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.