Part of the problem with the albums Weezer has released since they reformed is how easy it is to dismiss them. They lack substance. I’m firmly of the belief that this is because four of those five albums (I’m not counting Hurley in any of this) weren’t really full records. Each contained a few really good songs surrounded by what can only be referred to as filler. Compare to that to the Blue Album, for example. There’s exactly one song on Weezer’s debut that I’m not fond of (“Holiday,” for those wondering) which means that 90% of the record is, to me, great. That’s a pretty high bar, I grant you, but Weezer hasn’t even come close to that.
(Yes, I said four of the five albums. I will go to my grave preaching the greatness of Maladroit, a rawk masterpiece that sold almost no copies, but was a complete record in the same way that the Blue Album and Pinkerton were.)
So how does Hurley stack up? Well, that’s a complicated answer.
As a whole, Hurley is a much better album than the majority of what Weezer has released in the last few years, just due to the simple fact that it contains a higher number of good songs. That said, it’s not at the level of the Blue Album, Pinkerton, or Maladroit because it’s not a work unto itself. It’s actually something of a mash-up.
I’m a long time R.E.M. fan. My brother introduced them to me when I was a kid and I was hooked. But in later years their music didn’t do it for me. Not unlike Weezer, their music started feeling less and less substantial. I think there might be a couple albums that I own that I only listed to once or twice.
But then they released New Adventures In Hi-Fi. I loved that album. What was really curious about it, though, was how each song seemed very different, and how each one seemed like a B-side from an early record. You could actually go through the entire record and say “that should be on Document, that should be Green,” and so on. The album was great, but it was completely scatterbrained.
Kind of like Hurley.
Before I get into specifics, I’d also like to mention that those waiting for a return to the old days of Weezer have more than just Rivers’ songwriting to fight, they have Weezer’s entire recording process. Blame it on the loss of Matt Sharp if you want, but Weezer doesn’t have the same sound that it had and probably never will. There’s less crunchy bass, less quirky vocals, and more production. Even this album, with it’s “raw” production is still miles apart from their debut. That is a ship that sailed away a long time ago and will never return.
Now, on to the tracks.
“Memories” — I have no idea what to do with this song. I like it well enough, but that chorus is pushing the limits of Weezer-style cheese. This feels like it would fit in nicely on the Green album or maybe Make Believe, two albums I believe could have been merged to make a single, stronger record. I have to wonder if the strings in the very beginning are a nod towards the fact that the bass line at the start of the song sounds like an Arcade Fire song.
“Ruling Me” — Another track that would have fit nicely on my imaginary Green Believe record, I actually of dig this track. Lyrically, it’s a got a bit of that old Rivers charm to it, like “my ocular nerve went pop zoom.” That’s a disturbingly sweet way to describe first meeting someone.
“Trainwrecks” — Probably lyrically as close to Pinkerton as we’ve gotten on this album, kind of picking up where “Good Life” left off. Musically, I think this one might actually fit on Red Raditude (yes, I believe those two albums should be combined into one, too).
“Unspoken” — And then it hit! Perhaps of all the tracks on Hurley, this feels the most like something that could have been written during Weezer’s early days. It could have been a B-side from the Blue Album that failed to make it on to Pinkerton. There’s a nice angstiness to Rivers’ voice here and the song itself has some nice changes. The big thunder that comes in towards the end puts me more in a mind of Pinkerton than the Blue Album, but that’s not a bad thing. The production is a great example of one of the positive effects of Weezer’s evolution.
“Where’s My Sex” — Almost, but not quite. As the story goes, Rivers’ kid calls “socks” “sex” and thus was born this song. There are moments when the swapping of words almost works in a crazy abstract way, but those are few and far between and mostly it just comes off as bad. The music is actually pretty catchy, but then it has this weird, out of left field middle section that’s completely jarring. Rivers also goes a little crazy with his high pitched, desperate singing voice in this one. I’d probably place it on Red Raditude, but I don’t know that it would make the cut.
“Run Away” — And so, Ryan Adams comes in to co-write one of the better tracks on this record. This one might upset my theory of each song sounding like a B-side from another album, but I’m okay with that. It’s a nice song, and I think perhaps “nice” is the best way to describe it.
“Hang On” — This might be my favorite song on the record at the moment. The inclusion of the mandolin is nice and it’s something I wish WeezerWeezer lyrics going on here. Really, this song and “Run Away” are a nice combo, and would be great as a build off point for Weezer’s future work.
“Smart Girls” — No. Just…just…no.
“Brave New World” — I’m always a fan of rocking riffs, and the intro for this song is a good one. It loses steam in the chorus, though, which sounds a lot like the “Age of Aquarius.” I’d place it on Red Raditude, although it might have fit on Maladroit, if the guitar sound was more epic.
“Time Flies” — I appreciate the effort, Weezer. That’s not to say I think this is a bad song. It’s actually kind of catchy. But I loathe the production. Why does it sound like everything was maxed out? This actually might have been a better track had it just been Rivers and co-writer Mac Davis and a couple of guitars, recorded simply.
“All My Friends Are Insects” — I love this song. I love everything about this song. I don’t watch “Yo Gaba Gaba!” so I don’t know if it’s actually been on the show (it was written by Adam Deibert, who also writes music for that show), but I love this version. I love the crazy changes, I love the crazy guitar solo, and I love the crazy lyrics. Did I mention that I love this song?
“Viva La Vida” — While I appreciate the humor and novelty in Weezer covering a Coldplay song, this really isn’t much of a cover. There’s nothing about it that makes it a Weezer song. That’s the beauty of a good cover: it should still be recognizable, but it should have the covering band’s stamp on it. This does not.
“I Want To Be Something” — I wish this track were on the standard addition and I’m confused as to why it isn’t. Honestly, though, all of Weezer’s recent releases have featured bonus tracks that are better than the standard ones. This one definitely puts me in a mind of Pinkerton, and not just because Pinkerton actually had an acoustic song on it. Even the lyrics make me think of Pinkerton.
“Represent (Rocked Out Mix)” — I didn’t realize there was a different mix of this song. Anyway, I liked the World Cup. I enjoy those few weeks. This song is what it is. Really, this is the perfect bonus track, as it’s not remotely essential.
So where does Hurley stand when it’s all said and done? I’m not entirely sure yet. A good album, I think, with glimpses of potential for a more focused sound from Weezer.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go put together my Green Believe and Red Raditude playlists.