Rivers Cuomo is the definition of the enigmatic rock star. Everything he does is simultaneously a surprise yet also very normal. Cuomo is known for being quirky and for an ever changing mindset towards his art. So it shouldn’t be a shock that he’s decided to release a second set of demos and unreleased relics from his archives (although I’m sure the success of the first album didn’t hurt his decision). While Alone II doesn’t quite play as smoothly as it’s predecessor, it is a great album and offers a portal into one of the most gifted and incomprehensible minds of contemporary rock.
Like any anthology series or demo collection quality is not of concern, especially when dealing with songs that were most likely recorded on 4 tracks 15 years ago. And like the previous record, this one is presented in chronological order, starting before Weezer’s The Blue Album and ending with 2008. Still, Cuomo manages to compile another great group of songs that reminds us how he got to where he is today. Songs like “I Want to Take You Home Tonight,” “I Don’t Want to Let You Go,” and “The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World” manifests Cuomo’s knack for writing great pop tunes. With some work, these could have made it onto any Weezer record. The album’s single (probably due to it’s good quality), “My Brain is Working Overtime” is probably the best of the bunch and makes you wonder how this didn’t make a Weezer album, as it’s better than half the songs they’ve put out since their reformation in 2000.
There are also some exercises that are more exciting to have than to actually listen to like, “Victory Hill” which is just a 50 second trumpet harmonization. But Cuomo’s cover of the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” is astounding and affirms where all those surf songs from the The Blue Album. Actually, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for Cuomo to bust out a Beach Boys cover in concert or on record. It’s not only a great cover but educational in citing his influences as an artist.
However, for most Weezer fans the gem, like on Alone, are the tracks from the legendary Songs from the Black Hole project. Here we get “Oh Jonas,” “Please Remember” and “Come to My Pod.” Unfortunately, these songs, together, total about 2 minutes in length and unlike the songs presented on Alone, aren’t really that great. While it’s frustrating that Cuomo presents the songs from this failed album slowly and over many releases, it’s becoming apparent why the project was abandoned, even if most of these are very rough demos.
Alone II isn’t the best release Cuomo has ever put out. Nor does it offer the best songs he’s ever written. But for someone who has one of the strangest and notoriously guarded history in rock, it’s exciting that he has become so open with his past. I only hope that Alone III isn’t that far off.