Rivers Cuomo, Alone

I was in Borders yesterday and it took me forever to find a copy of Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.
It wasn’t under “C” for Cuomo, nor under “R” for Rivers. It wasn’t in the new releases section. But I finally located it in the “W” section (for Weezer). I paid for it, left the building, and sat in my car for a few minutes with the CD in the player as I read the liner notes, and I was content.

For those of you who don’t know (and aren’t frequent visitors to the Kingdom), Rivers is the lead singer and guitarist of Weezer. While the band has released five albums since 1994, Rivers has written hundreds of songs, many of which have only been heard by him and his bandmates.

Beginning six years ago, Rivers (and weezer) gave the fans an unprecedented level of access to their music, with the band posting daily versions of songs in the running for their Maladroit album, and Rivers directly sharing some of his old demos with fans. Rivers (who has said he wants his music out there), got in some trouble from his record company, as they weren’t too keen of him giving away music for free.

Eventually, the record company agreed to release Rivers’ demos and solo recordings, hence, Alone, which is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his music.

Not only does Alone contain the songs, but Rivers wrote detailed liner notes about the songs and what was going on in his life at the time.

As it is, Alone is a collection of songs from throughout Weezer’s history, containing versions of released material and concepts that never went beyond the rehearsal studio. Some of the songs have flaws and other dropoffs in quality, but that doesn’t detract from the experience. The songs are all over the map, from covers to an early, slow version of one of Weezer’s biggest hits, Buddy Holly.

Some of the highlights from the CD:

-Lemonade: an early track, with music by Weezer’s drummer, Pat Wilson. Has a lot of energy.

-Buddy Holly: a better quality version of a demo that’s been out there for a few years. The liner notes contain an interesting story about the song’s original chorus involving Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

-Blast Off!, Who You Callin’ Bitch: These two songs are the first of four tracks from the mythical, long-abandoned Songs From The Black Hole project. Very nice to have a clean version of Blast Off!, which transitions right into the rocking Who You Callin’ Bitch.

-Dude We’re Finally Landing: Another part of SFTBH. Kind of like a barbershop quartet set in space.

-Superfriend: One of the most eagerly-anticipated tracks among Weezer fans. It wouldn’t be a smash single, but it’s a damn fine song.

-Lover In The Snow: Written about a year after the release of Pinkerton, I always thought this song had a lot of that same emotion, but was more hidden. Rivers pretty much writes the same thing, saying he was trying to be more anonymous in terms of emotion, but the song is still sweeping.

-Crazy One: A song from the mysterious hiatus era of 1997-1999, and one of the last written before Rivers’ self-imposed hermit stage. A nice song, with a heavy story behind it. I didn’t realize how simple the song was until I read the lyrics.

-This is the Way: Rivers’ attempt at R&B/boy band style stuff. It didn’t make the upcoming sixth album.

The recordings are often sparse and simple, but Rivers plays his heart out. The styles of the songs are all over the place.

As a Weezer fan, it’s great to have Alone (and would be even if the Songs From The Black Hole tracks weren’t included). And if you’re not a Weezer fan, it’s still a good sample of the type of music the band puts out and has some entertaining stories, too. If you need another reason to buy a copy, here’s one: the better this does, the more likely future demo albums will be released, which would make me happy.

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