When your favourite band or artist releases a collection of archive recordings and demos there’s always a hint of trepidation. Having seen their lounge and dining room, polished and immaculate, you’re now being asked to survey the contents of the attic and the back of the garage – far more revealing but often kept out of sight for a reason!
Happily in this instance Weezer front man and principal songwriter Rivers Cuomo has chosen the recordings himself for public appraisal, and while concentrating principally on the mid 1990s they take in aspects of his musical life from 1992 to 2007. Therefore we are granted access to five tracks from the abandoned Songs From The Black Hole album, and six songs that came to pass even before Weezer recorded their exciting Blue Album debut.
Three are cover versions, and most intriguing at that – The Bomb being a clattering freestyle interpretation of Ice Cube, The World We Love So Much a Gregg Alexander song and Little Diane a heavily powerful version of the Dion original.
What these songs help to unravel is Cuomo’s startlingly broad musical canvas, with the short choral intro Ooh and Dude going further in their exposition of a daring vocal counterpoint, while stopping short of being fully fledged songs. The more substantial songs, of which Longtime Sunshine and Lover In The Snow stand out, demonstrate an expert writer’s craft and grip of structure.
At times it feels like Cuomo is stood with you in the garage, just about projecting over distorted guitar. Crazy One’s mantra of “I wanna see you again” just about makes it through, while the demo of Buddy Holly lets the axe take over when stripped back to its bare essentials.
This being Cuomo, these incidents of blustery, windswept rock are complemented by exquisitely tender moments such as Wanda (You’re My Only Love), a harmonica-laced song that makes the bold observation that “you’re so lucky, your family’s normal”. Superfriend is comparatively empowered, with Cuomo berating himself, asking, “What am I doing, thinking with my willy?”
As a portrait of this hugely talented and mildly eccentric songwriter, Alone gives us the insights we were looking for, providing a complement to Weezer’s finest moments and the man behind them. With at least another hour of material branded good enough to release by the author, it’s to be hoped we hear more from the cutting room floor when his band’s sixth album has been and gone.