By Chris Moore:
RATING: 3.5 / 5 stars
Simply put, Hurley is Weezer’s return to high energy rock music.
And it’s good.
Okay, so I’ll admit that it is difficult to take an album like Hurley seriously, given the ostensibly random title and accompanying cover photo that is apropos of nothing contained within. And yet, you should endeavor to get past the cover, the pathetic excuse for CD packaging, and the bad press the album has received from those who, on the heels of Raditude, understandably won’t give it a chance, including — perhaps most notably — one James Burns, a man currently engaged in a campaign to raise $10 million as incentive for Weezer to break up.
I would suggest that he give this album a chance, but it turns out he not only is not but also has never been a fan of the band.
This is such a pity, as Hurley is an album so true to classic Weezer that it makes more sense to compare it to The Green Album (2001) than any of the four subsequent releases. Aside from the echoes of Raditude on “Smart Girls,” the rock sensibility of Hurley extends past the experimental aura of The Red Album, doesn’t quite match the tone of Make Believe, and is certainly not cut out of the same carefully orchestrated hard rock fabric that defined Maladroit.
Musically, the track listing conjures those early albums: a total running time that barely cracks the half hour mark across ten songs with concise titles, all upbeat rock tracks with distorted guitars that play like a mix between garage rock and clean studio sounds.
As for the cover, I have never understood the criticism lobbed at The Red Album and Raditude. Because a man who looks like a doll reading a newspaper wasn’t weird. Neither, apparently, was several depressed looking cartoons wearing the traditional garb of the Orient wandering aimlessly around a snowy mountainside. And four guys standing in front of a bright blue screen looking like they’d forgotten it was picture day wasn’t odd; that was somehow classic.
Weezer has always been quirky, and that has always been a large part of their appeal. In a manner that should be palatable to the average rock fan, they have assembled Hurley as a return to that form, with a couple worthwhile variations thrown in for good measure.
The opening track and lead single “Memories” is honest, in-your-face rock music that begins with reminiscences that would have fit in comfortably on The Red Album, but quickly transitions to a catchy chorus and a middle stirred to perfection with a shredded vocal delivery by Rivers Cuomo.
He loosens the reigns vocally on several other occasions, not the least of which is that pinnacle of quirkiness “Where’s My Sex?,” the shtick here being that the word “sex” replaces the word “socks” throughout the song. The result is a rocking, if somewhat ridiculous, track.
“Unspoken” is an acoustic gem, but even this song can’t help but rock out in the latter half, just as “Time Flies” wants to be the pensive closer, yet is so steady in beat as to evade the classification as a “slow song.”
Although many of the strongest tracks are placed early on the record — “Trainwrecks” being one, if not the, standout song — even the potentially mediocre numbers, like “Smart Girls” and “Brave New World,” achieve cohesion and momentum. “Ruling Me,” “Run Away,” and “Hang On” are similarly impressive in their focus and balance between simplicity and interesting vocal and instrumental hooks.
This isn’t the new Weezer classic. It shouldn’t be interpreted as the new Green Album, nor should it be compared to the heights of their career, in 1994 and 2002. And yet, as much as Make Believe was underrated (and sadly oversimplified as “the one with ‘Beverly Hills’ on it”) and as much as The Red Album grew on me and quickly became a favorite of mine in 2008, Hurley is arguably the best rock album Weezer has produced in eight years.
If nothing else, it provides proof positive that this band has not gone off the deep end (band-led hootenannies and Rivers Cuomo’s train conductor’s uniform notwithstanding). Hurley can be read as a nod to fans of their rock mentality, and the message is clear: this is a band that can still rock…. when they want to.