I’m not sure how this song originally leaked, but by the time of its official release on Rivers Cuomo’s Alone demo compilation of 2007, “Lover In The Snow” was a familiar recording to Weezer die-hards. It’s a rare artifact from the Dark Ages of Weezer, the 1997-1999 period during which Cuomo quietly remodeled his craft after the fallout of Pinkerton; in fact, by my count this is one of just 10 stellar songs we have from the unbelievably inspired year of 1997 (we have just one from 1998, Alone‘s “Crazy One,” and then three from 1999: “New Joint,” “My Brain,” the “Island in the Sun” demo, plus “Always,” which was written in ’99, then recorded and released as a Green b-side in 2001). Weezer fans have long salivated at the prospect of the floodgates opening on this prolific and mysterious era.
Unexpectedly enough, this song is in fact a product of Cuomo’s post-Pinkerton anti-emotionalism. As Cuomo notes in the Alone booklet:
After [Pinkerton] came out, I started looking for a new, more minimalistic, less personal style. One of the first things I tried was fantasy-based songs — imagining a Romantic, flowery, tragic and/or mystical setting and then describing it with words and music.
It’s a little hard to believe, because “Lower In The Snow” seethes with angst and disappointment. Even Cuomo was surprised: “I was amazed that this song seemed to be just as powerful and emotional as my personal songs, even though it was all fantasy, an imagined experience that never happened.”
Most would be cautious to equate any of Weezer’s post-Pinkerton work with that fantastic album, but “Lover In The Snow” proves that Cuomo was still on fire a year later. The “Romantic minimalism” of the song is characterized by references to “the shady glen” and chivalrous kisses to the hand. The lyrics are complemented by the fittingly spare arrangement — little more than a thick, dirty electric guitar, a tambourine ‘n’ handclaps rhythm track, and Cuomo’s voice (lead and backups). In its design, both lyrical and musical, it is a one-of-a-kind entry in the Weezer canon, and one that is as successful as any of Cuomo’s previous work. As I posited in my own review of Alone, it’s Cuomo beating Spoon at their own game (and predicting their signature sound well before they found it themselves).
I love the image of “the lover in the snow” — such a simple turn of phrase that takes the familiar tale of being cheated on and makes it into something unique. “Lying with you / Down in the snow / Letting him do / All of the things that he wants to” — great lyrics (need I point out the double entendre in “lying?”) applied to a plainly beautiful melody. To quote Evan Sawdy’s review of Alone for PopMatters:
[It] works simply because [it] rides on the single most accessible melody that Cuomo has ever penned. Being so sparse and simple, it’s doubtful that it would ever have gotten play on mainstream rock radio, but as it stands, it absolutely cries out for consideration on the inevitable Best of Weezer compilation.
Funnily enough, this is an example of Cuomo detaching his emotions from his music — and yet it’s a polar opposite from his later attempts to do the same, like, say “Crab.” I suppose Cuomo figured that even a song like “Lover In The Snow” remained too quirky and different to be a hit single, and continued to hone himself out of his art for the next three years towards The Green Album.