Rivers Cuomo’s home demo cover of “The Bomb” ain’t much to revisit, but it sure is interesting for a single listen. First of all, this is a pre-Blue era cover of an Ice Cube song, of all things — the closing track from his 1990 West Coast rap magnum opus AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.
That alone tells us a lot: we know Cuomo’s influences of the time heavily leaned in the direction of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, his ’80s metal heroes, a bit of classical and the then-contemporary grunge explosion (which, as this was recorded Fall 1992, was in full effect). In the Alone liner notes Cuomo recalls how he and his original bassist Matt Sharp tried to avoid traces of any “funky” influence in Weezer, being of the opinion that white bands should avoid trying to sound like black musicians at all costs — but the fact that he was interested enough in early gangsta rap to record a cover of this song is significant, not only suggesting that in those days Cuomo had a wider palette than was readily apparent, but also foreshadowing the future integration of hip-hop influences in Weezer’s music. (If this blog had footnote capabilities I would use one here to mention two faults in Sharp and Cuomo’s logic: the first being the fact that rock’n’roll itself, although a predominantly white genre for the past few decades at that point, was originally one of black invention; and the second being that very palpable traces of soul and even the usptroked guitars of reggae dominate the verse of “Say It Ain’t So,” one of the best songs Cuomo has ever written. Oh, footnotes; if only…)
Ahem. As for the cover itself, it takes some pretty interesting liberties with the source material. Cuomo chops down the 3:25 runtime of the original to a paltry 1:18, and distills the Bomb Squad production team’s heavily layered collage of samples into a spare mess of sloppy drumming, a rumbling one-note bassline, some squiggly synths and a severely cracked-out funk guitar solo. And of course, there’s Cuomo’s rap delivery, which boldly attempts to flow at a pace considerably faster than that of Ice Cube himself. The end result sounds a bit like an early Beastie Boys demo, with some punk rock DIY aesthetic and Cobainesque screams tossed in for the hell of it. A kind of audio purgatory, if you pause to evaluate it, but a compelling curiosity nevertheless.
In short, “The Bomb” is the kind of personal Cuomo ephemera that represents the lighter side of the Alone series — and while it’s not something likely to garner repeat rotations, it’s definitely an artifact worth preserving.