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I Want To Take You Home Tonight

It’s true that the dedicated Weezer addict (worse for your health than weed, but probably better than meth) will perk his or her ears at the chance to hear any new scrap of music from the band — the older the vintage, the greater the excitement — but this here demo sparked a much more fervent reaction than average. Much like a paleontologist discovering a new fossil, the geologic timeframe from which the song specimen originates is just as important to its proper evaluation as its quality, and the slight ambiguity surrounding the birth date of “I Want To Take You Home Tonight” led more than just a few folks to jump the gun.

Rivers Cuomo himself debuted “I Want To Take You Home…” on a radio show he was guest-DJing in November of 2008 (a taste test from Alone II, which was then due out in just a little more than a month), commenting on how he had written it “New Year’s Eve 2002.” From here arose the question of whether he meant the night upon which 2001 became 2002, or the one upon which 2002 became 2003. If it were the former, this would place the tune squarely in the middle of his anti-coherent Maladroit phrase, and in such a context, a relatively fleshed out song like “Take You Home” would’ve been an anomaly almost impossible to explain. Caught up in the heat of the moment, the general tide of opinion gave into the temptation of wishful thinking (one of the deadliest and most prevalent symptoms of a Weezer fan declining into hardcore addiction), and went with the former — in which case, “Take You Home” was a rare gem in a sea of pointed mediocrity, perhaps even a sign that Cuomo truly has always ferreted away the best of his songwriting material in the post-Pinkerton era.

This explosion of optimism only lasted for a few hours, soon deflated by some particularly reasonable and clear-headed individual who must have checked the 4 and 5 Star Demos list and the Catalog of Riffs to confirm that this was actually a tune written on the very last night of 2002 — not its very first morning — which meant that Cuomo was already in the early stages of rediscovering his muse. (A process that, while successful in spots, still led to Weezer’s worst reviewed album, 2005’s Make Believe.)

Tough noogies. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s actually more interesting that this song marks an early stage of abandoning Maladroit and finding the path towards Make Believe, because it sounds to me like a cross-section between those two aesthetics. The pile-driving riffs, strophic repetition, and wailing metal guitar solo are all distinctly of the Maladroit locality — and yet the long-phrased melodies and awkwardly direct lyrics of the verse, the wordless ooh-ooh chorus, the curveball bridge and the general flair for the epic are all the kind of stuff you might find in the cherts and shales of Make Believe. It’s as if Cuomo hadn’t yet fully abandoned the “fuck you” antagonism of the former, but was searching to deepen it with the more focused gestures and emotional strokes of the latter.

The product winds up being proof that an album halfway between these two aesthetics might have been more satisfying than either of them on their own: despite its flaws, “I Want To Take You Home Tonight” could have been a standout track on either record. It begins quite bravely: over a simple drum-machine beat, Cuomo shouts, “I want to take you home tonight / And lay you down beside the fire / I’ve never seen your face before / I probably won’t see you no more.” The melody is simple but adequate, while Cuomo’s tendency to hold the last syllable of every line for a whole note — “toniiiiight,” “fiiiiire,” “befooooore,” “moooore” — starts grating fast. It’s a pretty unwieldy way to start off a song, and the listener is left grasping for something more substantial.

Thankfully, a fucking heavy one-chord guitar line crashes into the mix, and it’s just enough to sustain the rest of the verse. And yet Cuomo belts, “I hope I find another girl / That thinks that I am lovely too / But they don’t make those kinds of girls / And so I cry from me to you,” and the song continues to teeter on the edge of failure. But then the chorus hits — a stack of double-tracked Cuomos in wordless, choral despair, embellished in the upper register by some “whoa-oh-oh” counterpoint and Pixies-style guitar decoration — and things begin to click. The pure emotion, here unencumbered by the song’s regrettable lyrical content, is a real respite, and works well enough that by the time the song falls back into the verse (bridged nicely by a venomous stab of Mala-noodling), it’s got enough momentum to blow through some more embarrassing rhymes without much pain. That high-strung second guitar layers in again halfway through, carrying the tune back into the winning chorus, and for a moment it seems like the mixed-bag of a song is just good enough to be remembered more fondly than not.

But just then the bridge drops, and for a moment you’re elevated into true Weezer nirvana — by way of desperate, romantic hell. “Don’t go, I want you to stay / I need you to stay / And hold me,” Cuomo begs, while his interior monologue pleads a “Don’t go, don’t go” mantra from the bed of vocals panned deep in the song’s backdrop. Cuomo’s lead line even peaks into a spine-tingling apex of falsetto at its tail end, which comes beautifully crashing down against the dramatic dissonance of a heavily flubbed chord change in the guitar riff. I’m hard-pressed to find a trace of Blue anywhere in this song, but I’ll be damned if this bridge isn’t shades of Pinkerton — and goddamn is it good. It’s the kind of unexpected money-shot bridge that Cuomo had forgotten how to write somewhere around the turn of the century, but was just beginning to recall in 2002 with songs like this one and “I Was Scared.”

It’s a tough act to follow, but that angsty, bleeding heart guitar solo — halfway between a Green vocal melody solo and one of Cuomo’s better Maladroit demon-exorcisers — cleans up nicely, and helps propel the listener through another one of those so-so verses. That drive pushes the song to its fantastic conclusion, a repetition of the title lyric surrounded by echoes, counterpoints and harmonies. Which makes me realize that, on the whole, the vocal arrangements of this song might be one way to connect this song to The Blue Album after all: aside from a few songs on Pinkerton, “Take You Home Tonight” might be the most complex vocal arrangement since the band’s 1994 debut (although the lyrics and melodies of those vocals clearly lack in comparison). To its credit, “Take You Home” actually does a fine job of setting up 1992 lost classic “The Purification of Water” on Alone II — and that’s saying something.

Speaking of that record, the detailed anecdote Cuomo provides for the inspiration of “Take You Home” gives this song special significance. Essentially, Cuomo planned on flying solo to a Los Angeles rave headlined by DJ Paul Van Dyk to ring in the New Year, but found himself feeling sad, lonely, and ever contemplative of his musical career: wondering “how to write songs, what kinds of songs I should write, and whether or not my new songs were worse than my old songs.” Sitting on the curb and writing his ruminations in a pocket journal, Cuomo observed, “People love to dance, sure — and people like to rock. But everyone loves to feel the primal scream of song emanate from their chest, their lungs…I have to lead these people. I have to remind them how to sing.”

Just then, with cinematic timing, a New Year’s reveler recognized Cuomo on the street, accosted him to shout “SAY IT AIN’T SOOO-OOHWHOAOH-OH” in his face, then disappeared. Cuomo cited this moment in his notebook as a turning point, noting the very real fact that ‘A thousand “Keep Fishin’s” does not equal one “Say It Ain’t So.'”

It’s funny, then, that when Cuomo returned to his hotel room and picked up his acoustic guitar just minutes later, “I Want To Take You Home” was the first product of this hard-earned lesson. Ironically, this little epiphany of his — though grounded in a qualitative sentiment that would have made any Weezer fan nod in emphatic agreement — was tempered by his unfortunate conclusion, “That money-moment of belting from the chest is what I’m all about…If I don’t have that – I don’t have anything…It’s almost as if each artist really just represents ONE gesture. Whatever ornaments surround that gesture, the fact remains that there is ONLY one gesture that is important.” Indeed, “Say It Ain’t So” is at least 1000x the song that “Keep Fishin'” is, and the chest-belting chorus might be the emotional core and central impact of the song — but the fact remains that it would be nothing without the supportive “ornamentation” that Cuomo dismissed as inessential on this New Year’s Eve. The Al-Green-soul-meets-classical-beauty of the song’s opening guitar progression, the breathtaking falsetto harmonies of the verses, the overall perfection of the lyric sheet, the added guitar fills in the second chorus (and the mushroom-cloud swell of feedback that introduces it), the emotional swell of the bridge and the cathartic release of that brilliant guitar solo — ALL of these elements are essential to making “Say It Ain’t So” not only one of Weezer’s most enduring songs, but indeed one of the 1990s’. Remove any one of them, and the song would suffer fatally for it. Strip it down to its chorus and some verses as brittle and awkward as those of “Take You Home Tonight” and you’d have a song scarcely better than…well, “Take You Home Tonight.”

So that’s the great irony here, and one of the biggest creative roadblocks for post-2000 Weezer: Cuomo takes a step or two forward, only to take one or two behind (and maybe a couple to the side, for the hell of it). The Cuomo of the ’90s seemed to understand the import of a song’s overall sonic and lyrical construction, whereas the Cuomo of the ’00s seems dead-set on believing that there has to be one simple answer — “the money-moment of belting from the chest,” for example — and that once the answer has been found, it must be pursued to the utmost extreme (until it is proven that this answer is actually a false solution, is discarded, and the search for the next contender continues). Hence, we get a song FULL of chest-belting moments (and little else), a sword by which it both lives (the chorus, the bridge) and dies (the verses inbetween).

I wonder if that New Year’s reveler was sober enough to remember that he had sung a line of his favorite Weezer song to Rivers Cuomo himself the morning after. And I wonder whether or not, upon hearing the many belting choruses of Make Believe a few years later, he realized that his brief comment to Cuomo single-handedly defined one of the main aesthetic features of that entire album.

24 Comments

  1. OOS wrote:

    Great post, Soy. This is one of my favourite from the era, certainly shouldve been MB’s opener, and that final feedback outro wouldve segued perfectly into the drums of Perfect Situation.

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink
  2. runnersdialzero wrote:

    I’d just like to say again: Very nicely done. The final part of it is a pretty interesting thought.

    I’d like to add to the discussion, but you basically put it well enough that I really have nothing more to say. Hooray?

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink
  3. Shy wrote:

    I thought I’d fulfill your request and comment here. With each of the Alones, I decided to stay away from the liner notes until after I gave them each a listen through.

    I immediately fell in love with this song. There is just something so visceral about its recording. After I first heard it, I never would have thought it was from the ‘Droit/ Make Believe era. This song kind of stands as a beacon for Mr. Cuomo’s songwriting post 2000.

    Why in the hell can’t more of this make it onto an album?

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  4. Shy wrote:

    To comment on OOS’ remark about the opening of Make Believe, I always thought Perfect Situation would have been a great opener, and Take You Home would have been a great selection to follow it.

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  5. nate wrote:

    Was this ever meant to be recorded for Weezer? Or just as a “writing exercise” for Rivers? Because honestly, if this was ever recorded in full with Weezer, I don’t think that would necessarily be an improvement.

    I feel like the overproduction of including all the members would ruin the song somewhat. Much like the Raditude version of “Prettiest Girl.”

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  6. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    Man, I really hope that guy bought Alone II and read the liner notes and freaked out. How cool/depressing would that be to know how easily you possibly influenced an entire era of Weezer music?

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  7. Hup_Y wrote:

    Yes, very good entry.

    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  8. Soyrev wrote:

    Thanks for the props, everybody! Your comments are likewise appreciated.

    As for actually fitting this onto Make Believe, I think you’d need to redo a lot of the record, or else this might just be a little too loud and angsty for it. Though I guess “We Are All On Drugs” goes for the same aesthetic and just completely bombs at it. And this song would go well with “Perfect Situation” I think, either way you sequence the two…

    Nate: I think it was considered for Weezer…As late as 7/3/04, it was on Rivers’ B-list for album consideration, but if Karl’s recording history is complete then no version of this actually made it to a band recording. It could be great, but I think you’re right, this is the type of thing that sounds like it would’ve gotten brutally botched in 2005.

    I don’t agree with you about the Raditude “Prettiest Girl,” though! That’s my favorite version of that song.

    What does everyone think about the lyrics for “I Want To Take You Home Tonight?” As said in my post, I think they’re awful, but I wonder how they strike others. The little line about “I want to disco on the floor,” or whatever (which I didn’t even mention in the post), is fucking rank.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  9. OOS wrote:

    I actually always liked the lyrics in their bizarrness. It seems like he kinda just thought up random phrases that rhymed, and i’m sure that he would re-write it later, but for what they are, I enjoy them. I actually particularly liked the disco line, so I guess we disagree here.

    Also, in regards to the Prettiest Girl, I actually think that the Raditude version is the worst. I like the energy of the live take better, and the sparseness of the demo version.

    In regards to MB, it would totally get destroyed be the albums clean production, but its still better then most of the tracks there, and the album doesnt flow particularly well in the first place, so they may as well have thrown it on there.

    Does anyone really want the MB sessions? I find it quite interesting, and based on the variety of outtakes we have form the era, I would really like to get more.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  10. danup wrote:

    This is an excellent look at a song I don’t like very much. There are great pieces—the bridge, obviously, the guitar solo—but the drone of the verses and the lyrics, which are duller than the average Maladroit album cut, usually get to me before the bridge does.

    As far as its status as Maladroit-Make Believe transitional fossil, that’s a really interesting take, and highlights something that always struck me as off about the liner notes. Say It Ain’t So might be 1000 times the song Keep Fishin’ is, but a thousand droning monosyllabic choruses don’t equal one “Oh Girl when I’m in love with you.”

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  11. OOS wrote:

    True, this song is far worse then Keep Fishin, which is what Rivers was actively trying to avoid. That being said, I like Keep Fishin was more than most.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  12. Soyrev wrote:

    Haha, don’t know about that guys. “Keep Fishin'” is a fine listen when it comes up, but I’d never actively seek it out. I’d choose “I Want To Take You Home Tonight” just for the bridge alone — one of the best post-Pinkerton moments out there, in my opinion.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  13. danup wrote:

    The bridge/solo is planted in a wasteland of sub-Linkin-Park angst and demo drumming, though. I don’t mind the bridge in “Cold Dark World”, but anything I have to maneuver the seek bar to listen to twice in a row loses a few spins when I’m in the car.

    (I prefer the pre-chorus and chorus of Keep Fishin’ to this bridge, anyway, though that is, of course, even further into personal opinion. The single version would probably be in my post-Pinkerton top ten—at the top of the list, with Photograph, of Weezer’s autopilot-pleasantness style.)

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  14. Soyrev wrote:

    I can respect that, especially when you acknowledge “Photograph” as its kindred spirit. They should’ve held out on Maladroit’s release to give that one a real chance as a single, it’s definitely a career highlight — and I think it had real hit potential.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  15. OOS wrote:

    It may have been to “pop” for the Hash Pipe fans to glean onto, but with a good video and some actual marketing, yeah it couldve gone farther then it did. It wouldve also given Maladroit a chance to develop, or be scrapped, which in either case is preferable to what actually happened.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  16. Burgess wrote:

    This would’ve been a bit odd to sequence back to back with “Perfect Situation” as they both have “whooa oh” wordless refrains.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink
  17. Adroit wrote:

    Great write-up Soy.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  18. Lord wrote:

    Excellent post. The bridge of this song and I Was Scared are soooo gooooood. If only he could produce a whole album of that level again.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    Good point, Burgess. I guess this tendency of Cuomo’s precluded him from using a lot of material from this writing period on Make Believe, as so much of his work relied so heavily upon the technique. Though the fact that “Peace” is also on MB shows that maybe that’s just a coincidence, and he wouldn’t have hesitated to put 6 whoa-oh chorus songs on the record if he felt like it.

    Lord: Truth. “I Was Scared’s” bridge sounds like a Blue bridge, and as I said in the post, that of “I Want To Take You Home Tonight” is pure Pinkerton…And unlike the rest of their songs (and the entirety of most other songs after 2000), those two bridges are actually Pink and Blue worthy.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink
  20. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    long time no comment!

    hey man.

    I think you give this song too much credit. There’s definitely something awesome in how brutally emotional he is here, and how vulnerable he sounds, but these small positives can’t make up for how bad the lyrics are and how dull and chugging the melody is. If Cuomo WASN’T belting, the bridge would be completely forgettable. The little guitar noodles are cool, I guess, but that doesn’t win me over. I also think that if we didn’t know the story behind this song, we wouldn’t like it as much.

    on an unrelated note – check the main page of Weezerpedia, I gave TVS a lil promotion!

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  21. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I also totally prefer Keep Fishin’. One of my favorite =w= tunes.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Permalink
  22. Soyrev wrote:

    Can’t agree w/ you about the “Take You Home” bridge. I think that shit could be from a Pinkerton outtake. It’s amazing.

    “Keep Fishin'” is aight, I never mind it when it’s on. The chorus melodies are great. I just never seek it out.

    Thanks for the ‘Pedia plug, much appreciated. And welcome back! Plz don’t leave again 🙁

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  23. andybedingfield wrote:

    Keep Fishin’ is pretty dull in the verses. Feels like it’s missing something. Background vocals are good though and the lyrics aren’t bad. But the chorus ties everything together. I definitely would listen to that over Take you home tonight, the verse there numbs my brain.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  24. Soyrev wrote:

    Yeah, this song’s verses are pretty bad. But that bridge, oh boy…

    Monday, December 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

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