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A few gems on Rivers Cuomo's 'Alone II'

There is a vault -- a figurative vault, at least, if not necessarily a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" kind of deal -- that contains literally hundreds of unreleased demos by Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. That vault was opened ever so slightly for fans with 2006's "Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo." The album had weak spots, of course, but many of the scrapped demos were on level with, or better than, many recent Weezer songs, and even the imperfections helped make the album a quirky examination of the ever-eccentric songwriter's creative process.

Its hastily released sequel, "Alone II," is pretty much what anyone would expect it to be: An album that's slightly less rewarding than its predecessor, but still keeps the same spirit and has a few gems here and there. Perhaps the biggest fault of "Alone II" is that it lacks the weird variety of the first compilation: There are no Ice Cube covers or barbershop quartets or completely embarrassing pre-Weezer throwaways to be heard here. Too many of the songs simply provide the power chord chug that Cuomo can turn out like an assembly line: "Cold and Damp," "I Want to Take You Home Tonight," and "The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World" aren't so much enjoyably clumsy demos as just half-baked.

Still, "Alone II" does have its moments. "The Purification of Water" and "My Brain is Working Overtime" manage to work solely because of Cuomo's supreme pop sensibilities, but a few other highlights are more unique. "I Was Scared" has Cuomo at his most sincere and geek-tastic since Pinkerton (and rapping, nonetheless); "My Day Is Coming" is a celebratory proclamation of optimism for all the awkward people out there; "I'll Think About You" is the kind of goofy puppy love confessional Cuomo doesn't seem to have in him anymore, and the delicate ballad "Walt Disney" makes me think of snowglobes for some reason, which is a good thing.

After last year's "The Red Album," a Weezer album that featured some of Cuomo's most joyous songwriting in a decade but wore out its fun a little too quickly, hearing vintage Cuomo -- funny, unabashedly candid, and not cringe inducing -- in the best of these demos is as revitalizing as it is pleasurable. Cuomo surely has more than a few treasures still waiting for their deserved light of day. But if he doesn't want to make the inevitable "Alone" three-quel as dispensable as the flimsiest moments on "Alone II," he better start digging a little deeper in that vault. KEY TRACKS: "I Was Scared," "I'll Think About You"

Jason Silverstein is a senior at Williamsville North High School.

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