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Little Sister

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.

38 Comments

  1. OOS wrote:

    While it is certainly the worst song from the era (by far), I still enjoy it’s chorus, and think that it could’ve been something had they done something with it. Still, it’s easy to see why this one was discarded when it came time to start recording demo’s.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  2. skiz wrote:

    I definitely agree that this is the low point of that period. While it was awesome that the last “lost song” from those shows leaked, it was a great disapointment when i actually heard it. FYI, Rivers also leaked the soundboard 1000 Years from this show.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
  3. skiz wrote:

    PS, perhaps this was just an “off” show, while it’s awesome to have a soundboard 1000 Years, i’d say the audience bootleg from the first show (esp the one w/ Ben Folds edited out) is a MUCH better performance…

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  4. Soyrev wrote:

    Good save, Skiz. Post amended.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  5. ThomYorke wrote:

    I had COMPLETELY forgotten about this song; I just went back and heard it for the first time in years after reading your post.

    I have agree with the consensus here, it’s certainly not his best work from the era, but the ending portion with the guitar part is pretty cool. Maybe it was just an off night?

    Also, after all these years, Soy, I’ve never seen that website you linked to with the girls blogging about Rivers backstage. (I guess it wasn’t called a blog when they wrote it?) Anyway, that was a fascinating

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  6. ThomYorke wrote:

    whoops – pressed submit on accident there. As i was saying, it was a fascinating read, and I wonder how accurate they are.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    “They played “undone” and then they went off the stage, and everyone was like “weezer! weezer! weezer! weezer!” after awhile, they came back on and played some country song and we all clapped with the band.”

    Reading it over now, I wonder what that song was.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  8. OOS wrote:

    Probably Fun Time? I don’t know, it’s the closest to country that the RCB got.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  9. CallItAGob wrote:

    Dukes of Hazzard theme?

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink
  10. OOS wrote:

    Never mind, it was probably American Girls. According to the recording history, Undone was played at the RCB shows twice. One was at the end of the setlist, which means that barring an unrecorded, impromptu encore of the Homie material (which is unlikely, because Karl would likely know, and the Homie songs hadn’t been tried out yet), it couldn’t have been at that show.

    At the other show, Undone is not places in the setlist, though Karl knows that it was played. Since American Girls is the only song on the setlist that’s very country (and it comes right at the end), i’d assume that American Girls was the song played that the post is referencing.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  11. ThomYorke wrote:

    American Girls – yet another song that needs to be brought back to the live show.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 5:59 am | Permalink
  12. Soyrev wrote:

    I don’t know who in their right mind would describe “American Girls” as being a “country song”…O_o

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink
  13. OOS wrote:

    I think that AG has something of a country-ish edge to it. Kinda. Not so much in the hard rock version, though. In any case, it would have fit in well on a Homie album.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  14. Soyrev wrote:

    That’s because Homie itself is only country-esque at best — some of the songs (like “Hot Tub,” and “American Girls” if you ask me) don’t sound remotely country at all.

    Remember, Rivers has also made other dubious claims, such as “Lover In The Snow” being “Romantic minimalism” (Romantic in what sense? ’cause of the “shady glen?”) and he even called “Dreamin'” an “epic art song” for crying out loud (it’s no-frills pop song with a weird bridge, Rivs). It’s also interesting to hear how Cuomo interprets his own stuff, but calling it country hardly makes it country.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink
  15. OOS wrote:

    Yeah, I always found Homie to be more country-tinged pop than anything. Hot Tub, I’ll Think About You, and Longtime Sunshine have barely any country elements at all, though I think that his overall goal was to just have some more fun than he did with Pinkerton and Blue.

    LITS is minimalistic, though not entirely romantic. Dreamin’ is in no way an art song, it’s really just Holiday’s structure with an extended bridge.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  16. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    He called Dreamin’ a “symphonic art song”

    L.
    O.
    L.

    But yeah, Little Sister is dumb. Makes Rivers seem like a douche. If he was actually doing this stuff to these girls like that site says he was, then this song is just multiplying the douche bag-ness. Get off my back, I just wanted a one night stand cuz i’m a rockstar.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  17. ThomYorke wrote:

    Regarding calling American Girls, or any of Homie “Country”: Remember, this is the same guy who considers the beginning of Ms. Sweeney “southern rap.”

    Rivers is about as good at classifying his own sound as he is at selecting songs and tracklisting for his albums post 1996.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  18. OOS wrote:

    Pretty much. I don’t get where he gets some of his stuff sometimes.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    Really Thom? Where’s that “Sweeney” quote at? I vaguely remember it, but after having heard the song itself I’d love to re-read it…I think “Ms. Sweeney” was actually one of the tracks I was most worried about when I read that initial description.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  20. ThomYorke wrote:

    “RC: Longer songs, non-traditional song forms, different people writing and singing, instrument switching, TR-808s, synths, Southern rap, and baroque counterpoint– for starters.

    Pitchfork: Interesting to hear you mention counterpoint– in the vocals? Some of my favorite moments in Weezer B-sides are the vocal harmonies in songs like “Ooh” or “My Adeline”, so I’m a little geeked to hear you say that. Not to single anyone out, but how are the rest of the band as singers? When you’re writing, do you take their ability in to account?

    RC: Yes, counterpoint in the vocals. Scott [Shriner] has the most naturally beautiful tone; Bri [Bell] has the stoker attitude; and Pat [Wilson] has the depth and complexity of expression.

    Pitchfork: Oh, and who’s doing the rapping?

    RC: Moi.

    So, it looks like I may have assumed he was talkinga bout Ms. Sweeney here, but upon reflecting on the actual quote, I guess he could have meant Greatest Man too.

    Either way, calling it “Southern Rap” is still a bit of a stretch for me.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  21. OOS wrote:

    Yeah, Southern Rap isn’t really Miss Sweeney.

    Also, this isn’t really the place, but what happened to Revanant, Soymilk?

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  22. Soyrev wrote:

    OOS: KJ and I have been really busy w/ other projects and it’s just sort of fallen by the wayside (the amount of work going into posts was staggering…mostly because everything needs a damn banner). However when we meet up again in a couple weeks we’re going to figure out a way to get that going again in some format or another. Revenant won’t be forgotten!

    (Thanks for asking!)

    I’m glad that the rap thought doesn’t apply to “Miss Sweeney.” I’d have a hard time calling that rap, let alone southern (which the first verse of TGMTEL fails to qualify as, too).

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  23. OOS wrote:

    Oh, okay, cool. I miss that site, it was really cool.

    And yeah, rap barely fits any Weezer material, and in the case of Sweeney or TGMTEL I can barely see how he got the descriptor. I’d say that those two are more in line with El Scorcho than anything.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  24. blueguy wrote:

    there were even worse stuff said about rivers at times on alt.music.weezer. i later found out it was made up but still it was harsher than what that chick said.

    it makes me slightly angry to know out of all the songs we could have on soundboard, we have this one. oh well. at least we know this show was recorded.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  25. OOS wrote:

    What happened to recent comments, again?

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  26. Soyrev wrote:

    I have no idea what the damage is, but please continue to point it out. I’ll make sure they stay up, even if I have to do it manually…

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink
  27. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    This had potential, the riff is really funky and the little guitar riff’s are nice, although the chorus aims for power and misses. Will some studio wizardry, such as some hot tub-esq key board and some falsetto, being added to the mix it could be a great single. Perhaps it would be better if it was covered by another band? Or it might just need the band in an eccentric mood as seen on American Girls?

    It was probably rightly scrapped, but it would be nice to see how it would of developed.

    Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  28. Soyrev wrote:

    Interesting, waitingandwaiting. This is the kinda song Rivers should be selling/giving away to other, lesser bands…not “Love Is The Answer!”

    Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  29. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Also what is the significance of the lyric ‘little sister’, how is that connected to the song?

    Friday, July 3, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  30. OOS wrote:

    Maybe it’s supposed to be some kind of inversion of Big Brother? Not quite sure.

    Friday, July 3, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  31. Soyrev wrote:

    incest imo

    Friday, July 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink
  32. Soyrev wrote:

    I’m pretty sure Cuomo just meant that the girls following him around and “tattling” on the internet were annoying and nosy the way a little sister can be. “Who are you, my little sister? Get off my back!”

    The Big Brother theory is pretty charitable, though. Don’t think Cuomo put quite so much thought into this one…;)

    Friday, July 3, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink
  33. OOS wrote:

    Yeah, this one seems kinda lazy to me. Especially compared to it’s RCB brethren: Rosemary, TPGITWWW, Baby, 1000 Years, Fun Time. Wow, what a friggin GREAT batch of songs there.

    Friday, July 3, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink
  34. ThomYorke wrote:

    I always assumed the lyric “little sister” had something to do with the following scenario: Young girl foolishly sleeps with (or is approached by) rock star, older sister later condemns her actions and encourages little sister to tell everyone on the internet the rock star is a dick and taking advantage of girls.

    Make sense?

    Soy’s “tattling” theory is likely more viable, but I figured I’d chime in here with at least one other idea.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  35. OOS wrote:

    Recent comments are gone, again.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Permalink
  36. OOS wrote:

    Just as a side note, Queens Of The Stone Age “Little Sisters” > this.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  37. OOS wrote:

    Dang, typo, “Little Sister”.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  38. skiz65 wrote:

    It sad to me that thus far the only RCB song to have been reviewed was this one. While it is innoffensive, it is by far the bottom of this particular barrel. Hopefully if this blog is ever resurrected, Rosemary, Baby, or A Thousand Years come up in the randomizer.

    Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

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