No one can doubt the quality of Weezer’s 90’s output, but good luck finding a solid consensus on the band’s work from the Green album on. Green wasn’t bad, and in the grand scheme of things, people overlook Maladroit, but Make Believe, The Red Album, and Raditude have a large number of detractors. None of these were truly terrible, but there were more bad ideas than good ones. Switching up the singing/instrument duties, stylistic dabs, collaborating with Lil Wayne…
But with Weezer signed to indie superlabel “Epitapth”, thankfully, the good ideas on Hurley definitely outweigh the bad ones. First of all, it rocks. The pop sheen present in recent Weezer records has been done away with, and instead of the album sounding underproduced (a common pitfall of “Let’s be indie” records) it’s produced really well. Guitarists Rivers Cuomo and Brian Bell are firing off like they haven’t in years, and Scott Shriner solidifies his position as Weezer’s most technically skilled bassist. But while Rivers is getting due credit for his accomplishments on Hurley (I’ll get to those later), this is Patrick Wilson’s comeback record. After uninspired work on Weezer’s past few albums, Wilson kicks ass here and reminds us why Pinkerton was one of the great drum albums of the 90s.
And there it is, the dreaded P-word that’s inevitabily found its way into every Weezer review since 1996. In an editorial awhile back, I said we shouldn’t expect Cuomo to make a Pinkerton MK II, but I think that Hurley might be the closest we’ll get. Sonically, it’s a pretty easy comparison. Hell, even lyrically there’s room to compare; “Ruling Me” is vintage Weezer it’s finest, and “Unspoken” bites in a way Rivers hasn’t since “Found my dog/and you’re a bitch”. And Rivers hasn’t sounded this spirited since that infamous album; check the bridge of “Memories” where he outright yells “‘cuz I’m FREAKING BORED” before everything goes quiet.
The big difference between Hurley and, say, Raditude is the energy and effort that the band put into these songs. This energy at least partially saves songs like “Where’s My Sex?” and “Smart Girls”. The former is about Rivers’ daughter mispronouncing “socks” and contains some of the dumbest lyrics Cuomo’s ever put down, but at least the music’s pretty rocking. Pat Wilson’s manic druming saves the otherwise predictable “Smart Girls” from being another Weezer-by-numbers track.
Which makes it a surprising rarity on this album. Despite this album being “sloppy”, the band tailor fits each song to at least keep things from bleeding together. The low-fi piano intro and “Ooh-ooh” backing vocals pad out an already good song and make it a great one on “Run Away”. “Hang On”, meanwhile, is probably my favorite song here. A song with a chorus as huge as this and the “Hang on! Hang on! Hang on!” vocals, this song needs be a live staple. The additional instruments, a hurdy gurdy and a mandolin played by Michael Cera who also did backing vocals (No, I am not making this up), put the finishing touches on this awesome song.
But this isn’t a five star album. “Trainwrecks” and “Brave New World” fall on the bad side of “sloppy”, and despite the energy, “Where’s My Sex?” and “Smart Girls” don’t hold up. While I like “Time Flies”, its low-fi country feel is too left field to feel like an appropriate choice as the album closer. Then again, Weezer has never been about making the appropriate choice.
If given the choice, go for the deluxe version. The under-two-minute cut “All My Friends Are Insects” is cute enough, and “I Want to Be Something” wouldn’t be out of place on one of Rivers’ “Alone” albums. A great cover of “Viva La Vida” is sandwiched between those two, and then things cap out with “Represent”, which was the unofficial song for the US team at the World Cup this year. These gems are enough to confirm Hurley‘s 4/5 stars.
tl;dr: Hurley has more highs and lows, and even the lows aren’t as low as they have been before. Definitely a step in the right direction. 4 stars.