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Mr. Taxman

Interestingly, this Maladroit outtake was actually written in late 2000, somewhere inbetween Rivers Cuomo’s shift from Green Album writing to what was coming next: the last song before it that we have on the COR is Green sugar cookie “Knock-Down Drag-Out” and eventual Maladroit single “Keep Fishin’.” It was attempted a couple of times during demo stages for the former album, but neither of those takes has surfaced; the first of the three versions we have was done in December of ’01, already somewhat deep into Maladroit proceedings and a total seachange away from where Cuomo and the band were when he first wrote the song just a little over a year prior. The band had a new bassist, renewed stardom, and an increasingly impersonalized sonic aesthetic that would soon make the anti-personal Green sound almost confessional.

For its part, “Mr. Taxman” in its earliest version — the aforementioned 12/01 take — sounds like a blend between Green and Maladroit sounds. There are the heavily layered guitars and poptastic “doo doo doo”-style backups of the former, but also the lyrical nonsense and incoherency of the latter: the song’s nadir is probably the segment that goes, “Mr. Taxman, can you hear me? / ‘Cause I know that you got one, too / Tell your jockstrap, ‘Don’t you talk back’ / But it’s still got a hold on you.” Just what kind of taxman is this guy, Cuolmes?

Still, in this early form it’s decently likable. If you’ve ever subjected yourself to marathon Maladroit session listenings, this one’s probably stuck out as a sort of diamond in the rough (albeit a scraped one). The solo’s pretty nice. It definitely has the ’50s-songwriting-via-’90s-aesthetic thing that Cuomo was going for with much of his 2000 writing, an attempt at being both classic and modern that doesn’t nearly reach its theoretical potential (especially coming from this guy!) but still makes for an agreeable listen. A couple takes from the following month (early 2002, up in here) don’t fare quite as well, as the band regrettably Maladroits up the thing even further — where’d those fun backups go?

The melody’s quite fine any way you slice it though, which raises the question of where it might be from. As Cuomo was getting into his Maladroit phase he was becoming more and more shameless in pilfering the annals of rock history: Maladroit is Weezer’s plagiarism album just as much as it is their “rawk” album. Personally, I think Cuomo nicked some serious melodic inspiration (and a good deal of the hook itself) from the chorus of Tommy Roe’s 1963 hit “Everybody.” There’s an obvious connection between that song’s beginning lyric, “Everybody, everybody” and Cuomo’s initiating “Everybody, love your body” that goes beyond the obvious lyrical overlaps…The potential theft certainly isn’t the most egregious or problematic of the era, not by a longshot, but I’m pretty certain it’s there nonetheless. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cuomo encountered this song during his late ’90s/early ’00s pop studies in his pursuit of the perfect single, or as a Beach Boys superfan: the Brian Wilson pet project American Spring, which features him backing and producing (in the most traditional of senses: “here’s the songs, girls, you just sing ’em!”) his wife Marilyn and her sister, whose self-titled album has a rather nice version of the Roe hit as well.