While I prepared to review Weezer’s latest release, Hurley, the same things that were on the collective minds of Weezer fans everywhere were also on mine – “Please be better than Raditude.” Fortunately for us, Hurley is a massive improvement upon the bands’ 2009 effort. Unfortunately, “better than Raditude” is barely a complement. Weezer is showing signs of improvement, but Hurley is on a whole lyrically weak. After the “my ocular nerve went pop-zoom” line in “Ruling Me,” it became apparent that their latest release wasn’t going to have any depth lyrically. Hurley is essentially frontman Rivers Cuomo bitching about his marriage, and it doesn’t work – a shame, because Cuomo’s bitching usually equates to decent lyricism. “Where’s My Sex?” is one of a few attempts at wit on Cuomo’s part. A reference to his daughter’s mispronunciation of “socks,” the song only manages to inspire cringing in the awkwardness of it all. The Weez takes another crack at it with “Smart Girls,” and although it might elicit a smirk or two out of listeners, it isn’t any less trite than the rest of Hurley.
Musically, Hurley will be somewhat comforting to longtime fans. It may be a far-cry from the raw, hard-rocking juggernaut the band claimed it would be, but there are remnants of classic Weezer to be found in the riff-age. “Memories” is very high energy and infectious, particularly in the chorus, and serves as a promising intro to the album, perhaps because it doesn’t completely suck lyrically. With its bouncy, Green Album-esque intro, “Ruling Me” maintains great energy until the painfully stale chorus, at which point it loses a lot of its appeal. “Trainwrecks” is one of the better songs on the album, with a powerful verse and “chorus.” I refer to it as a “chorus” because it doesn’t have a clear cut chorus, or a typical song structure for that matter. Uplifting and dynamic, “Trainwrecks” maintains its drive with Cuomo’s lower-range “Okay guys, I’m being serious now” voice. The real highlight of Hurley is “Unspoken” – a vigorous, compelling track with a fresh progression, and an outro that’s nothing short of epic. “Unspoken” gives me hope that Weezer could put out a good album, but for some reason, repeatedly chooses not to.
Our favorite So-Cal nerd-rockers do deserve some credit for attempting to put out a stimulating package with Hurley. The music in “Run Away” sounds like something Rivers might have written during the hiatus between The Blue Album and Pinkerton (like “Walt Disney” or “Lover in the Snow”). Another gem, “Hang On” has on one hand a pre-chorus that sounds eerily like Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” but on the other hand, an extremely catchy hook. It also features Michael Cera on backing vocals, wheel fiddle, and mandolin. It’s cool, but makes me wonder under what circumstances Weezer met Michael Cera… and how the hell Cera came to be proficient at an instrument known to some as a “hurdy gurdy.” Although not melodically attention-grabbing, “Smart Girls” does have one of the best solo sections of any Weezer song since Make Believe. “Brave New World” is ear-catching, especially in the verse, and its melody is atypical of Weezer, but it falls just short of greatness. Still, kudos to Rivers and the gang for trying to do something new. Just when I was ready to walk away thinking that Hurley was a wash, “Time Flies” closes the album, sounding like another poor-taste, half-assed, effort at trying to sound like the Beatles (don’t speak of “Love is the Answer” in my presence). I really hate it.
Unlike many releases, the deluxe edition of Hurley does have some degree of exciting content. In a delightful show of irony, “All My Friends Are Insects,” is one of the best songs Hurley has to offer both musically and lyrically – proving that Yo Gabba Gabba just makes everything better. Regrettably, it was written by Adam Deibert, a former member of The Aquabats and current composer for the children’s show, so Weezer doesn’t deserve much credit for it beyond their ability to perform and record it. Well covered and cute, “Viva La Vida” sounds great for a live track. The only problem is that THEY ADD NOTHING TO THE SONG! It’s literally a “verbatim” recording. They could have easily thrown in some distorted guitars and made something new of the song (anyone remember all those Christmas albums Weezer put out in the late 90’s and early 2000’s?). If I wanted to listen to a Coldplay song note-for-note, I’d listen to Coldplay. “I Want to Be Something” sounds genuine, which is unusual for Rivers these days. In the end though, it just sounds like another jab at writing another “Butterfly.” A new take on the US Soccer Team’s unofficial anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, “Represent (Rocked Out Mixed)” is (again) lyrically poor, and the verses are “iffy,” but the chorus is tasteful and tremendously catchy, utilizing airy synth lines accented by a horn section. Props to Weezer for making a shitty song significantly less shitty.
Hurley is by no means a good album. Its significance lies with its promise – maybe Weezer can, after a decade, put out another great album. If it took every ounce of my self-control to not write “It made me want to Hurley.” in this review, it was only because my friends and I have awful senses of humor. Weezer is writing louder, harder-hitting songs, and doing some of the right things (subtle Pinkerton-esque harmonies, for example) to achieve their former degree of success, and they deserve recognition for that, if nothing else. Until that day, if it ever comes, where they put out another Blue Album or Pinkerton, Weezer will always do the thing they’re best at, one way or another – being uncool.