Skip to content

Too Late To Try

Written dead in the midst of the Summer Songs 2000 period, this was one of the lucky Rivers Cuomo compositions from the 150-odd he wrote that year to make it into the band’s comeback tour setlists — and the subsequent semi-official live MP3 album released to commemorate these songs. (Only three of the fourteen ever saw eventual release on studio albums.)

We have a few versions of this song, the definitive being the official live SS2K cut, from which Karl Koch trimmed a post-chorus under direction from Cuomo. It begins with a guitar tone unlike any other in the Weezer catalogue (any help, guitarists?), which sounds like a rather repetitive (one-chord?) riff that’s being modulated by a pedal effect — which seems to get, of all things, a kind of cheesy pop-punk effect. It’s a pretty cool contrast, though, when Cuomo cuts above the distorted sludge with a winning vocal melody that’s clear as a bell: “I don’t wanna die / Even if I have to / I just want to live a long long time.”

Pat Wilson counts off and the band surges into the fray all together, and from there “Too Late To Try” becomes the most autobiographical and self-referential song the band had ever performed (until “Heart Songs” came along) — it’s a Weezer song about being in Weezer. As goes the chorus: “I see the game to which I belong / Time to sing our happy songs / Wouldn’t it be a cruel joke if it’s too late to try?” From at least a historical perspective, it’s the quintessential SS2K anthem, wherein Cuomo realizes that this band is his calling, dusts off his Buddy Holly spex and gets in the van.

Like most tunes of the era, though, there’s a certain angst and bitterness about the whole affair: this thing is a “game” to him, and that’s the kind of thinking that’s a little more in line with the Cuomo of the Pinkerton era, the one who wanted to give up rock’n’roll by his thirties to become a classical composer. Isn’t it a cruel irony, then, that Pinkerton — his most ambitious and ingeniously composed work — was a commercial disaster, that his studies of classical composition at Harvard left him feeling unfulfilled (or perhaps just terrified), and here he is, four years later, touring clubs and trying his damnedest to write “the perfect pop song?” That sounds like something of a trifling to someone who was dreaming of conservatories not long ago, and these “happy songs” Cuomo has written and come to sing are not only actually self-deprecating in nature —  Cuomo’s now self-deprecating about *singing* them, even. This is coming from the same side of Cuomo that arrogantly “tells the world to fuck itself” in another SS2K staple, “My Brain.”

The second verse echoes this sentiment with perfect teenage inelegance: “I don’t wanna grow / Even if it’s good growth / I just want to stay just like this.” The Cuomo who, in a 1997 interview, predicted a darker and more experimental turn in Weezer’s future output is long dead, replaced by an aging young man who has resigned himself to the pop music pursuits of the kind of song he’s now singing this very moment. Forget creative development, “even if it’s good growth” — a sad and prophetic sentiment from a man who, a decade after this song, would team up with radio pop songwriters in an attempt to appeal to a demographic roughly 1/3 the age of any given member of his band.

There’s that anxiety that’s so typical of the era, too: what if it’s “too late to try?” Maybe Weezer’s moment passed with the mid-’90s, when Cuomo already enjoyed mass commercial success with The Blue Album. I recently posited that commercial validation was once an important but very secondary concern for Cuomo as a songwriter, and that even he was surprised by how much a lack of that validation stung when Pinkerton bombed — and from there, it became something of an obsession that went on to trump all other aspects and considerations of his craft. The anxiety and regression from that pain is very palpable in this song, itself a rather neatly packaged and concise pop tune (albeit, perhaps even better for the purposes of this song, one that could never be a hit). “I see a comfortable place to rest / Time to get this shit off my chest!”

And look! An early prototype for the play-it-safe verse melody guitar solo that would come to be a hallmark for the FM radio love letter that is The Green Album. Indeed, this was all part of a greater process of creative simplification and streamlining that would soon provide Cuomo at least a taste of the success for which he longed.

I quite like the outro: over that same intro riff and a wash of nasty feedback, Cuomo and Mikey Welsh harmonize the title lyric while Brian Bell echoes it as a simple counterpoint. With a little more development, this could have turned into a cool round-robin arrangement, a bit along the lines of the breakdown in “Surf Wax America.” But then again, it’s exactly that kind of base-level creativity and development from which Cuomo was trying to recede.

A note on alternate versions: There’s an “unofficial” live bootleg of this song floating around that finds the band playing it a few BPM slower (they were wise to release the fast one), an “unedited” version of the official take that doesn’t omit that first post-chorus (wonder how that one surfaced), and an in-studio demo that also seems to be a bit slower than it ought to be. The production values are no better than the live take, though, and Cuomo’s vocals are actually shakier, so it’s not a particularly worthwhile listen.

21 Comments

  1. ThomYorke wrote:

    Well written – I’d agree that Too Late to Try winds up being a great direct window in to the mind of Rivers at the time, which is probably why I like it. With all the irony and meaningless shit he does on purpose, it’s nice to have an honest (albeit somewhat sad) view in to his brain.

    I wonder if he really was referencing their entire career with the title of this song and theme of the lyrics. But try for what? Like you said, it apparently was commercial success.

    I really dig the wah-peddal throughout the tune too. It adds a real dirtyness that seems appropriate for the song, and like much of SS2k, Rivers delivery comes off as genuine.

    I wish he’d have gotten more creative with the solo too, but I’m sure he considered that sinful at the time. The problem is, he’s never really fully recovered from this. Although Mala wailed with its solos and MB showed a little creativity, he’s laregly never regained his desire to make solos a focal point. Hell, he won’t even pick a up a damn guitar.

    The lyrics are probably the strongest piece of this composition, but it’s still a pretty solid song overall too. Call me nostalgic, but I just like hearing the band sound like is really cares what it’s doing, without a hint of irony or forced-jokeyness.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  2. Hup_Y wrote:

    It sounds a bit like The Jam.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  3. clore wrote:

    Very well-written and interesting post, Soy. This song was one of my favorites back when it was posted on weezer.com in the early 00s, although I haven’t listened to it in probably 2 or 3 years. I will have to give it another listen now.

    And wow, you sure are just exploding with these entries! Thanks for continuing to pump ’em out.

    Thom, I am nostalgic in that regard too. I hope Weezer’s swan song isn’t an album on the same caliber as the majority of Raditude.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  4. Soyrev wrote:

    No problem — when the songs aren’t “classic Weezer” status (be they old or new), they’re much easier to approach. Especially when you’ve been sick and cooped inside lately…The next one on the list is a big one, though, so it may take a little longer to get around. We shall see!

    You needn’t worry about Raditude being the last one — Rivers says that the band will be “together for life,” which is of course more spur-of-the-moment Weez BS…But I’m sure that means they’ve got another couple albums left in the tank. Not that those’ll necessarily be any better than Raditude, but hey…

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  5. Soyrev wrote:

    Interesting comment from the writer of a 2001 article in CMJ that seems to hit upon the same idea of Cuomo resigning himself to his fate in Weezer:

    “Who knows if during those solo shows in Boston, Cuomo found that he actually needed Weezer, that to make music he requires this specific adoring cast?”

    Fascinating read in general.

    http://www.weezed.com/wma/200104cmj.htm

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 12:04 am | Permalink
  6. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    I think that’s a great post, but the fact of the matter is all the SS2K just blends into one cluttered song in my head with hints of individual melody popping up hear and there – such as ‘time to sing our happy song’ in Too late To Try. And none the the songs bar two or three are good enough quality for an album. I’d personally take green over SS2K as rather being a sub par punkpop CD it turn out to be something that’s not been done so extremely before, polished to death pop.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 4:57 am | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    I agree. But if you took the best of both worlds (as with so many other Weezer eras), you would have had a far superior album.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 9:42 am | Permalink
  8. ThomYorke wrote:

    I disagree in the sense that I think SS2k stands as it is better than you guys tend to, but there’s no question that had some happy medium been found it could have produced a truly superior album to either Green or SS2k.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  9. tsarczar wrote:

    SS2k version can not possibly be the definitive version. This song had much more life early on. It’s my favorite ss2k song. Listen to the 7/28/00 version from the Crest Theatre, and tell me it’s not better (production values aside).

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  10. Soyrev wrote:

    Huh. Sounds interesting. Got a link?

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  11. tsarczar wrote:

    http://www.sendspace.com/file/ysnskx

    i guess my main thing about this version is that the chorus is fully realized, not cut off like the version in the ss2k album (they greened it there, to the detriment of the song). i also love the big drum sound in it. it’s like the song was allowed to breathe in this setting. i’ve always wanted a clearer version of this recording, but it’s still strong as it stands.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Permalink
  12. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’ve actually never heard that version, Tsar – thanks for sharing. You’re right about the drums – Pat’s kicking ass on this cut. His beat gives the song a slightly different vibe, but I really dug it.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink
  13. Soyrev wrote:

    Ah — this is actually one and the same as the “Unofficial Live Summer Songs 2000” version that’s on weerez.com and that I cited in this post. I don’t know, I like the tempo and truncated chorus of the “official” take better. It’s the best version of it, to my ears; although like a lot of songs from this period, the potential of it was never really realized.

    They can’t all be “O Girl”…!

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  14. tsarczar wrote:

    i think every boardie has that one song that they fight for, the one song that no one sees the same potential in as you do. i know you have this on the grand playlist, and i’m not arguing that it should be any higher (that’s just my personal opinion), but i am saying that the ss2k album version pales in comparison to it’s earlier counterpart.

    listen to the way he draws out ‘try’ in the chorus (even the very slight wavering in his voice comes across more charming than inept), the distortion guitar (whatever it is) on the intro. Even the short solo fits the song perfectly. I won’t go on again about the drums, other than I agree with Thom on this point. Some songs were destined to be better live. I’d say considering the alternative ‘album’ version, this is one of them.

    Bottom line though, my favorite Weezer songs have always been the ones I could feel good singing out to (Holiday, ATS, SIAS, etc…) You can crank this motherfucking version up and belt this sunuvabitch out in your car! It’s awesome and highly recommended if that’s your thing. I just can’t do that with the official version.

    okay end rant, this is your blog, not mine. keep up the good work!

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 6:31 am | Permalink
  15. ThomYorke wrote:

    Nicely written, Tsarzar. I’ve scared many people at stop lights belting out Holiday and YGYLTMS.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  16. Soyrev wrote:

    Pinkerton is the greatest singalong album of all time. “Pig” and “Miss Sweeney” are up there, too.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  17. Burgess wrote:

    This wasn’t one of my favorite of the 2000 songs, but it did tie in very well thematically. I would have wanted to see it on the phantom summer 2000 album, which I would have vastly preferred to the green album.

    Friday, October 16, 2009 at 7:25 am | Permalink
  18. Soyrev wrote:

    Again, the best of Green + the best of SS2K could’ve made for a really superior album. If I had to choose one or the other, though, I’d have to take Green as it is.

    Friday, October 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  19. Burgess wrote:

    This shoulda’ been the opener of the third album, for sure. So perfect for the band’s reintroduction.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  20. thegreatestscorch wrote:

    i always thought the line was “and i see the gang to which i belong”

    figures it makes more sense in it being about weezer

    Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  21. Peace Pipe wrote:

    LOVE this song. Summer songs 2000 is definitely my favorite Weezer album! is it there best? no. but it doesn’t try to be. around the time of pink, rivers was aspiring to be a classical composer, with SS2K/Green he was trying to write the perfect pop song. I think he absolutely succeeded here. As the closing to SS2K it is the culmination of that whole album’s sound melodically, sonically, lyrically and thematically. It makes sense then, that it is one of Cuomo’s best attempts at the concise, hooky, melody based, pop songwriting that he is so fond of; one of the best representations of the formalist 50/60’s pop + grungy 90’s alternative rock sound famously quoted as “Helmet meets Hard Day’s Night,” an “early Beatles with big guitars” he was going for with the Summer Songs of 2000 and Green tracks; and the third wave ska style punk pop themes of all the Summer Songs2k in general. Songwriting wise it is perfect Cuomo Romanticism channeling his rough&raw guitar, etheral/dreamy/jangly/spacy, and straightforward pop structure/lyric fazes he was going through into a perfect alterna pop song with no fat, nothing but hooks based on gorgeous melody and spot on harmony in three perfectly related, arranged and performed parts. Weezer makes the track by building on the simple pop songwriting and snotty, bratty punk pop themes (living forever, never growing) with a creatively simple take on 50’s doo wop in the vocals, a ska influenced rhythm section of 60’s vibes at the bottom, and shimmering, fuzzy guitar colored punky power chords and poppy chimes layering together into a surging bubblegum energy. The perfect punk-pop aesthetic to bring this song to life. Creating such a unique stoned skater synthesis of power and pop. Making the album title rather fitting as weezer takes the sound of 90’s rock radio and distills it into breezy pop songs that perfectly bring to life the feel of the summer in both their performance and songs themselves. Perfect for being on the beach, or driving around with the windows down and the system up. Weezer was notoriously stoned during the writing, performing, and arranging of these songs and album and it shows in the unique way these songs explode and pop out of the speakers. This is the pinnacle of Weezer as a tight, stylish, rockin band and Cuomo as a pop-smith extraordinaire showing off his amazing gift at melody, harmony, memorable hooks and musical efficiency. certainly up there with other greats of this era (like fellow SS2K songs On The Edge or Mad Kow, and Green songs written in this era such as IITS or Always) as Rivers’ best songs from the year 2000 (quite a prolific one considering it is accountable for all of SS2K, all the Green tracks except I Do, and even Keep Fishin; certainly the best year Rivers’s ever had when it came to Pop) and one of the best relics of the lost days of Weezer’s output (such as their aborted Late 1998/Early 1999 album or the Homie project). On a side note, does anyone have the intro music made by karl that was released on the first SS2K cd? I could only find the second edition, the extended re-release that thankfully added the definitive versions of the other four SS2K songs in perfect quality. sadly however, this extended edition nixed “Intro.” If anyone has it I would greatly appreciate a link either here or via email (jakunconditional@gmail.com). If anyone wants to download the SS2K Deluxe Edition, feel free to check out my youtube account (TheAngryAbsolutist). Rivers gave us this for free, let’s get it back out there! Definitely one of Weezer’s best records. On the level of Blue or Pink? no, but it can certainly stand beside them as the product of a songwriter of equal caliber, and a band equally capable of crafting an aesthetically complete album. Pure Pop/Rock perfection! A Punk-Pop masterpiece, a third wave ska classic, and en essential of the power pop genre. Long live the Summer Songs of 2000!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *
*
*