Cuomo plays with himself
Given the almost fanatical nerd-crush I have on Rivers Cuomo and his rock band Weezer, you’re going to have to give me a minute to collect myself. After all, what good is a review if it isn’t fair and balanced (not the Fox News way, the real way)?
OK, here we go.
Alone: The Home Recording of Rivers Cuomo is a hodgepodge collection of demos and alternative takes recorded by Weezer’s front man over a 15 year period. As the title suggests, some of these tracks sound like they were recorded in Cuomo’s bedroom. Audiophiles will spine up in disgust when hearing the poor recording and non-existent mixing on most all of these tracks.
Then again, this record isn’t aimed at audiophiles but at the Weezer faithful looking to gain some sense of history and perspective on the mysterious Cuomo. Despite his fanatical following, he remains one of the more enigmatic frontmen of the ’90s, revealing little about himself besides his self-consciousness and fondness for Asian women.
The first few cuts on the record aren’t songs as much as they are audio experiments. “Ooh” and “The Bomb” seem especially self-indulgent, the former being a vocal warm-up and the latter a messy Ice Cube cover that is not without charm. Fans of “The Blue Album” will no doubt enjoy the warm fuzz of “Lemonade,” which will make alt-rockers want to party like its 1995.
It’s at this point things get interesting. After an original, slower demo version of Weezer’s career-making “Buddy Holly” and a sweet little “Blue Album”-era cut named “Chess,” the listener is given five songs off Songs from the Black Hole, Cuomo’s pain-killer-influenced rock concept album about a group of astronauts. Cuomo eventually scrapped this idea in favor of the fan favorite Pinkerton, but given how catchy and smart the Black Hole songs are, it’s enough to wonder what might have been. Particularly catchy is the one-two, no pause punch of tracks “Blast Off!” and “Who You Callin’ B---h?”
It’s no coincidence that the last third of the album, containing the songs written most recently, also holds the worst tracks. “Lover in the Snow,” a guitar and vocal track that would have sounded really good on “The Green Album” is nice, but the same can’t be said for the songs that follow. Particuarly offensive is the cheese-loaded, R&B keyboard stumble track “This is the Way.” The song calls to mind some of the worst moments on Make Believe. Even worse, according to the liner note, this song may wind up on future Weezer albums. Gulp.
What’s really interesting about Alone is how it serves as a microcosm for Cuomo’s progression as a songwriter. The early ones stink, the ones in the middle are excellent and the later ones sound like attempts to recapture the magic. While this progression is fascinating to hear within the context of one record, it does nothing for Weezer fans that fear Cuomo has regressed as a songwriter.
For the casual fan, Alone is nothing to get worked up about. It has a few catchy tracks, but many of them are too underdeveloped to be memorable. However, for those who have been throwing up the W since meeting a guy named Jonas, Alone is a must-have collection of character sketches that fill in the past and hint at the future of alt-rock’s nerdiest and nastiest gods.
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