Artist: Rivers Cuomo
Album: Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo
Comments: Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo is a bittersweet collection of b-sides, castoffs, and lo-fi musical experiments by prolific uber-nerd and Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo. For Weez fanatics like myself (and really, who else but the fanatical is going to know who Cuomo is, let alone have an interest in this album), it's a must have documentary that provides a glimpse into the mind and songwriting process of a fracture pop maestro. However, it also hints at what many Weezer fans have long feared; that Cuomo's best years may be behind him.
Alone boasts a rather inauspicious beginning. Of the first four tracks, one is a 40 second vocal warm up, one is a moody Gregg Alexander cover (never heard of that guy. Thanks, liner notes), and one is a noisy lo-fi rendition of Ice Cube's "The Bomb," which is probably equal parts funny and embarrassing to Cuomo.
It's after these rather self-indulgent blips are over that the collection gets good. Tracks like "Chess" and "Lemonade" are the kind of quirky pop metaphors that made The Blue Album such an emotional success. They showcase Cuomo at his least insecure and most confident, before the eyes of the world turned their focus on the quiet weirdo from L.A. Both tracks are the kind of simple, sweet, and catchy pop music that don't require a W tattoo to enjoy.
The meat of the album, five songs found in the middle, are all cuts from Weezer's long lost would-be second album, the abandoned space opera tentatively titled Songs from the Black Hole. While I would never trade Pinkerton for anything, listening to the fuzzy 70s rock guitar on tracks like "Blast Off" and "Who You Callin' Bitch?" do make me wonder what could have been. And while the other two songs border on cheese, it's real hard to deny the row singing harmonies of "Dude, We're Finally Landing."
It's after these tracks that the wheels begin to fall off. Sure, there's the guitar-only jealousy rock of "Lover in the Snow," which would have sounded perfect on The Green Album, and there is "Little Diane," which finds Cuomo fronting 90s alt-rockers Sloan (it's fun to imagine a younger Cuomo awkwardly flailing around a mic, angular and blissful while Sloan kicks it to 11 around him), but the rest is less interesting. "Crazy One" and "I Was Made for You," both later album b-sides, suffer from the same clunky writing and overblown 80s riffing that plagued half of Maladroit and most of Make Believe. Then there is "This is the Way," which might be the worst potential Weezer song yet.
My uncle has a theory that songwriters begin to regress at a certain point. Listening to Alone, it's hard to disagree with him. It is not lost on me that the eariler tracks are the ones that keep coming up on my evening drives, while the late tracks are getting passed over. It's possible that Cuomo peaked back in 1996. If that is the case, let Alone: the Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo stand as a testament to the rise and fall of a alternative hero.
Key Tracks: Chess, Lemonade, Blast Off, Lover in the Snow
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Buy, Steal, or Skip: Steal. There are some really extensive and cool liner notes that are more than worth the price, but only avid Weezer fans would be into that, and they would buy the album anyway. Your average Jack and Jill Popmusic won't care.