Review Summary: Rivers throws together some demos and ends up making his best album in 12 years.
If there is one band that is awful at putting together albums, it’s Weezer. Year after year the band record dozens upon dozens of great songs, yet they consistently choose their worst material for inclusion on their albums. For example, the band recorded 5 songs for 2008’s “Red Album” that were just as good as anything that they had done in the 90’s. How many of those actually made the disc? 2.
This is, of course, just one example of many over the years, and it’s frustrating that the band has so much great unreleased material just sitting in the vaults, never to be heard by any but the most dedicated Weezer fan. That is, however, why it is not at all surprising that Alone II, a disc of Rivers Cuomo’s home demo’s, is the best collection of Weezer-related material released since Pinkerton.
This is, of course partly due to the fact that a lot of the albums best songs are from that era. Walt Disney and The Purification of Water give an interesting glimpse into the genius of mid-90’s Cuomo, providing unique twists on his pop-rock songwriting. The latter is a relaxing, dream-like song, with soft acoustic guitars and keyboards swirling around Rivers pained vocals. The former is a strange track, opening with blaring organs, before introducing marching band drums and guitar feedback that suddenly rocket into an almost operatic chorus.
The most interesting of the 90’s material is the mid-album trio of Oh Jonas, Please Remember, and Come to My Pod, all taken from the ill-fated “Songs from the Black Hole” concept album. The three tracks together only take up about 3 minutes, but manage to do a lot in their brief run time. Seamlessly transitioning from one song to the next, the three pieces take you through a mix of soaring balladry, theatrical rock opera melodrama, and acoustic synth-pop. They certainly show how interesting the unreleased 1995 concept album could have been, and stand up surprisingly well on their own.
The album becomes really interesting, however, when you look at the post-Pinkerton material. After all, we already have dozens of great songs from the 90’s. We don’t need any more proof that that was a great era for the band. Past that decade, however, is a different story. After releasing 4 mediocre-to-bad albums in a row, many people thought that Weezer had lost their touch. Looking at these demos, however, it’s obvious that they didn’t.
Second track “I Want to Take You Home Tonight” is an intense collage of building vocal harmonies and guitars that trounces almost everything from the album that it was written for, 2005’s “Make Believe”. And the dreamy synth-based “I Don’t Want To Let You Go” as well as the acoustic ballad “Can’t Stop Partying” (which sounds strangely like Smashing Pumpkins “Disarm”) prove that The Red Album could have been up there with the finest of 2008.
The best part of Alone II, however, is that, while providing an unique glimpse into the mind of one of the most interesting (and frustrating) pop song-writers of our time, the disc also manages to stand up on it’s own merits. While Alone II will be most appreciated by Weezer fans, the songs themselves are good enough to warrant an inclusion in anyone’s album collection. And that, in the end, is why this is the best album Rivers Cuomo has put together in 12 years.