January 12, 2008

Rivers of Yesteryear

Rivers Cuomo

Are you tired of listening to over-produced power-pop? Do you like music that sounds like it's been recorded in a bomb shelter? Well, you are in luck. Alone deviates from Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo's recent brand of slick commercial rock (Make Believe and Maladroit) by venturing into lo-fi territory with vocal experimentation (“Ooh”) and stripped-down melodic structures (“Longtime Sunshine”) among other things. The 19 home-recorded tracks span Cuomo's career from 1992 to 2007. Throughout that 15 year period Cuomo wrote and recorded several hundred songs, the majority of which have never been released until now. Although many of the songs featured on Alone were recorded before 1996, it illustrates his growth as an artist over the years.

Strains of angst and frustration that are found on early Weezer albums, can be seen in the emotional rawness of “The World We Love So Much.” This song is particularly refreshing because it showcases a vocal range that is seldom heard in his other recorded music. However, while there are some hits, there are a few are misses, like the awkward R&B synth ballad “This Is The Way” and the barbershop quarter-inspired harmonies of “Dude, We're Finally Landing.” Because the sound quality varies so throughout the album, it is truly surprisingly to hear due to Cuomo's penchant for perfectionism. A gritty synth-tinged demo of Weezer's biggest hit, “Buddy Holly” made the cut. On Alone the song is played at a considerably slower tempo, showing the changes made in the final cut on 1990's Blue Album. There is also a hazy Beastie Boys-styled cover of Ice Cube's 1990 hit “The Bomb.”

The hodge-podge of musical styles combines pop melodies, synthesizers, and just enough twee to keep hipsters in tow. There are moments on Alone (particularly on“Superfriend” and “Blast Off!”) when it sounds like an early-era Weezer album. Among the album are several undiscovered gems, like “Lover In The Snow” and “I Was Made For You” that showcase the bespectacled rocker's uncanny ability to write songs with great pop-sensibility and diary-honest eclecticism. One can only hope that some of the elements on Alone will be seen in future music releases from Weezer and Rivers. Until then we can only wonder what he's hiding amongst the vaults.

Grade: B

Recommend Tracks: “Lover In The Snow” and “I Was Made For You.”

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