Following the Summer of Love ('67) people joined communes to find another - better way - to live. Many were grow-your-own vegetarians. Some chided drug use while others indulged. Many became parents, and in this brave new world, naming their offspring Matthew, Mary, Mark or Molly just didn't cut it. So hippie, and like-minded parents, tagged their kids with names like Sunburst, China or Moon Unit. That was just one of the 'embarrassing' fall-outs of that wayward social experiment.
On June 13th, '70, Rivers Cuomo was born to Beverly and Frank Cuomo, a Jazz drummer. Delivered in a Manhattan hospital located between the East and Hudson Rivers, the lad's name was also derived from the tranquil feeling his mother got from hearing the sound of running water. Rivers also has a brother named Leaves - but that's another story.
Cuomo, a vegetarian, grew up on an ashram (religious commune) and went to private schools. He later attended the Berklee College of Music and graduated from Harvard. After Berklee but before Harvard, Cuomo vaulted to L.A. and formed Weezer in '93 with bassist Matt Sharp and drummer Patrick Wilson. They scored a deal with DGC Records and added a second guitarist, Brian Bell. Once the recording for their debut was completed Cuomo left to go study at the Ivy League school. Meanwhile, other band members pursued their own projects - including Sharp and Wilson's band The Rentals.
Weezer's self-titled debut contained a handful of out of the box hits - "Undone (The Sweater Song)," "Buddy Holly," and "Say It Ain't So" - all helped by clever videos. "Pinkerton," released in '96, received generally good reviews, but fell short commercially. Rolling Stone magazine weighed in naming it the "Worst Album of 1996."
Led by "Hash Pipe" and "Island In The Sun," both high rotation MTV favorites, the "Green Album" (actually another self-titled release that got the moniker to distinguish it from the first one) brought Weezer to the forefront. "Maladroit" came out a year later and was followed in '02 by the live "Lion And The Witch" EP. Weezer returned to the studio to record '05's "Make Believe," containing the hit "Beverly Hills."
Cuomo had known Kyoko Ito since '97 and decided to tie the knot in June, '06 (real brides are married in June). The wedding took place on a secluded Maui beach. Their daughter Mai was born a year later.
A week before Christmas in '07, Cuomo issued his solo album, "Alone -- The Home Recordings Of Rivers Cuomo." It was his "favorite demos from '92 to '07."
That was followed by Weezer's sixth studio effort, "The Red Album." During an album meeting with the group's label, Geffen, the execs said they didn't feel there was a single. They wanted something commercial. "I came out of it pretty angry," said Cuomo. "But ironically, it inspired me to write another song." That song was the satirical hit "Pork And Beans."
Of course, there's more to life than hit records. Long known as a major soccer fan - Cuomo kicked the ball around in the video for "Photograph," planned Weezer's '02 tour around the World Cup games and reportedly wrote '06's "Our Time Will Come" as tribute to the U.S. men's soccer team - saw his fandom reach a climax. During the '08 Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra Celebrity Soccer Challenge charity game in Carson, CA, he scored a goal. "It was a dream come true," said Cuomo. "It's just unreal." The match raised money for L.A.'s Children's Hospital.
By his own count, Cuomo has written over 800 songs, so it was hardly a surprise that a second edition, "Alone II -- The Home Recordings Of Rivers Cuomo," landed in '08.
A collection of demos and outtakes is always dicey. Not everything an artist or group produces is genius.
With that in mind, a Weezer fan might approach "Alone: The Home Recordings Of Rivers Cuomo" with some trepidation. Not surprising, the tracks that work the best are those that resemble a full-blown Weezer effort, like the alternate (more keyboards) version of "Buddy Holly." With a wasted opening track, "Ooh," the album starts like some half-baked, over-indulgent piece of clap-trap. But it doesn't end that way. Cuomo is able to roust himself for several fully realized performances.
"Alone II" has Weezer/Weezer Lite songs ("I Was Scared," "My Brain Is Working Overtime" and "Paper Face"). There is also catchy acoustic Rock ("I Don't Want To Let You Go," "Can't Stop Partying" and "I'll Think About You" with a lush Hammond organ). Cuomo's pop side is represented by "Walt Disney" and a cover of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" which is good though it doesn't quite reach the original's majestic heights. Oh yeah, there are a handful of songs that seem undeveloped or flat out pointless, but hell, these are the guy's home recordings.