo, at one point, knew “Hot Tub” was a winner, seeing how he scraped it off a four-years-old demo and made it a set closer in 1997. Either way, one hopes that this song – and the rest of the Homie material – someday sees a much-deserved release.