Friday, January 6, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Rivers Cuomo & Weezer - Songs From The Black Hole

It has been said that Songs From the Black Hole is Weezer's SMiLE, but the situation is much different. It is nowhere near as completed as SMiLE, and the band never formally attempted to record it. What we have is an incomplete set of demos and studio recordings from different sources  which can now be assembled in a manner to complete the (incomplete) tracklists that Rivers Cuomo intended. Yet still, it's something I've been obsessing over for nearly a decade. I've waited a very long time for the chance to actually hear this thing, and I've spent more time thinking about it than I actually care to reveal. 

For those of you that don't know, SFTBH is a concept album that Rivers Cuomo began writing in early 1995 as the intended follow-up to their 1994 debut album. It was to tell the story of a spaceship and the crew inhabiting it. Each member of Weezer was intended to play a different role, and guests would be brought in to round out the rest of the cast. The album would be an interconnecting suite similar to that of side 2 of the Beatles' classic Abbey Road. It proved to be too ambitious of a project and it was eventually scrapped in favor of their critically lauded sophomore effort Pinkerton. It can be said that the project actually morphed into Pinkerton, since the first 4 tracks on it are known to have been originally intended for SFTBH. I don't agree with that sentiment personally because along with the change in theme also came a change in sound; Weezer's sophomore album was originally going to be more synth based and cleaner than the balls-out destruction that is Pinkerton.

It wasn't until around a decade ago that Weezer fans even knew about this "lost album", and since then it's been nothing but endless speculation and discussion on what the project would have morphed into. Original demos of songs from the project have leaked and been released intermittently since early 2002. Other songs  were completed and released as B-Sides to Pinkerton. It wasn't until December 2011 that completed playlists of the album could be made, with the release of Rivers' Alone III: The Pinkerton Years containing the last few demos required. In fact, fan demand for SFTBH is what inspired the Alone series to begin with.

But what about the music? Is it everything I hoped it would be? Is it the most incredible thing I've ever heard in my life? Did it live up to the insane amount of hype that I and countless other Weezer fans placed upon it?

Somewhat, but even the most creative fans can't make it sound anywhere close to a completed project. You can take the songs intended for SFTBH and compile them in a way for the story to make some sense, but it's simply impossible to know what Rivers' original vision would have turned into. The fact remains that the album was scrapped too early in its development to ever be considered a "lost classic". There are moments of greatness on it for sure, but it was such an ambitious concept that it would have been difficult to pull off.  I think that ultimately is why Rivers pulled the plug in favor of a looser concept album with Pinkerton. He was likely scared off by his own ambition and didn't want to turn into Brian Wilson.

It's always been a dream of mine that one day the band decides to rise the project up from the ashes and actually complete it, because there's a lot to love about it.  Pinkerton B-Side "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" is a perfect example of that. It's long been one of my 5 favorite Weezer songs ever which is amazing for a song that doesn't even contain Rivers Cuomo on lead vocals. It's got a delicious synth sound that is reminiscent of Return of the Rentals, and the most adorable vocals from Rachel Haden. It's easy to dream about what the project would have sounded like, because right there is Laurel singing about Jonas in completed form. I'm not saying that I would trade Pinkerton for Songs From The Black Hole, but man... I really want both. One can't help but salivate about an ambitious concept based album made in an era where Rivers Cuomo could do no wrong, and I have all the confidence in the world it would have been one of the best albums ever made were it actually completed.

(and no, this score really isn't about the music.)


  1. I've been waiting for this album since I was in high school...

  2. I'm only 23, so it was more like Middle school for me.