Weezer – Slave

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I wait patiently at the subway station, a grim and filthy branch of the New York City underground. Used cigarettes and junk food wrappers are sprinkled about the train tracks, and fellow citizens are taking turns peeking over the faded and textured yellow line and peering into the dark tunnel, awaiting their turbulent entourage. It isn’t long before the railway’s garnishes begin to dance, cigarette buds trembling along the line, warning us of its arrival. I hear a distant howl from the dank passage which gets filled with light as the train becomes ever more loud. The steel behemoth advances quickly, and its shrieks fill my ears as it makes its entrance. Each car is meshed into a blur as it whizzes past me in synchronization with its chattering wheels. I am met with a ruthless gust of wind, and if I close my eyes, (and I probably should, for hygiene purposes) I can find a certain charm in it. That’s what the intro of Slave, frequent contender for the best track off of Weezer’s short 2002 record Maladroit feels like to me.

Slave is a song that’s rather balanced between being a deep cut and being a ‘banger’. It appears to be one of Weezer’s favorite songs to perform acoustically, having done so on many occasions (although the Weezer Fan Club might be responsible for that). It even got a spot on their Spotify Sessions EP, and was played in Boston alongside members from Harvard’s orchestra band. Slave might just be the non-single song from Maladroit that has gotten the most love. Often, lead singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo actually seems like he makes an effort to avoid singing any track from Maladroit on stage. Between Weezer’s famous Live In Japan video from 2005 to the most recent tour, any Maladroit songs on the setlist are always sung by members Brian Bell or Scott Shriner instead. That is, of course, with the exception of Slave. What could this song possibly have that it wins the heart of longtime fans, and Cuomo himself?

When I hit play, its an overwhelming feeling of gratification. The abrupt fade inwards is like I had watched this bright meteor come into my vision, and not take my eyes off of it until it has landed before me. When it lands, our favorite alt-rock band from California naturally takes full form. It’s entrance is made whole by the authoritative drumming of Patrick Wilson and Bell’s coarse, crunchy guitar play. The hook Cuomo produces feels like it’s on another plane, almost as if it were copy and pasted in from a different song. It’s the voice of reason in a wonderfully chaotic bustle. Wilson’s hi-hat and cymbals tag team between crushing downbeats, and above all, this introduction is intimidating. It isn’t before Cuomo’s martyr of a guitar quiets down that the momentum of this expeditious sprint contracts into a (still) brisk jog. The buildup bordering the first verse somehow comes across as rushed and premature, but intentionally and satisfyingly so. This album was also new bassist Scott Shriner’s first time being featured on a record with the band. His bass lines are very prominent throughout the record, but especially audible and crucial to the ecosystem of Slave.

This first verse is roughly governed by these low thuds as Cuomo sings in his trademark whiney vocals with a nasally tone. Despite the strong and almost violent entry, much like a train, the listener is quick to learn that no real threat is present as soon as the words “Love, barely alive in your arms / Slave” come out of Cuomo’s mouth; the doors are open. Like a child, he sings of that dominant female / submissive male dynamic (or lack thereof) that Weezer has become so well acquainted with portraying. Every verse ends with Cuomo almost monotonously delivering the word Slave. This extra leg to each verse just weighs down on the rest of it; the overwhelming anguish of being in a toxic relationship. The same melancholy that is rarely absent in Cuomo’s singing is as prevalent as ever, making the listener almost feel sorry for him. Plunged into the sea of swarming and battering instruments however, the tenderness of his voice can be hard to find. The moderately fast tempo of the song makes it feel like all of Cuomo’s concerns are being told in a splurge, just speaking his mind. His sentiments are at times drowned out, but I suppose this battle to be heard only further hints to Slave’s mournful habitat.

The verses are succinct and move along quickly. The chorus initiates with a soft beat from Wilson. Each stroke of the guitar feels as though it has immense amounts of thought to it, carefully structured to compliment Cuomo as he cries out a question only a heartbroken man could ask: “Who put on your heart?” I find this to be a truly alluring acquisition. It’s a fusion of being so grief-stricken with an expired temper, all soaked in utter pain. A nimble riff by the lead guitar commences, and it sort of loops on in the background. Each revolution it experiences almost nags Cuomo, waiting impatiently, wanting to pull him down away from the chorus. When the chorus does conclude, the riff is heard in a more clear space, a fine decrescendo. The post-chorus ensues with only one quick and final statement. “Cause I can’t change, no” is striking of a last thought, muttered under your breath. That is, except many of the syllables are drawn out, and serve as an excellent segue as the listener is thrown right back into the infectious verse.

The next verse strays away from the Slave formula in a couple different ways. It’s far more centered in the second person, and the first line actually ends with Cuomo saying “things” rather than his elongated wail of “slave”. It’s an odd choice for sure, and the first and last time it’s done. Cuomo incorporates some clever wordplay in the following lines as he sings “Clear, clear as a bell / and you’re free / Slave”. The split oxymoron type presentation found in free and slave is a nice little touch, and a very harsh contrast.

The bridge allows for an immaculate transition to another wonderfully crafted guitar solo from Cuomo, encapsulating all that he’s conveyed thus far. There is a short but sweet buildup, brought together by the rapid strumming of Brian Bell’s guitar, which helps accentuate the melody throughout. As soon as the first note hits, it’s like the first impact to an object causing it to crumble. The solo in it’s entirety is an epic breakdown, as though Cuomo is drifting away. Before you know it, the song ends, and a series of strange sounds revive that outro to Undone follow, along with that feeling of satisfaction and Weezer’s constant underlying sadness.

mal·a·droit
ˌmaləˈdroit/
adjective
  1. ineffective or bungling; clumsy.
written by oliver

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