A Jermaine Dupri song about partying excessively seems a far cry from a Brian Wilson song about sweetly loving a girl. The tie that binds these polar opposites of pop music is the ever-eccentric Rivers Cuomo.
As the frontman for Weezer, Cuomo has sang wistfully about time spent alone in the garage, and with the arrival of "Alone II," his second album of rare and unreleased solo tracks, it's becoming more and more obvious he spent that time recording heaps of music.
The DGC/Interscope album debuts this week at No. 2 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart with U.S. sales of 6,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The first volume in the series, released almost exactly a year ago, started with 14,000 and has gone on to sell 43,000.
During his decade-plus in the spotlight, Cuomo has learned not to take himself too seriously, as evidenced by the mullet-ed photo of his high school-era self on the new album's cover. But the old, fastidious Cuomo is never far away; check the extensive and surgically precise liner notes outlining each song's genesis for proof.
Either way, between the success of Weezer's "The Red Album," released earlier this year, and its recent crowd-inclusive "Hootenanny" tour, "Alone II" comes at a time when it seems like Cuomo is ready to party.
Did the timing of the release of "Alone II" have anything to do with the longevity of "The Red Album?"
Well, my first priority is Weezer, and I don't want to do anything with a solo project that would hurt Weezer. So, I made sure to discuss it with Weezer's manager and a little bit with the band also, to make sure that I'm not doing anything to harm Weezer. But Weezer's manager, Dan, thinks that releasing the album at this time could only help "The Red Album." I'm not even really sure how it works. But my motivation is not to promote Weezer -- my motivation is that I have all these songs I love that have just been sitting around, and I want to get them out there.
Had you planned since you released "Alone I" to release a second set of songs?
Well, I knew I had a lot more recordings that I wanted to share with the world, but I wanted to wait and see how "Alone I" was received. It's sold about 50,000 worldwide now and it seems like a lot of the audience really likes it. That makes me really happy and made me want to do another one. I actually don't need a lot of encouragement from the audience because I love making these albums. I love the process of listening to all the old recordings and picking my favorites and going through my old journals and seeing what I was thinking when I was writing these songs and going through the old photographs and then putting it all together and telling the story. It's just fun.
It's like musical scrap-booking. What's the oldest song here?
The liner notes have, I think it's like an 11,000-word essay, which talks about the origin of all the songs and it's in chronological order. All I have to do is open the book and I can see that the first song in here is "Paper Face" which is from April of 1992.
How does it feel to listen to all these old songs again? Do you still feel connected to them?
Yeah. I mean, there're just so many recordings that occasionally I'll hear a recording that I don't remember at all. And sometimes that's the most fun, when you find something that's great that you don't even feel like you can take credit for, because you have no recollection of it. But on a lot of these, I hear that I'm the same man, even when I was just 21 years old. I still hear that that's me on there. Something about my personality has remained consistent.
Do you think that having these newer songs and older songs crunched together on one album highlights the changes that you've gone through as a songwriter? Or brings to the surface any particular changes you think you've made?
The thing that I think that I noticed was the similarities. The thing I hear throughout the entire "Alone" record, not just "Alone II" but "Alone I," is the sense of someone striving, trying to figure out how to write great songs, how to create art that he loves, trying to figure out what it is he loves about music. And I hear that in everything in these records. And I must say that there are songs on here that I'm just as proud of as anything on the Weezer records and that are just as satisfying. And I know that they won't reach the masses, but I love them just as much as "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived" and "Pork and Beans" on "The Red Album."