CD Review of Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo by Rivers Cuomo
Recommended if you like
Weezer, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond
Label
Geffen
Rivers Cuomo:
Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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I
t was only a matter of time before Rivers Cuomo had his demos released as an official album – and that time has come with Alone, an 18-track selection that some hardcore Weezer fans are already complaining about, due to many of the tracks having already been released “officially” by Cuomo in mp3 format (some even “better sounding” than the ones on the disc, if we’re to believe some of Alone’s Amazon reviews). The bottom line is you’re getting a peek into Rivers Cuomo’s musical life from 1984 all the way up to 2007.

Appropriately enough, Alone is undoubtedly going to appeal mostly to those Weezer fans who have to have everything related to either the group or Cuomo. Casual fans who enjoyed “The Blue Album” and “The Green Album,” or even “Beverly Hills,” will probably find this collection to be an odd hodgepodge of ideas, which it basically is. Those same listeners will probably only see the demo version of “Buddy Holly” on the track list as anything remotely familiar. Even then, that demo only halfway sounds like the final product that Weezer turned it into.

A lot of the tracks here are from a project Cuomo entitled “Songs from the Black Hole,” a concept piece that later morphed into Weezer’s second album, Pinkerton. In the liner notes, Cuomo lets the listeners in on what is going on in regards to the concept’s storyline, which is a bit of a help, but ultimately one can hear why this idea was more or less scrapped in favor of something new, as the tunes just aren’t that solid. Interesting, sure, but concept pieces are often victims of their own ambition, as is the case here (and certainly even Pinkerton itself to a degree).

Elsewhere, you have oddball covers of things like Ice Cube’s “The Bomb,” recorded with a fury of drums and distorted vocals, as well as “Little Diane,” suggested by Rick Rubin and featuring Sloan. There’s also a take on Gregg Alexander’s “The World We Love So Much” that sounds much closer to the introspective and personal songwriting style that Cuomo is best known for. Then you have other songs, such as “Chess,” that sound playful and silly enough, but nothing that would really fit on a Weezer record. Indeed, Cuomo even states as much in the liner notes that this song was more or less written due to a case of writer’s block while he was writing tunes for “The Blue Album.”

Finally, there are items such as “This Is the Way,” which almost made it onto a Weezer album in band-recorded form, but later got nixed because Cuomo wanted “Daydreamer” instead, as well as “classic” sounding Cuomo ephemera like “I Was Made for You,” written for a woman in the L.A. Philharmonic that Rivers had taken a liking to. Yet for all of the diversity this collection contains, the end product is still simply a batch of demos that are pleasant enough but nothing completely essential. The sound quality, for the most part, is pretty damn solid for demo recordings, which is always a plus. And the self-penned liner notes by Cuomo for each track as well as some humorous pictures of him placed throughout the CD’s booklet are entertaining. Yet again, this is something for the diehard fans who have to have every last drop of Weezer-related stuff they can get their hands on. Of course, it’s nice to have artists out there who take the time to release such things as this, even if it’s mainly going out to an audience far smaller than the ones who sent “Beverly Hills” up the charts.

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