Weezer goes reggae. Who would’ve thought?
Thankfully the experiment was a brief one, limited to just this song — and as an experiment, it’s an interesting one. The Early Album 5 sessions were pretty curious: for the most part, it was a lazy extension of Rivers Cuomo’s largely uninspired, assembly line Maladroit-style writing, with most songs being a mere exercise in going through the motions. (Ex. “Mansion of Cardboard,” “I Don’t Want Your Lovin’” and the very unfortunate remake of “Superstar.”) But a few songs, for better or for worse, really attempted uncharted territory for the band — from “The Organ Player” to “Mo’ Beats” to “Sacrifice” — and “Hey Domingo!” is one of the more peculiar and outlandish of those aberrations. It’s hard to guess where Cuomo got the inspiration to take such a detour, but the end result is something that sounds a bit like a poor (white) man’s Bob Marley — or perhaps a cleaned up, buttoned-down, friendly pop/rock distillation of Rage Against the Machine. The pseudo-revolutionary bent of the lyrics, and the chorus — “Where is the rage?” — suggests that it might not be improbable, especially since that band had broken up just a couple years prior.
Predictably, the earliest version we have of the song (6/29/02) is the best. I like the pretty, echoey guitar on the intro, and the vocal melody of the verse is pretty good. All that upstroked guitar is funny to hear in a Weezer song that isn’t “Say It Ain’t So” — but it much more closely reminds me of “Burndt Jamb,” in that it’s a song that finds some unusual inspiration for the verses, but can’t resist the urge to indulge in a more typically Weezer rockout on the chorus. The solo is probably the best part of the bargain, especially when Pat Wilson rolls in on the drums and introduces some nice (albeit unfinished) backup vocals from Brian Bell. On 7/02/02, the band overdubbed some horribly superfluous (and often off-key) piano and organ by that one session guy whose name I can never be assed to remember; and a couple weeks later, on 7/16, they wisely deleted those from the recording, though a cursory listen reveals no other differences on my part.
So musically, it’s a surprisingly competent chameleon act — but the comically shite platitudes and unimaginative sloganeering of the lyrics really put a crap taste in my mouth. “One million people congregatin’ / Fillin’ up bodega streets,” “one voice united for the purpose,” “solidarity is nice” — it’s as if Cuomo 1) decided to write a reggae song, 2) deduced that most reggae songs have usually had a political intent, 3) remembered he’s wisely never written a political song because he’s got nothing to say there, and 4) forced it anyway. In a catalogue of songs that contains its fair share of insincere songs and lyrical bullshit, “Hey Domingo!” is about as phony as it gets.