Rivers Cuomo, ‘Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo’ (Geffen)
Rivers Cuomo may be a wimp, a delight, or a sociopath guiding us like Sims through his own personal four-chord experiment — we just can’t be sure. As our most reticent rock star, he’s transitioned from nebbish savant with scraped knees and frayed synapses to professional dispatcher of blank, soaring melodies. Weezer’s past three albums have been anthemic, dispassionate studies in the science of pop-rock songwriting. But is this late-career coldness intentional or tragic?
Alone, a collection of solo demos, suggests the latter, charting the opening up and shutting down of Cuomo’s vulnerability and humanity. The melodic geekiness of the “Blue Album” (1992’s tempestuous “The World We Love So Much”) evolves into Pinkerton’s beleaguered thoughtfulness (1994’s lovely, spare ballad “Longtime Sunshine”) and cheeky observations on Weezer’s ascending celebrity (four tracks from the shelved ’95 rock musical Songs From the Black Hole). From 2001’s “Green Album” on — except for a few surprises like a shrieking, grimily distorted cover of Ice Cube’s “The Bomb” (“It’s like a holocaust to the boss when I toss”) — he sounds like an aloof, majestic rhyming dictionary.
After 15 years of both ridicule and reverence, Cuomo now sputters to say as little as possible as professionally as possible. Many emotions clearly still linger, but as a songwriter, he seems to lack the desire that he once had to simply be sincere.