Just after I finish singing the praises of Rivers Cuomo’s 1997 output comes probably the least impressive song from that year: “Little Sister.”
While unknown demo or rehearsal recordings of the song may exist, the only public airing it ever received was at a Rivers Cuomo solo show at T.T. the Bear’s in Boston, October of 1997. And interestingly enough, Cuomo himself taped a very pristine bootleg of the evening on his DAT recorder — later sharing this song (and also “1000 Years”) from the show to fans directly via the brief period of time he spent living on Weezer fan forums in ’01/’02. It’s a bit of a shame that Cuomo selected this song to be one of just two he shared from the setlist — I would have MUCH rather gotten a lovely recording of “Rosemary,” “Baby,” “Fun Time,” or even the version of “Say It Ain’t So” they did over this one. But beggars can’t be choosers, and at the very least, we got a recording of a Cuomo tune we’d have probably never heard otherwise.
And really, while some fans hate it, “Little Sister” isn’t all that bad — it just has a hard time keeping up with its ’97 company (or most any of Cuomo’s output from that decade). Indeed, it’s very much a product of Cuomo’s daring experimental bent from this period: there’s the faux-funk one-chord riff that powers pretty much the entire song (there’s two in the chorus), which is a hallmark of the strophic repetition he was beginning to practice post-Pinkerton. The drumbeat is almost danceable, but the bass refuses to do anything interesting, like the simple guitar melody that cycles through its three-note pattern to no particular gain. Even the vocal melody is a bit of a toss-off, though the words Cuomo is singing — while rather plainspoken and unartful — are a bit noteworthy:
“Little girl in the hotel / Little girl on the bus / I wanna sin in the darkness / But the sun shines on all of us,” goes one verse, and it’s pretty clear that he’s singing about the shy rockstar’s plight: wanting to take advantage of the groupies, but fearing what others might think. Cuomo’s even pretty upfront about it as he preambles to the crowd, “It’s about girls who follow me around and then write down information on the Internet…Information I would rather not have my mother read.” Surely he can’t be referring to this thing…
Anyhow, after plodding through a few non-thrilling verses/choruses, the band goes through the motions of a boring bridge build that feigns direction but winds up leading only back to the blunt chorus. It sounds a bit like the band learned it the day before, so maybe there’s a lacking confidence here that compromises the song — but all in all, this is one experiment that simply failed and was wisely trashed.