I pondered for a few moments on how to introduce Maladroit, and “Love Explosion” wound up being what I chose. This may seem like a bit of a dubious call to anyone familiar with the album, what with it being one of the less-remembered, late-album tracks…But I’m confident that I have good reason.
I’ve always found Maladroit to be a multi-directional mess, and for its very lack of focus (and a fair share of the worst songs Weezer has ever released), I put it in close contention for being the worst record of Weezer’s career (Make Believe may just take the title; I’ll decide somewhere down the line of this blog). In part, I think the fact that it was banged out and released in less than a year after Green can be blamed for that — it was put out much too suddenly, before Green had even fallen off the charts, and its commercial failure killed the momentum and enthusiasm the band had accrued in the wake of “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun.”
Secondly, the band weren’t sure just what the hell they were doing. After many hardcore fans had all but given up on Weezer after their drastic change of sound in 2001, Rivers began to get a little more self-conscious, and with the help of the aptly-named forum member Asschun, set up the Rivers Correspondence Board. Here Rivers was just as schizoid as the album this era produced, at times earnestly asking fans if they thought that “Weezer, as a whole, choked” when they made The Green Album, at other times claiming that filler like “Crab” single-handedly scorched anything from their first two albums. In any event, roughly a dozen fans were hastily chosen and, through band assistant Karl Koch, corresponded with Rivers about an ongoing series of session recordings posted to the band’s official website. These fans would effectively work as “unofficial producers” (a job for which most of them, if not all, were completely unqualified), critiquing everything from lyrical changes to vocal delivery to the contour of specific guitar solos. Everything was questioned, and Rivers, ever the obsessive, listened intently to it all — and lo and behold, the results could often be heard in the following week’s upload of newly revised takes.
Having scores of opinions help shape songs that are seldom above mediocre to begin with is generally a bad idea, and hence, it’s no surprise that Maladroit turned out the way it did. Even the title speaks to the fact that the band was clueless around this time: forum member Lethe suggested it one day, and Rivers immediately adopted it, later remarking that he loved the “evil” sound of the word. One wonders if he knew just how apt of a criticism (and descriptor) that title was: it means “inept.”
“Love Explosion,” to my ears, is the best representative for Maladroit in that it is a shambles within itself. The opening salvo of feedback sounds promising, like the introduction to “Tired of Sex” or another Pinkerton cut, but the verse immediately reins itself into staid pop territory, a la Green. But whereas Green‘s predictability is so polished and tight that it goes down smooth, the production and performance here is a bit sloppier, and the juxtaposition doesn’t really work. The chorus and post-chorus are lazy toss-offs that only mire the track deeper into its own muck. The solo helps a bit, as does the ’96-style slide guitar that comes in and out of the mix at times, but it’s still too much of a jumble to work. The greater Maladroit problem, in a nutshell.
Speaking of the Maladroit sessions, this song underwent pretty extensive revision early in January of 2002. On the first attempt, 1/08, the rhythm guitar was a little more stuttered and danceable; the next day’s take is indistinguishable to my ears, probably a tweaked mix. 1/10 saw the instrumental track that became the bed for the album version, and 1/12 added some minor revisions…But all these public session takes notably contain a glaring lyrical difference. While Maladroit‘s version has typically banal and weak lyrics (except for the interesting, repeated imagery of the line, “They’ve been wanting to kill you in your sleep,” sung in perfect pop melody), the earlier takes feature abhorrent verses about him having met a “little girlie” and being excited to “get off to pleasure each other.” Thank god Rivers had taken up celibacy by the time we next saw him.