Weezer makes a return … sort of

Joe Shearer

Rivers Cuomo

Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo

Released by Universal

Stater rating (out of five): ****

A little less than three silent years after the release of Weezer’s fifth album, Make Believe, frontman Rivers Cuomo lets fans know he isn’t headed toward another Pinkerton-like seclusion with the release of Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.

Fans looking for another Weezer album be warned: This is not an 18-track collection of Weezer songs, but rather an intimate portrait of the man behind the band. Vocals on some of the tracks are rough, and the instrumentation isn’t always perfect, but there’s a raw truthfulness on this disc that hasn’t been heard since Weezer’s second album, Pinkerton.

With the exception of one song (“Little Diane”), Cuomo plays all the instruments on every track. Although hardcore fans may recognize a number of these tunes, most casual fans will only recognize the title “Buddy Holly.” Unlike the final, radio-friendly version heard on their self-titled debut, this early lo-fi take of the song is slower and dirtier, but arguably just as good.

Traces of the band’s first album also appear in pop-rock gems such as “Lemonade” and “Blast Off,” but perhaps the best of early Weezer-sounding tracks is the beautiful epic, “I Was Made For You,” fittingly closing out the album.

It’s strange to call this an album, seeing as this is a compilation of tracks from the last 15 years. And yet, the record feels as if it was crafted with the finest consideration.

For instance, even though “Superfriend,” “Lover in the Snow” and “Crazy One” were all written at different times, they all seem to melt together and create a very emotional and surreal atmosphere. It’s the perfect batch of songs for dreamers experiencing the cold reality of winter heartbreak.

It should be noted “Lover in the Snow” is one example of the many surprises listeners are bound to experience in Alone. Recorded with only a guitar, handclaps, jingling and some simple, yet effective vocal layering, it’s something you’d never hear on a proper Weezer release.

The same goes for piano-laced “Longtime Sunshine,” acoustic-rocker “Chess” and Cuomo’s original submission for the film Angus, a gut-wrenching acoustic number with harmonica called “Wanda (You’re My Only Love).” According to the singer-songwriter’s liner notes included within, the song wasn’t used for the movie because it wasn’t upbeat enough.

One last neat cut worth pointing out is “This is the Way,” a chill, electronic number that was originally going to be used for the band’s sixth and upcoming album. It’s definitely a departure from the typical guitar-drums-bass Weezer audiences have come to know, and could hint at new directions for the group.

Like any b-sides/demos collection, this one isn’t perfect. There are at least a few tracks (most of which hover around a minute or less) you won’t feel bad for skipping. But when it’s hard enough these days to find an album with five decent songs, this is a very impressive collection, despite what you may have heard in some earlier reviews. Sure, it helps to be a Weezer fan to fully appreciate the non-album cuts, personal notes and song descriptions from Cuomo, but even those not too familiar with the band can gain an appreciation and understanding for songwriters and the creative process.

Contact all reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected].