The boys of Weezer, headed up by smart-alecky and ubiquitous Rivers Cuomo, have had their hits and misses throughout their nearly twenty year career. They’ve hit the “Hash Pipe,” penned a cheesy ode to “Beverly Hills,” and an excellently pained post-breakup album, Pinkerton.
The resounding attitude towards the Weezer of the aughts is that they haven’t had a good album since Pinkerton, which is strange in itself, since critics and fans alike reviled that album when it was released in 1996. True, the latest incarnation of Weezer has had its share of weirdness: pairing up with Lil Wayne on 2009’s Raditude, the fact that this disc’s cover boasts Hurley from Lost, and the aforementioned “Beverly Hills,” which was just terrible, no matter what Rivers says. But amidst all that showboating, the band has moved to an indie label, Epitaph, and released one of their more consistent albums in a long time. Even though the album cover itself is all sorts of ridiculous, the material contained within is a return to a gentler (but still rocking), more accessible version of the California boys.
Opener “Memories” is a capsule of what Weezer can do best: churning guitars, Cuomo’s charmingly off-kilter lyrics, and choruses that subtly pull on the heartstrings. When he sings of “Playing hacky sack back when Audioslave were still Rage” among a backdrop of relentless drums and power chords, it’s just good rock; but it’s the chorus (“Memories make me want to go back there / all the memories, how can we make it back there?”) that is explosive in its universality, touching without being too cloying.
Say what you will about Weezer’s lapses in taste, but they can pull out some catchy songs when it comes down to it. “Ruling Me” is a delightfully nerdy tale of crushing and connection (“When we first met in the lunch room / My ocular nerve went *POP* *ZOOM*!”), full of seamless harmonies and rich guitar hooks, while “Where’s My Sex?” – inspired by Cuomo’s daughter accidentally saying “sex” instead of “socks” – is hilarious, with Cuomo lamenting that he’s got no sex on his feet and the band chipping in with earnest harmonies and thudding slabs of instrumentation.
There may be no “Buddy Holly” or “Say It Ain’t So” on this disc, enduring pop-rock gems that typified the absolute awesomeness of their 1994 self-titled debut, but it isn’t exactly fair to keep taking Cuomo and Co. to task for peaks they hit a decade ago, especially when the material here has its own independent charms.
Sure, there are some dips into cliché. “Time Flies” is downbeat and predictable, and “Brave New World” is kind of a throwaway as well. Meanwhile, I’m on the fence about “Smart Girls” – I’m sure Rivers really does love him some smart girls, but it’s a bit too cringe-inducing to stand up to repeated listens. But overall, Hurley is a small-scale success for Weezer, and not necessarily because of low standards. These songs may not end up being classics, but they’re enjoyable and well-crafted with some stray moments of brilliance, which is pretty great for a band that apparently has just been churning out schlock since 1996.
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