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So Low

While it’s hardly the lost classic a few Weezer die-hards have made it out to be, early Maladroit contender “So Low” is by all means a decent song, and one that’s held up better than a good portion of what actually wound up on the record.

Perhaps it’s the spacious live recording we have to judge it by (the band played it for an HBO Reverb special in a packed California club, the professional mix of which can’t hurt) — after all, “We Go Together” flourished during the same performance, but was quickly degraded into a generic throwaway when the band suffocated it in the studio. But as it stands, “So Low” is a punchy little brooder that channels some classic rock grooves on the chorus to get its point across. It’s a perfectly pleasant listen and nothing I would move to skip were it to come up in a shuffle.

The song comes in a brief stretch of songwriting inspiration — which also produced the superior “Faith in the Light” and “Broken Arrows” — and while this song is certainly friendlier than the standard Rivers Cuomo fare of the day (this little stretch was bookended by the likes of “Love Explosion” and “I Wanna Know”), I remain unconvinced that it transcends many of the typical Maladroit trappings. The song’s weighed down by some unimaginative backing vocals (like so many of the era), and while the lyrics have a general “love song” slant to them, ’01 Cuomo again favors stream-of-nonsenseness over complete thoughts and general cohesion. (“In your room / In your eyes / Silver spoon / Big surprise?”) Cuomo’s rather nice guitar solo opens things up for a moment, but it’s a brief respite from what is otherwise a pretty plodding, two-dimensional song. “So Low” establishes its intro/verse/chorus structure and sticks boringly to it from there on out.

All in all, it may not be on the order of “Possibilities” or “Change the World,” but I’d say it’s par for course with Maladroit‘s more middle-of-the-road affairs. Granted it’s worlds better than the detritus the band reworked it as (“Mansion of Cardboard,” an atrocity for another day), but when it comes to a road map for what Maladroit should have been, I’d much sooner pinpoint “Broken Arrows,” “We Go Together,” “Diamond Rings” et al.

27 Comments

  1. OOS wrote:

    Wow, conversation not moving very fast here.

    I haven’t checked out this song yet, but overall, is it better then the average Maladroit-era track?

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  2. CrippyBoy wrote:

    Listen and see for yourself on Youtube. I really enjoy the faintly Asian melody that’s played with each utterance of “so low” throughout the song. Asian motifs+Weezer= pure gold (or a decent silver in this case).

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  3. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I like Mansion of Cardboard.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink
  4. Hup_Y wrote:

    Are you going to treat ‘Mansion Of Cardboard’ separately then? I agree with most of the above, save for preferring ‘Faith In The Light’ which I always found to be the inferior song to be cut from this cloth. Actually, I’d say ‘So Low’ could have been something of a highlight if the band had continued to work on it, yet not shifted into Maladroit-mode. What is odd to me is how when this song comes up in conversation, it is always the Reverb performance that gets mentioned – though understandably it was focused around new material and on TV too, quite unusual even back then – whereas I’ve always like the Philadelphia Spectrum performance to be the best version we have. I haven’t heard it in years, but I seem to recall it doesn’t include the “classic Bri” (and Scott) response backing vocals on the verses. There’s also a good version of the once-promising ‘Do You Want Me To Stay?’ which, as we all know, went a bit pear shaped when it came out in some form or other.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 2:29 am | Permalink
  5. Sick Nick wrote:

    I was at the Philly show in 2001 when this was played. I always liked this song but agree that it got a little too much hype later on. Still better than 90 percent of Maladroit.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:09 am | Permalink
  6. Melack wrote:

    Nice summ up.

    Not a fantastic song but still way better than 90% of Maladroit.

    Feels like a Keep Fishin’, a mix between the Green and Maladroit sound.

    I think this song actually has some potential, but it was doomed because of the time it was born.

    Still a nice listen when you’re in for some easy and catchy power pop.

    Like you said, I wouldn’t skip it if it suddenly came up on random.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  7. Brownerton wrote:

    The problems with this song may go back to the debate about Rivers’ vocal delivery – would this song be decent if he sang it like he believed it? In that HBO version he sounds tired/disinterested. The instrumental parts are equally uninspired. Scott’s bassline makes me pine for Mikey’s energy. Would this song be good if the band played it with the intensity of Getchoo? Probably. Maybe not as good as a Pinkerton song, but it would at least be fun to listen to, whereas listening to that version of “So Low” makes me want to take a nap.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  8. Soyrev wrote:

    OOS: It’s worth a listen. Some people like it much more than I do.

    CrippyBoy: That’s a very subtle touch. I never would have noticed had you not mentioned it, but it’s far from redeeming the song’s mediocrity for me.

    MNIJ: Yuck.

    Hup: Just checked that version. It’s decent, maybe a bit of an improvement, but I’ll still favor the HBO one if only for its sound quality. Good to see you back here, btw.

    Sick Nick and Melack: 90%? Gotta say, I definitely favor “Burndt Jamb,” “Death & Destruction,” “Fall Together,” “Slave,” even a song like “American Gigolo” over this one…

    And that’s a very good insight, Brownerton. A lack of conviction can kill a song for sure.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  9. ThomYorke wrote:

    I agree with the middle of the road assessment – it’s an descent song, and i never skip it when it comes up.

    I don’t know about your American Gigolo take though, Soy. I can’t stand it a lot of times, although a lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s the opener.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  10. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    I’ve never actually listened to this before the blog brought it up, and i think the instrumental parts are tame and the open lyrics are crap, but the songs climax is excellent an ‘take back the love..’ works brilliantly and as passion just waiting to be extracted from it. As Brownerton said, this is a song that needs energy and passion. It’s not a lost classic, but it’s being running through my head all day and has potential to be great.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  11. Soyrev wrote:

    Thom, “Gigolo” is not a great song, but it’s got energy and catchiness going for it — something you can’t say about a lot of the stuff from this era (“So Low” included).

    And yeah, W&W, wasted potential is certainly a theme on this blog…This one needs a good deal of work, but more often than not, I would say that even Weezer’s crappiest songs could benefit immensely from some pretty minor tweaks.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  12. OOS wrote:

    Just gave this one a shot, and I have to say, I like it. The “I need love” melody is kinda beatles-esque to me, and the drums really lend the whole thing a sense of atmosphere. With some work this could’ve been a fantastic track, although I like the whole Maladroit era more than most, so people may disagree.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink
  13. Gohi wrote:

    First time poster, love the blog. Been reading it for quite some time.

    I have to say, “So Low” is one of my favorite songs Weezer have ever done. Seriously. I find the HBO performance to be pretty emotional and moving and the guitar solo is just phenomenal and gives me shivers. The whole thing is based around a fantastic vocal melody and a driving drum part. An album with songs of this caliber would definitely be Blue/Pinkerton caliber for me.

    Looking forward to commenting more.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  14. Soyrev wrote:

    Wow Gohi! Interesting to see such an unusual opinion here — I’m looking forward to you commenting more, as well.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  15. OOS wrote:

    While I don’t think it’s quite on Blue or Pink level, it is a great song, and I would’ve like them to pursue a sound like this on an album. Unfortunately they didn’t, though it reminds me of Peace.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
  16. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Gohi, I don’t full agree with your post, but rather than flame you, I am just curious on your view of the rest of Maladroit. As your consider the potential of So Low being of Blue and Pinkerton quality, do you have a higher affinity for the PP work or a lower opinion of albums 1 and 2.

    Friday, June 12, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  17. Gohi wrote:

    Hey Waiting, Blue and Pinkerton absolutely destroy everything that was released after it, no question. That said I do think that a few PP songs reach those same heights that the band reached on the first two albums (the most recent example is some of the bonus tracks on The Red Album).

    I think Maladroit is a very good album, 4 stars or so and it is by far my favorite PP release. I know that not many share that view with me, haha.

    Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 12:24 am | Permalink
  18. ThomYorke wrote:

    Why’d you get rid of “Most Recent Comments,” Soy? That’s the only way I know where to jump in to an ongoing conversation on a previously posted song.

    Bring it back!

    Monday, June 15, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    That’s funny — I didn’t. In any case, they’re back!

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  20. ThomYorke wrote:

    Sweet, thanks!

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 7:16 am | Permalink
  21. GuessWho wrote:

    … and it’s gone again.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink
  22. ThomYorke wrote:

    yeah that’s weird – it must be the underwear gnomes.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 8:57 am | Permalink
  23. Soyrev wrote:

    Back again. Not sure what’s going on, but hopefully it’ll stop.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  24. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Back to the song, this has really grown on me and I really love how Rivers voice emotes. This is everything Mala could of been.

    Friday, June 19, 2009 at 5:03 am | Permalink
  25. sandwiches wrote:

    I’m one of the people who love this song. But mostly for being what it is from the the era it comes from. i cant really argue with anyone’s point/complaint of it being sort of plodding or boring, in structure or in the actual hbo performance. The first time i heard this song was at Jones Beach back in september 2001, but it really impressed me so i was pretty stoked hearing it again on reverb. but perhaps i had already built it up big in my mind as people tend to do after hearing songs in a live setting.

    But I just love the melody in this one. I would have really listened to maladroit a lot more often with a So Low version somewhat faithful to the reverb version (maybe with a minor lyrics upgrade or more emotion singing, as mentioned above), as well as Faith In The Light, Diamond Rings, and reverb’s We Go Together, and cut out a few of the weaker tracks we currently have. but we all have our wishlists…

    Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  26. danup wrote:

    So I finally listened to this song, which I’d lumped in, for some reason, with the worst of the Album 5 demos. The lyrics don’t make any sense, but I love the melody, and I’m not sure what else I can ask for in a Maladroit song. The pre-chorus/chorus, especially “Babe I need love” and what crippyboy calls the Asian motif underneath “So Low”, kills me.

    While I’m at it: I’ve been listening to Maladroit a lot lately, and the more I listen the more transparent it gets, to me, that Rivers was content just throwing interesting phrases into songs and calling it a day. That’s no good for songs that are already terrible, and it might hamstring songs that could otherwise have been great, but for the “good” I think I prefer it to Make Believe’s open-hearted a-b rhyming. That is, better “They’ve been wanting to kill you in your sleep” and “Keep fishin’ if you feel it’s true” than “All these problems on my mind make it hard for me to think”, even if I (and probably Rivers) couldn’t in a million years tell you who They are, why they’re waiting until you’re sleeping, and what It is.

    The post-Green nonsense lyrics phase probably generated no more than five coherent songs, and it coincided with some of the band’s worst song-lets, but buried in there are a few… I don’t know, striking phrases that came out of writing hastily and exclusively for sound and tone.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 3:07 am | Permalink
  27. DJS92491 wrote:

    I like the little bit of love you showed for “Faith in the Light”. It’s the album closer for the album of Weezer demos I created called “The Black Album”. I liked the ring to it since they’re songs that haven’t seen the light of day (aka record shelves).

    But regardless, I like “So Low”, but not as much as I like “Faith in the Light”.

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

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