“Private Message” is a song from the band’s aborted Early Album 5 sessions, which transpired during the spring and summer of 2002 (both predating and following the release of Maladroit). It’s a love song with some pretty mystifying couplets, especially when heard in succession:
I want you so badly
Too bad that you slammed me
And when you are reading the words I write
You think that I’m just some dumb horny guy
I’m trying to show you
A hint of my coolness
But I can’t give up on the secret deed [deep?]
‘Cause love is so empty when you can cheat
The first version we have is from 4/21, featuring a great falsetto introduction from Brian Bell, some melodic transitional guitar leads, and solid (if plain) backup vocals. There’s also a wanking guitar solo that’s alright, and a passable outro that reprises the falsetto of the introduction, as if to say, “That was the beginning of the song; this is the end.” It’s by the numbers, but it’s pretty good.
By the time the band revisited the song on 7/02, Cuomo had decided he wanted to be classic, and with that came the addition of (pointless) piano. Two weeks later, on 7/16, Cuomo had canned it: the performance more or less echoes the 4/21 take, minus the falsetto introduction. Cuomo tries to do it in the end, but it’s worse than Bell’s. The recording is definitely crunchier and crisper, for all that’s worth.
Regardless, the acoustic version we have is best. It’s a more natural setting for the song. The origin of the recording is up to debate: band historian Karl Koch claims it is from the 11/03/02 acoustic show at “the Hotel Cafe” in Los Angeles, but there’s a suspect lack of room noise on the MP3 (as with the other song claimed to be from the show, “Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone”). Koch says that both of these songs are referenced in writing to have been home-recorded on 10/22/02 but “don’t seem to exist,” conjecturing that they are mis-dated references to the two Hotel Cafe MP3s; it is my opinion that it’s the other way around, and what we have are in fact the “lost” 10/22/02 recordings, while nothing from the Hotel Cafe show has yet surfaced (very unfortunate: it would be great to hear an early version of “Peace” and a clutch of songs we don’t have in any form at all).
Also noteworthy about the acoustic version: it served as the springboard for Brian Bell’s own interpretation of the song, which he did with his side project the Relationship and posted briefly on his Myspace. I have yet to hear it, but he later took the verse chord progression and reworked it in his own song, “It’s Easy,” which was recorded for Make Believe without making the cut; the band’s acoustic demo of the song would later be released as an iTunes bonus track for The Red Album.