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Where to begin? With the triumphs of The Blue Album having passed, and the poor reception of self-produced, emotionally charged sophomore record Pinkerton leaving a permanent dent on lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s approach to songwriting – is Freak Me Out an unexpected product?
Unlike like lead single, powerhouse, and absolute disappointment Beverly Hills, Freak Me Out details a particular event presented in a humorous fashion. To ones dismay or surprise however, both take residence in Weezer’s most commercially successful studio album in 2005, Make Believe. On paper, Freak Me Out sounds like it should fall under the ever so cozy hood of Pinkerton’s singer-songwriter genre – perhaps an El Scorcho type song. That is, except, it’s about a spider. That’s right. On three tracks prior, Pardon Me, Cuomo might have just sung to apologize to any friend, lover, or fan, past present or future, but no! It’s time to apologize to a spider. Buckle up!
If I were to give this track anything, it would be the first fifteen seconds. The dreamlike urban guitar harmonics made possible by three guitars (compared to Weezer’s standard lead and rhythm combo, courtesy of Brian Bell), allow for an inoffensive, calming introductory piece of music. It gets the job done in regards to establishing the mood, and it’s easy to envision the “city streets at night” Cuomo soon cornily sings about. It is not long before things take a turn south with the addition of Patrick Wilson’s snare drum, which sounds ever so cheesy in this context. Although the tempo is well-suited, and in bass player Scott Shriner’s words, “the beat is correct.” It just sounds wrong. The same wrongness is found when Bell’s backing vocals join into Cuomo’s singing in the first verse. Not one, but two thirty year old men half whispering in my ear about guilt over killing a spider? No way!
It only proceeds to gets worse as Cuomo offers his now deceased eight-legged roommate a drink, and asks if he’s OK. I’m sure somewhere in the writing process, the band found this inter-species apology letter poetic or artistic in some way. To no avail, no such status was ever held. It isn’t until after the first chorus (whose melody barely differs from that of the verses) that the listener is blunderingly exposed to a harmonica solo. Yes, The Blue Album featured a harmonica on many of its tracks, and was essentially its secret ingredient, but it has no place on Freak Me Out. The identity of this song is clouded and all over the place. It’s too slow to dance to, and too corny to get emotionally attached to – I fail to see what the harmonica brings to the table. I see it as a last ditch effort of desperation to fix a song that was too far gone, and in doing so, made it worse than it already is. The song drags on for another couple verses under the same conventions, and thankfully, the harmonica is not heard of again. The song does transition into a special finger-picked guitar outro, which does not sound too bad when compared to the rest of the song. It’s a fair note to end one of the worst Weezer tracks of all time on; a brief reminder that they are capable of writing good material, despite what you heard.
A rumor had circled at the time of this album’s release that Freak Me Out was actually about a time where Rivers Cuomo had beaten up a homeless man in fear of his life. Can you believe that? If that were true, I find myself struggling to determine whether that would make this 3 minute 30 second long embarrassment tolerable. I can see a song about this out-of-character action having potential. But that didn’t happen. Weezer wrote a song about killing a spider instead. “It’s probably the most un-Weezer-like track that’s ever been on an album, whatever that means, and I think, you know, that that could be good.” I think, you know, that’s never a good sign, Brian.
written by oliver