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The Story Of My Life

For years, “The Story Of My Life” was one of just several hundred unheard and unknown songs from one of Weezer’s many dark-age periods of apparent inactivity — one of the diehard fanbase’s favorite topics of speculation and obsession. This one comes from the period between 2002’s Maladroit and 2005’s Make Believe. It was a period rife with consistently delayed album release dates, breakup rumors, bustlings about a potential acoustic-only album that would find Weezer doing stripped down takes on previously released tunes while also focusing on new material, and a rotating lineup of folks not normally associated with the group (an uninterested Pat Wilson took a break from the band, leaving Josh Freese to have his first crack at the band’s drumstool; and Rivers Cuomo even did a quick and dirty jam session with the members of Sloan).

Even if most would agree that this protracted period of endless writing, recording, and soul-searching produced a very underwhelming album — Make Believe remains the band’s worst-reviewed disc — it is nevertheless one of the times in the band’s life in which fans are most interested. There are many reasons for that, but mainly because the unfinished scraps and ideas that have trickled out hint at a massive potential that the resultant album fell far of fulfilling. One such unfinished product is “The Story Of My Life,” an acoustic rehearsal demo curiously released as a preorder bonus track to 2009’s Raditude (an album that, perhaps not coincidentally, features the drumming of Freese). Although the recording history reveals this recording is from 10/05/03 (unless the 9/07/03 song “The Story” happens to be the same tune), we don’t know what the band’s intentions for it were: as official band historian Karl Koch has noted, the acoustic sessions at Rod Cervera’s studio that ended just a couple months prior (August 2003) were intended for that aborted acoustic album project, but we don’t know whether these Office sessions were also intended for that record or if they marked the beginnings of demos for the record that would become Make Believe.

Regardless, as far as just another name on a list of titles goes, “The Story Of My Life” is unassuming — surrounding songs with names as obtuse as “Ghosttown Life,” “Sun Off the Sea,” and “I’m Afraid (Lost Bread Crumbs)” seem to suggest much more interesting pieces. And yet, despite having apparently only been considered long enough for a single take, “The Story Of My Life” is a true gem.

The elegiac acoustic progression and haunting hummed melody that begin the song set the scene nicely for a tune of despair, and what might be the most legitimately “emo” lyrics Cuomo has ever written. In a rather beautiful melody filled with enjambed pauses (sort of like that of “Island In The Sun“), he begins: “You and me don’t / hang together / All we say is” — and here, Brian Bell adds in with a perfectly wan harmony — “Pleasant weather.” The chorus is just as direct: “Listen to me, if you have the time / I’m all alone in the story of my life / Nobody cares if I live or I die / I thought that you should know / Some people never know / I hope you never go away.”

It’s simple stuff, almost to the point of being amateurish — and that, when considered with the supremely melodramatic lyrics, is what I mean when I say this is about as emo a thing as Cuomo’s ever written (especially considering he’s a man in his mid-30s here). Judging by the lyric sheet, this could easily have been the second or third song written by a kid somewhere between 8th and 11th grade — which, judging by dreck like “I Don’t Want Your Lovin’,” is a perspective Cuomo (sometimes eerily) embraced during this period. But where the (pre?)adolescent lyrics of “Lovin'” couple with similarly trite music to a laughable degree, “The Story” bespeaks Cuomo’s maturity as a tunesmith: the melody, progression, and harmonies are all lovely, lovely things. Simple, too, but just right — as with that descending minor figure, lightly touched by subtle arpeggiations, that appears beneath the “you should know” post-chorus. Moreover, Cuomo and Bell’s vocals are delivered with believable emotion (something the predecessor Maladroit almost completely lacked, and the successor Make Believe frequently struggled with) — and that’s what makes the whole thing work.

The (curiously electric) guitar solo doesn’t hurt, either, as it spins longing circles around the heavy-heart downstrokes of the acoustic progression, however half-buried in this rough demo mix it may be. And the gutting outro — a wailed, anti-meditative mantra of, “I’m all alone!” — does everything it has to eliminate any residual doubt about Cuomo’s sincerity in this song.

Coupled along with other winners from the era like “I Was Scared,” “I Can Love” and “It’s Easy,” a song like “The Story Of My Life” indeed thickens the plot surrounding that 2003-2004 dark age in Weezer history. It’s enough to make a guy salivate for the forthcoming Odds & Ends compilation, even if he knows that alone can’t possibly sate his appetite.

31 Comments

  1. Soyrev wrote:

    A few things:

    1) I was briefly tempted to add this song to the ranks of The Very Best. I feel rather confident in my refrain from doing that, but this is a rare instance where my mind might be changed. What are your thoughts?

    2) I posted this quickly and in one shot. If there are any typos or errors, please point them out and I’ll edit them later.

    3) We are very close to the 4000th comment! Comment away and if you happen to be the lucky one, you get to pick the next song I do!

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  2. clore wrote:

    Great post! Misspelled band a few sentences in.

    I would probably classify this song in The Very Best. I definitely think it is a more worthy contender for TVB than “Hot Tub,” which was deemed TVB if I recall correctly. It may be among the lower ranks of TVB, but should still be placed on a pedestal among the rest of =w= canon.

    Some things I really enjoy about this song –

    – the subtle build-up to the first lines at the beginning, and the roller coaster dynamics throughout the song. Also, the strumming seems to get harder toward the end, which adds a level of frustration to the sadness of the song.

    -I love River’s voice in this. He has proven in many a song that he can nail a pretty flawless and confident vibrato. To me, it feels like this vibrato is different – it almost seems like his voice is quivering as his voice is strained at times, which adds to the pure emotion and level of intimacy in this song. It can be argued that this is just because of the low production value of the song. Either way, whatever it is…I like it, and it feels different from the majority of =w= songs.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  3. OOS wrote:

    I still havent tried this one out. I may have to now.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  4. OOS wrote:

    I still havent tried this one out. I may have to now.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  5. Adroit wrote:

    The first 30 seconds could easily be taken for an (only half-decent) Elliott Smith song with the nice guitar interplay, and I guess the lyrical themes and directness suggest Smith too.

    However, I am going to have to keep listening to spot any of the musical subtlety you describe after that point.

    I just hear boringly repetitive guitar thrashing.

    Cuomo’s vocal definately falls more towards Make Believe than Maladroit. I saw on the boards that you described the Green sound as “aggressive blandness”, and there is something of that description in his voice here, striving hard for emotion but ultimately smothering any nuance.

    Lets agree to disagree!

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink
  6. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    I agree that it’s Grand Playlist worthy for sure. There are some nice harmonies and the melody is mostly good.

    But The Very Best? nah. It’s much too “chuggy” and a bit too long in my opinion. Also, the melody at times seems a little too close to I Can Love(the better of the two,I would say). It’s pretty good, but not THAT good.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  7. Brownerton wrote:

    This song bothers me. It’s like Slob, version 2 – melodramatic lyrics, repetitive sound, pretty melody sung with a quavering voice, etc. There are some nice parts, like the harmonies, but overall it just sounds like a depressed teenager crying about how horrible life is. Seriously, “nobody cares if I live or I die” sounds like something a 14-year-old would sob into his pillow after fighting with his parents.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  8. Madcap wrote:

    Fantastic song, better than o girl but I didn’t think that one deserved very best anyway.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink
  9. nate wrote:

    It’s these acoustic songs like these that make me think a released “Unplugged” show would be pretty awesome. Mixing a few unreleased songs along with some of the classics and some stuff they just wanted to play acoustically. They could even make one of the unreleased songs the lead single.

    I seriously thought that they were headed for that during the Troublemaker tour, with the various Hootenannies, but it’d still be awesome to see/hear.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  10. thegreatestscorch wrote:

    Its songs like these that make me really believe in river’s abilities as a singer. At times his voice can be completly uninteresting and fail to bring you into the song, i.e most of the green ablum. But this lets me get past the somewhat questionable lyrics and get into the song

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  11. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    It’s a really nice song which sounds well arranged in this set up, but i never seek it out to hear it. I reckon it would be considered a very poor song if it was recorded in the sterile fashion make believe was and don’t think it warrants the very best, due to it’s piss poor lyrics.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  12. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Anyone have a place I can download this from? I don’t do iTunes and have never heard it.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink
  13. CrippyBoy wrote:

    Ludicrosity, they should have it up on Youtube.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  14. ThomYorke wrote:

    This was one of the few highlights of the Raditude era, which of course, wasn’t really written during the era it was released.

    I agree that this was a really nice surprise, and I love the chord progression here. Rivers sounds convincing, and I even like the “chugging” we all keep referring too. I can agree it’s a little repetitious, but I think it works more than it doesn’t.

    If only that acoustic album had been released when it was intended to be.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    Ludicrosity, here’s a youtube link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl6o3L1udHw

    Could someone better at uploading stuff hook him up with an MP3 so he can listen more conveniently?

    As regards “The Very Best,” yeah, no one’s mounted a convincing argument in favor of — and the one person who tried put this below “Hot Tub,” which only serves to remind me how very not “The Best” this song is. As for “O Girl,” that’s the Very Best entry I might be least sure of, but for now I stand by it: that’s one of Cuomo’s best constructed pop songs, ever.

    I do think Clore really adds upon why this particular song is so great though, and like ThomYorke, I don’t find any problem with the “chugging” — it’s a demo, after all, and while I know what you mean I think it works (in subtle ways like Clore mentioned). And yeah, Scorch, his voice here is wonderful! I really can’t hear how Adroit is repurposing my “aggressive blandness” descriptor for Green in describing this song, and that’s a perspective I’d like to hear more about because I simply can’t find a trace of it in this performance.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  16. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Reflections upon my first listen: Took until the second chorus for me to really like it but from there it progressed quite nicely! I can definitely hear the similarity to I Can Love but it’s still very different (and imagine both songs being done acoustic is the main reason they sound similar at all.) Also, that chorus sounds like a group of midevil chanting for some reason… an interesting and original sound for the band.

    BTW thanks for the link, Soy. 🙂

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  17. s.o.s. wrote:

    The Story Of My Life is my favorite out of the office demos we have so far. Something about Rivers’ voice in this one really puts it ahead of the rest for me. Give me the remaining office demos, please.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  18. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Wonder how many office demos will find their way onto Odds & Ends: I thought Private Message, for example, sounded fantastic in an acoustic setting.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    As much as I want all of the Office Demos, I would hope none go onto O&E. I want the standard for the recording quality and performance to be a little higher for that disc…I’m all for low fidelity if it’s of a great song, but a live take of the band going through a song on acoustic guitars for the first time just isn’t pro enough.

    That said, if there are any other recordings for the aborted acoustic album that sound as good as the “Worry Rock” cover does, I’d love to have that.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  20. clonus wrote:

    This is a nice little tune that I would never put in The Very Best category. The lyrics are kind of a letdown after that opening verse, and the song doesn’t really go anywhere. I like it, but it’s not anything spectacular.
    Also-I swear that “It’s Easy” sounds much better than the other Office Demos we’ve gotten-not Worry Rock good, but much higher quality. It it just me?

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink
  21. HMC wrote:

    This is a decent song and I’d say putting it on TGP is a fair choice, but this song is weirdly forgettable for me. I have to go listen to it again every time it’s mentioned somewhere and even now ten minutes after listening to it for the fifth or sixth time I still find myself hard-pressed to remember how it goes.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink
  22. Soyrev wrote:

    Seriously? Once I listen to it, it’s at least a day until I get it out of my head. I find it very, very catchy.

    Clonus, the Office demos happened over the course of many different sessions and months, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the recording equipment sometimes changed. I’d agree that “It’s Easy,” aside from just being a ‘cleaner’ sounding performance (less chug-chug riffs than the others), has a higher production value.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  23. nate wrote:

    As far as Office Demos go, this song has nothing on “Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone.”

    I’m really hoping that Odds & Ends is a box set. Otherwise, I really see no difference between it and Alone(s). And they MUST have commentary in the liner notes.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  24. ThomYorke wrote:

    Hey Soy, do you plan on jumping back in this convo?
    http://www.allthingsweezer.com/forum/index.php?topic=19477.60

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  25. Soyrev wrote:

    I might think “I Can Love” is a better song, but “The Story Of My Life” is the Office Demo that I’m most likely to listen to. Very addicting progression, melody, harmonies to my ears…

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink
  26. Soyrev wrote:

    Man, I can just barely separate my own perception of the song and its more objective, relative merit to the rest of the canon, ’cause my love for this lil’ tune continues to tempt me in the direction of “The Very Best.”

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink
  27. sad johnny wrote:

    I’m interested to hear Rivers’ home demo. The acoustic bass played by our dear friend Shriner, is both unnecessary and unpleasant to the ears.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 4:57 am | Permalink
  28. Soyrev wrote:

    Really? I don’t think I’ve ever even really noticed it. I’ll listen to the song later today and crank the fuck out of the subwoofer, gonna make this place bounce…

    Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  29. andybedingfield wrote:

    I believe this song is worthy of TVB status. I am in the minority that doesn’t think Hot Tub is that great(I know, just lost some credibility) and The Story of My Life has a LOT more going for it.

    The “pleasant weather” line is one of the most clever little couplets Rivers has ever written, and the harmony there sends chills up my spine each time.

    Yes, the writing’s simple, but effective, and poetic; you can take this song seriously. Then the CHORUS. Some may say it’s whiny and emo, but they say that about Pinkerton too. I think the chord progression and vocal delivery, especially on the end chorus(“I’m all aloooooooooone”) is superb and genuine, something I can’t say about Hot Tub, which, although good, always seemed tongue in cheek to me, and not a real statement of anything substantial(love the bridge though), unlike this song, which is cathartic, sparse brilliance. Oh, and the solo is really nice too.

    Just my thoughts, I was really surprised at the reaction to this one, which I was sure was a definite member of Post Pinkerton’s upper tier(though nowhere near Sweeney, Pig, Spider, TAATO, or Blowin’ My Stack; it’s as good as O Girl, but those are two totally different songs, although both succeed tremendously in their own ways).

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  30. Soyrev wrote:

    “Pleasant weather” harmony is great, and probably my favorite part of the song. Brian’s voice just melds so damn well with Rivers’.

    I still think it’s got a few faults to keep it from Very Best status (the lyrics are a bit emo, especially coming from, what, a 35-year-old man?). Glad to hear you really love “Stack” too, though!

    Monday, December 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  31. Jamekae wrote:

    I think “You and me don’t hang together, all we say is “pleasant weather”” is probably my favourite Post-Pinkerton couplet. It’s such a charming and clever lyric, and teamed with that amazing melody it really hooks me into a feel-good zone. Unfortunately, lyrics like “no one cares if I live or die” are a real mood killer.

    I have a feeling that the song opens so strongly that a lot of slack is given for what follows. That first minute is without a doubt TVB worthy, but if you add the rest of the song to the mix, you really only get a top tier Grand Playlist entry.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

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