Rivers Cuomo comes across like the ultimate music nerd.
Since his band Weezer garnered mainstream success back in 1994 with their self titled debut, Cuomo has seemed uncomfortable with the notoriety. While many musicians would have reveled in the rock n’ roll lifestyle, after a yearlong tour to support Weezer (The Blue Album) ended, Cuomo began studies at Harvard University. Between albums and tours, Rivers graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in English in 2006.
The recently released Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo is not a Weezer record. Rather, the album is a collection of eighteen demos recorded between 1992-2007. Several of the tracks were cut by Cuomo, alone on makeshift recording equipment or using a laptop. Alone is a document of an intensely gifted, at times uncertain songwriter working out the kinks of his craft. While early songs like “Lemonade” and “Chess” sound rough and unfinished, they offer a glimpse of the talent that would eventually yield gems such as “The Sweater Song” and “Beverly Hills”
Though the audio quality of Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo is fairly poor on some of the earlier tracks, a few are worth a listen. Cuomo’s personally written linear notes offer backstory for each track. The slower version of “Buddy Holly” not only gives listeners an idea of the process he went through to create the iconic song, but Cuomo acknowledges that the ‘homies’ dissing his girl were actually his bandmates in Weezer — making fun of a friend of his in class.
A couple of the songs on Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo are radio ready. I was immediately drawn to “Longtime Sunshine.” Written in January 1994, Rivers was struggling to make it as a musician in Los Angeles. The song is about him growing up in Eastford, Conneticut, his mother and stepfather singing an old hippie song to him. “Lover In The Snow”, a desultory tale of a lover’s betrayal written during the band’s hiatus in 1997.
Some of the things found on are for ardent Weezer/Rivers fans only. On the first track, Cuomo does a vocal exercise. On “The Bomb,” he covers an Ice Cube song with all sorts of Beastie Boys type distortion. The passionate cover of Gregg Alexander’s “The World We Love So Much” shows a strained, dramatic side of Cuomo’s vocals that fans don’t hear too often. Rivers also covers Dion’s “Little Diane.” All three of those songs cpuld be more different from one another.
Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo is a real hodgepodge of material. Fans looking for an albums worth of solid material will likely be disappointed. While Alone has a couple of possible singles on it, these recordings have stayed in Rivers Cuomo’s vault for a reason. Only major fans will find a few gems here; others should wait for Weezer’s sixth studio album.