Rivers Cuomo

Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo

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Very much cut from the same cloth as its 2007 predecessor, Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo doesn't so much offer additional revelations about Cuomo's extracurricular musical activity as it offers more of the same. If anything, Alone II feels more a bit more like a collection of demos than Alone I, containing just a slightly higher quotient of instrumental scraps and odd throwaways, lacking any embryonic version of Weezer hits (although it does have an early solo demo of "Paperface," which was recorded and discarded by the full band for their debut, later popping up on the deluxe edition of that album). There are three further songs from the scrapped Songs from the Black Hole project but the running time of this mini-suite is roughly 2:30, its brevity kind of puncturing the myth that the album is some kind of lost masterpiece, but the appeal of Alone II -- like that of Pete Townshend's Scoop series, the closest comparison among other rockers -- is its messiness, how full-blown buried gems in the rough sit next to cuts so curious they defy explanation. Here, those curiosities are almost all in those less-than-a-minute snippets -- ranging from the gawky trumpets of the opener "Victory on the Hill" to the decidedly lo-fi mash note "I Admire You So Much" -- and these blips punctuate a set of very, very good pop tunes, songs that could have been polished up and slid onto a proper Weezer album: "I Want to Take You Home Tonight" pulses with self-loathing sex, "I Was Scared" is good Pixies-ish pop, and neither sound like their early 2000s, they sound like they were written roughly ten years before, when Cuomo wrote the terrific, bouncy pure pop "I'll Think About You." That's not to say that Cuomo stays in the same place -- far from it, as Alone II, like its predecessor, has more textures than most Weezer albums, thanks to some nice variations on Cuomo's signatures, such as the big piano ballad "My Day Is Coming," or how the dark, swirling undercurrent of organ on "The Purification of Water" turns it into something uniquely ominous or how "I Don't Want to Let You Go" deftly reworks some early rock & roll progressions and has a romanticism that also belongs to that era. Although The Red Album showed some serious signs of loosening up, Cuomo still doesn't allow himself the freedom to venture in these directions on Weezer's albums, and that's what makes both volumes of Alone quite valuable: they're as eccentric as they are accessible, portraits of a pop hermit letting his mind wander wherever it may take him.

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