Hot on the heels of “Sheila Can Do (It)” comes another artifact from Rivers Cuomo’s unfinished 1997 sideproject, the Boston-based alt.country of Homie. While many of those songs were old demos and scrapped song ideas that Cuomo was repurposing, this one, “Autumn in Jayne” (a.k.a. “Autumn Jane,” a.k.a. “Autumn and Jane” — both of which I prefer as the title, but we’re going by what’s in the Catalogue of Riffs here), is one of the latest-written songs from the project, written in 1997 itself. Which, all things considered, was a damn fine year for Cuomo: there’s the catchy bathroom humor of the oddball “Fun Time,” to the atmospheric space rock of “1000 Years,” to the perfect pop minimalism of “Lover In The Snow,” to the epic masterpiece “Rosemary” and its corollary “Baby.” Considering Cuomo was coming out of a very focused period of writing for the Songs From the Black Hole/Pinkerton arc, by all counts ’97 seems like Cuomo’s most varied and adventurous year of songwriting since at least 1993 — and a year that is easily on par with any other in the young songwriter’s early streak of brilliance. (We surprisingly have the majority of songs Cuomo wrote in 1997 in some rough form or another, though song titles like “Ol’ Backwater,” “La Belle Dame” and “They Called Him Sunshine” sure make one pine for the rest!)
Well, you can count Cuomo’s continued experiments in southern sun-kissed pop as yet more successes from the fertile year of 1997. While less ambitious than many of the aforementioned songs, “Autumn in Jayne” is an absolute homerun at what it attempts. This is breezy, late-summer pop music that hints at the wistful, fading season ahead. The lyrics are simple, but more simply phrased than simple-minded:
I don’t remember what you said to me
Was it you would, or that you wouldn’t be?
I gave you my lovin’ in the spring time
From then until now is such a long time
And all the dirty boys on the street are looking for a new game
Would you leave me with the same?
And all the pretty girls gonna try and tie them down
It’s autumn in Jayne
Gettin’ to rock up in the dancehall
On Saturday nights we had a real ball
I was so proud to be your boyfriend
But now we lost what we had then
I see the leaves are catching fire
The birds are flying from their homes
And all around the world is crying
‘Cause now I can’t go back to autumn in Jayne
Repetition aside, that’s the lyrics in the entirety right there. Pretty nice, right? There’s not a whole lot to read into or analyze, but the poetic simplicity in lines like “I see the leaves are catching fire / The birds are flying from their homes” is heartwarming — there’s something classic in the design and narrative of the tune, something a la Tom Petty or somesuch. Which fits quite nicely into the little musical framework Cuomo’s worked out here, with the bright acoustic riffing, the rodeo 2s-and-4s beat that the drums kick in with, the drawling harmonica solos, the subtle organ chords and sweet harmonies that give the latter half of the song a subtle lift, not to mention the pleasantly circular motion of the structure itself.
One wonders how a song this simply good could get so easily lost to the sands of time (only played live twice! never released in any form!), but that might as well be the underlying leitmotif of the entire Weezer/Cuomo saga. We can only hope that justice is served and this song is released in some fine form or another (Rivers’ demo, the Homie rehearsal tapes, or both), but as with many of the tunes from this era, we will have Jack Mergist and Ryan Rowland’s wonderful tribute version to sate our imaginations in the meantime.