Rivers Cuomo: "Lover in the Snow"

Posted by on Thursday, June 21, 2012

Anyone who even sort of knows me knows that I share a special kinship with Rivers Cuomo. Do I consider him a brother? A friend? An older, much more talented doppelgänger? I really don't know how to explain the relationship* I have with him.

Most of us were introduced to Rivers as the singer of Weezer. That's where I first met him, back in 1995. One day my older brother brought home Weezer's self-titled first album, more often known as the Blue Album, and I have loved Weezer -- for better or worse (and some longtime Weezer fans will argue that there has been more worse than better) -- ever since.

Many fans met the release of Weezer's third album in 2001, the Green Album, with much disappointment, a disappointment that has only increased with each subsequent release. While there are songs on every Weezer album I love, even an unconditional Weezer lover like myself will admit that Weezer has failed to recapture the complete magic of their first two albums, Blue (1994) and Pinkerton (1996).

Fans like me have sought redemption from Weezer over the years. I don't think Weezer can redeem themselves. I do think, however, that Rivers Cuomo can redeem Weezer.

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In December 2007, Rivers released a solo album called Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo. (Aside: Since it was released so close to Christmas, my brother Matt and I bought copies for ourselves, listened to the record a few times, and then wrapped them and stuck them under the tree as Christmas gifts for each other.) This is a pretty unconventional solo album, however, since, as the album title indicates, it's comprised of home recordings, some of which were demoed in hopes of becoming new Weezer songs.

While it's always fun to hear demos of beloved songs, it was the tracks that didn't end up as Weezer songs that I my often cheated-by-Weezer heart ached to hear. One of these tracks is called "Lover in the Snow."

I'll admit that I didn't like this song at first: I found the lyrics a bit weird -- Rivers used lines like "out on the eve, deep in the shady glen" to give the song a fantastical element -- and some of the dissonant chords made me uneasy. And to be honest, the premise of the song -- spying on your girlfriend while she makes love to your friend on a snowy day -- well, that is a bit creepy.

And yet, it's that creepiness that recalls a Rivers that old school Weezer fans know and love. This is the Rivers of "El Scorcho," the Rivers that would sneak into a girl's room and read her diary. Sure, it's unhealthy behavior, but it's also somewhat relatable. I'd be lying if I said I have never creeped a girl's Facebook profile, Twitter feed, or Instagram photos. Sometimes you like what you find there -- in the case of "El Scorcho," Rivers discovers his soul mate -- and sometimes you find your soul mate rolling around in the snow with one of your best buds.

Initially, I found the instrumentation of "Lover in the Snow" a bit odd. It features a dirty electric guitar with no drums or bass, which is not an arrangement I'm used to hearing. The bare rhythm section -- consisting only of hand claps and a simple tambourine -- gives the song a certain innocence, while the crunchy guitar offers a contrasting, Pinkerton-esque grit. It's an unconventional arrangement that absolutely works, as the minimalist accompaniment allows the nuanced pain in Rivers' voice to shine through and leaves just enough room for the overdubbed "Come on, come on" harmonies.

It's easy to see why this song didn't end up on any Weezer records. There's really nothing else like it in the Weezer catalog. (Although, if someone broke into Rivers' home in the middle of the night (heaven forbid) and put a gun to his head (which I would not condone) and made him include this song on a Weezer record, I like to think he'd choose Pinkerton.)

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While one song or one record won't have the power to redeem the string of disappointing albums that Weezer have released since the start of the new millennium, I can't help but remain hopeful that Rivers has something up his sleeve that, in the end, will make everything OK. In 2008, Rivers released Alone II, and in late 2010, the band issued a deluxe edition of Pinkerton, which included two unreleased Pinkerton-era tracks that I had not heard, "Getting Up and Leaving" and "Tragic Girl." Just before Christmas 2011, Rivers released The Pinkerton Diaries, a 237 page book detailing Rivers' Pinkerton years, 1994-1997. With the The Pinkerton Diaries, Rivers released the third installment of the Alone series, a 26 track disc featuring demos from the Blue and Pinkerton eras and beyond.

I'm beyond hoping that Weezer will release anything comparable to the greatness of their first two records. However, if Rivers continues to let us glimpse into his veritable trove of unreleased demos and scrapped songs, I can be OK with that.

* No, I don't personally know Rivers. I'm speaking figuratively here. (Although sometimes I do feel I know him, or that he knows me.)

P.S. For those of you who aren't on Spotify, you can find a YouTube video of "Lover in the Snow" here.

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