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December

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that, as a general rule, the closer is the most sincere and genuine song on any given Weezer album. (The only possible exception I can think of is The Blue Album‘s “Only In Dreams,” if only because it must compete with “Say It Ain’t So”) Which, for the band’s post-2000 albums, presents a bit of a conundrum: all four (soon to be five) of these records are contrived in one way or another, and it’s the shortcomings that typify their respective albums that compromise that closing attempt at sincerity. The Green Album was, as it is put in the best Rolling Stone article ever published about Weezer, “a monument to vagueness,” the context of which lightly smothers the gorgeous song that is “O Girlfriend” just as much as its flat mix and creative self-restraint does; Make Believe‘s “Haunt You Every Day,” though a lesser song, suffered for similar reasons, such as that record’s overcalculations in general; and “The Angel and The One,” a song that can go toe-to-toe with a great portion of the band’s best material, feels unfulfilled by its fate being placed on Red, serving as a brilliant final thought to a brilliant album that never came to be.

Of all these closers, though, “December” is the weakest of the pack by considerable distance, and will likely go down as the worst final track ever placed on a Weezer album. Like all too much of Maladroit, the song reeks of the underdeveloped, the tossed off, the half-baked. But unlike songs like “Burndt Jamb” and “American Gigolo,” which revel in their laziness, “December” makes the mistake of trying to follow in the tradition of its album-closing predecessors. The result feels forced and unconvincing, like a high school kid bullshitting his way through an English class poetry assignment.

Lyrically, the song steals its “Only love” refrain from The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” without shame (theft is Maladroit‘s biggest overaching concept), which is employed in some lines that are barely passable, and some lines that simply aren’t: “Only love / Can inspire / Soggy lungs / To breathe fire” has to be one of the worst lyrics Cuomo’s ever bothered to release, not least of all because it sounds like he’s singing about bronchitis. Pneumonia, maybe.

And speaking of phlegm, the guitars are really thick and turgid on this song, in a bad way. It’s almost laborious to hear, the way it trudges so heavily along. Scott Shriner’s animated bassline fails to give the song any buoyancy, Brian Bell’s “ooh-ooh” backups seem to get stuck in the general mire of things, and Pat Wilson’s overcompensating beat makes a decent effort but winds up as ineffectual as anything else. The bridge — “It’s only natural / The moon is just half full / We give our best away” — is the most congested passage, which makes the duelling solo that follows feel like such a respite: freeing the arrangement from the weight of that mucky rhyhtm guitar, you can really inhale and appreciate one of the few places (the guitar solo) that Maladroit regularly excels. Other than that, though, it’s slim pickings with this song.

Examining the Maladroit sessions closely, it seems the band tried many small changes and edits to this song before finally settling on this version, but those variations (for the most part, Bell struggly to find something interesting to do with the background vocals) aren’t particularly worthwhile. The only noteworthy alternate studio recording of this song that I can find is that of the 6/13/01 BBC Demos, not least of all because it features previous Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh on the low-end. Wilson loosens things up with a loungey, ride cymbal-centric drumbeat; it seems that before the guitars soured into the rancid chords of the album version, they were a light and airy arpeggiation; Cuomo’s crap lyrics are no different, but their delivery feels less contrived, and are occasionally doubled by Welsh’s best falsetto/Matt Sharp impression. Of course, a lackluster song shines in few (if any) contexts, and it still fails to impress, but this relaxed early take seems to be the Weezer diehard’s preference, and it isn’t hard to hear why. If not for the inarticulate shift into awkward bridge rock-out, this version could float by as harmlessly as a bedside lullaby.

As an aside: Sometimes songs like these work a little better in a live setting, but my 7/26/02 boot from Philadelphia doesn’t offer many improvements. One wonders why Shriner was compelled to indulge in a one-man, two-note jam as the rest of the band exited the stage — but that’s probably the most interesting part of the performance. (Say what you will about closing with a cover song, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” is a LOT better than exiting with “December!”)

34 Comments

  1. Soyrev wrote:

    I don’t know…if there’s anything Weezer-related to remain optimistic about, it’s Pinkerton Deluxe. But being a Weezer fan for some time teaches you the value of low expectations…The only things I think are safe to presume will be on there are “Tragic Girl” (because Rivers mentioned it, and sounded very proud), and “I Swear It’s True” and “Getting Up and Leaving” (just because it’d be idiotic not to release the two songs that were completed and actually about to be released as b-sides at the time).

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink
  2. yim_yecker wrote:

    Perhaps a piano version of Smile? Both videos you posted on Smile and Longtime Sunshine have been removed.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink
  3. Burgess wrote:

    I have always found this song to be boring and hollow. The melody is fine, I guess, but dull. The lyrics might as well have been written by an unfeeling android trying to covertly infiltrate an 8th grade poetry club. It’s just always sounded really phony to me, much like most of the material from this era, only worse because it’s supposed to sound genuine and heartfelt.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink
  4. danup wrote:

    I noticed on accident the other day—I inadvertently clicked the arrow in iTunes—that December, Fall Together, and Death and Destruction are the only Weezer songs in the entire Music Store that are priced at $0.69.

    They’re not the worst selling Weezer songs on iTunes—that goes to the back half of Green, No Other One, Butterfly, and Getchoo, which are still $0.99. And they’re separated on the bottom by most of the rest of Maladroit; Death and Destruction appears to be the slowest seller on the album, which is unfortunate, but four $0.99 Maladroit tracks separate it from Fall Together. I’m not sure it means anything, but I figured it was worth dumping into one of these comment sections.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  5. Burgess wrote:

    That is weird. “Fall Together” is one of my favorite Maladroit tracks, if that says anything, which it doesn’t.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  6. Soyrev wrote:

    Certain Weezer releases could benefit from a pricedrop, but 1/3 of Maladroit is such an arbitrary and weird distinction to make. D&D is one of my favorites on there, too.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  7. Ludicrosity wrote:

    So wow… this place is dead huh?

    Monday, July 12, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink
  8. Burgess wrote:

    There’s only so much I can say about how boring this song is.

    Also, nothing much has been happening with Weezer lately.

    Also, no new posts for a while.

    It’ll pick up.

    Monday, July 12, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  9. Lams wrote:

    well rivers talked about that collaboration with bryan adams. and patrick twitted a new weezer song yesterday i think. it’s just him messing with a keyboard. it’s sad.

    Monday, July 12, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  10. OOS wrote:

    There is the whole alone/pinkDE/Odds and Ends/New Album thing. Though we dont really have any confirmed details on any of them.

    Monday, July 12, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  11. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    Apparently weezer is coming out with a new album in september called hurley…

    also there newest song is called where’s the sex

    what the hell happned to them

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  12. OOS wrote:

    Just to add, the songs title is based off Rivers’ daughter trying to say “Where’s my socks”, making this another addition to Rivers catalogue of “innapropriate party tracks based off his daughter”.

    I would normally be angry, but i’m just laughing at this point.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  13. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    I’m guessing you watched the live beats as well?

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  14. OOS wrote:

    Yep. It was interesting, at least.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  15. AF wrote:

    Wait, what? That was serious?

    I assumed the “Where’s My Sex”/”Where’s My Socks” thing was a joke thread!?

    Oh man.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  16. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    good to know we have now moved from “Tired Of Sex”, to “Where’s My Sex”

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  17. Burgess wrote:

    I don’t think the album will be called “Hurley,” but I hope it will be.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink
  18. arfentul wrote:

    it’s interesting that if Rivers wrote a song called “Tired Of Sex” nowadays, we’d probably be face-palming. Just goes to show how Rivers failed to mature in his mind-set. At any rate, “Tired Of Sex” is a much more intriguing title than “Where’s My Sex” anyway…

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    What are “the live beats?”

    Oh, and the album is not going to be titled Hurley, apparently. Rivers said it might be Heavy Mental…

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  20. OOS wrote:

    That title is SLIGHTLY better, but still not good. If they’re gonna keep using album titles like that and Raditude i’d rather they just self-title every album.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  21. yim_yecker wrote:

    Merry Christmas in July, everyone. Is there a more perfect time to listen to December?

    All I want for Christmas is a Butterfly. Or a Pig.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink
  22. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    Is there any chance of us getting a new post soon?

    Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  23. DLH1231 wrote:

    I would like a new post too, this place has been dead for almost four months.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  24. Ludicrosity wrote:

    I just read all those posts about the new album and song… I thought it was a joke too but it’s real? Holy fuck, I hate to say it but I think I am officially done with any new Weezer material… I am slightly embarrassed to be a fan at this point.

    If this causes Pinkerton deluxe to be delayed (Amazon.com is listing it’ll be released in October) I am going to be uber-pissed that they’re wasting our time when unreleased material from over 10 years ago is better.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  25. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    Yeah this site is really really dead, can we get a new post soon?

    pweety pwease

    Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  26. clonus wrote:

    Maybe the next song that came up was “Cold Dark World” and Soy just said “screw it”. (But seriously, new posts please!)

    Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  27. Soyrev wrote:

    Good fellows:

    I apologize for the long wait, but to be honest I’ve simply been spending my time on other things this summer. I could bore you to tears listing all the stuff I’ve got on tap right now, but I think it suffices to say that I’m simply far behind on way too many priorities to spend my time writing about Weezer songs at the moment. I’ll definitely return to TVS when things clear up a bit, but whether that’s one week or ten from now, I really can’t be sure. All I can ask for is your patience, and continued support — comments on older entries help keep this place alive during the droughts imposed by my personal life!

    As for the next song in the tube, it’s actually one that one of our every-500th-comment winners chose. And it’s a great song, albeit one that’s often overlooked…I hope I can get around to it sometime before we all go deaf and gray.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  28. Burgess wrote:

    Don’t worry about it. How about you write a new post and hold it until “Possibilities” hits 10,000 comments?

    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  29. Other No One wrote:

    I’m probably alone in think that December is one of my favorite Weezer songs.

    I understand why people don’t like it. It’s rather standard Weez-fare, nothing stands out on the track, and the lyrics get a little cheese ball and downright odd (Soggy Lungs?)

    But the fact of the matter is that I relate to this song on a personal level and in the end, sometimes that’s all I really ever ask of Rivers. I also sort of dig the solo on this one, once again, so standard, but it works for me.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
  30. Soyrev wrote:

    “I’m happy with the backgrounds on ‘December.’ It’s kind of Disney-meets-the-’50s.”

    –Brian Bell, 2002

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink
  31. ehsteve14 wrote:

    Fair enough, seeing as this song has been stuck in my head for the last week.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  32. danup wrote:

    This song isn’t as good as “O Girlfriend”, but I think it’s strangled by the album it’s on just as badly. There’s a lot of nice stuff going on underneath the incomprehensible guitars. And since the BBC demo just shuffled on I think it’s time to make my fiftieth post on this topic.

    1. The lyrics aren’t poetry, but they aren’t refrigerator-magnet poetry like most of Maladroit, either. There’s a clear theme—love and its constituent parts give us strength when times are tough and infatuation is gone, etc.—and a unifying device, the onlys, and I know you hate the second one but I find “Only hope will remember / burning flames in December” and “Only trust can inspire / soggy lungs to breathe fire” almost startlingly coherent and memorable coming as they do on this album.

    The unifying device is something Rivers has lost as his lyrics have otherwise much improved since Maladroit. I’m thinking of songs like “Brave New World” that just ramble indefinitely, like a guy making small-talk with himself—”You can come along… or if that’s not your destiny… you can go your own way… if you want…” “I mean, whatever, and the thing, and there’s running, etc.”, he sings, waiting for the chorus to come in. I like the concision here—he knows what he wants to say, he says it economically.

    They fit nicely with the tune, too, which is—again, beneath the guitars—glittery and school-dancish and befitting a song about giving one’s best away For Love.

    2. Speaking of which, I love the bridge. Everything seems to be working in tandem, in this song, to create that “Disney-meets-the-’50s” vibe Brian did a very strange job of naming. The lyrics, the shuffling drums, the bright backup vocals, that winsome melody swelling up and getting Disney-melancholy on its way into a nice little guitar solo. But the guitars (ostensibly) underneath the melody are completely airless—what possible reason could there be to bury the lead guitar underneath that through the entire song?

    It’s probably my third favorite song on the album, but this is the one I’d most like to see mixed and mastered as Pat insists Maladroit should have been. (My favorite, Keep Fishin’, was rerecorded as if to demonstrate how terrible Droit sounds, and my second favorite, D&D, sounds fine anyway, somehow.)

    Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  33. Jamekae wrote:

    Does anybody else here similarities between I’m So Young off of Today! and this?

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 2:00 am | Permalink
  34. Soyrev wrote:

    I haven’t before, but I’ll take another listen sometime soon…

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

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