First off, the title of this collection of odds and ends from the Weezer frontman is disingenuous. Some of the songs were recorded in studios, most notably the segments of a rock opera called The Black Hole, tracked in a German studio, and the cover of Dion’s 1961 song "Little Diane." (Suggested by big shot record producer Rick Rubin and backed by fellow Geffen Records power-poppers Sloan, Cuomo was far from alone.) Though there are some songs that are genuinely homemade (on a couple tracks the old tapes fail momentarily, giving a visceral, intimate feel), I’d opt for the title Here You Go: Some Unreleased Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.
Many Rivers to cross: Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo proves himself a stranger specimen than his bandmates on a new collection of unreleased material.
Alone starts with "Ooh," a short, a cappella harmonization reminiscent of "Our Prayer" on Brian Wilson’s Smile. (Hold your horses—a long-awaited masterpiece Alone is not.) "The World We Love So Much," a Gregg Alexander cover, comes next and evokes the burgeoning alt-rock angst of 1992 so well that you might turn on MTV expecting the first season of "The Real World" or (God forbid!) a music video.
Then comes a quick, behind-the-scenes trip through Weezer’s early rockstarhood, from the Blue Album-like guitar crunch of "Lemonade" and a version of "Buddy Holly" (this demo version of Weezer’s breakout hit kills with its slow, muddy rumbling) to hodge-podge, which fluctuates between unsuccessful dramatic narrative ("Who You Callin B****?") and covertly introspective guitar pop ("Superfriend"). Thankfully, these ideas eventually coalesced for Weezer’s best album, Pinkerton. Tucked between are some odd gems: a lo-fi, freakout cover of Ice Cube’s "The Bomb," the strum-along "Chess," (which takes Weezer’s geek quotient up another degree) and the clarinet-complemented, wishful piano ballad "Longtime Sunshine."
At this point, the chronology and intrigue of the album disintegrates, as "This Is The Way," a 2007 demo from the sessions for Weezer’s forthcoming sixth album (maybe a promotional plug? Ick.) wedges itself between a few late ’90s and early ’00s compositions (all of which could stay or go) and a half-minute recording of a 1984 rehearsal conversation from Cuomo’s first band, Fury, that’s as out of place as Weezer rocking in Beverly Hills.
Alone‘s insert includes a photo of demo tapes with fascinating names like "Cherubim + Seraphim," "Mixed Weezer Collaboration Nonsense" and "Psoriasis Babies," and, while this disc has moments, these enticing titles make you wonder if Cuomo is still holding back and struggling to give the public what he thinks it wants rather than his genuine heart and soul.