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Friday, September 17, 2010

Weezer: Hurley

By Nick Carrabine

“Time Flies
When you’re having fun
Time Flies
When you live on the run
The harder I go
The more I realize
Time Flies”

In the world of Weezer, time must really be flying.

A band that contemplated breaking up after Make Believe in 2005, just released Hurley on Tuesday, which marks their third album release in the past 26 months.

Those who know me, and who follow on this blog, know that Weezer is one of my all-time favorite bands who for the past couple years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with.

In 2008, they released The Red Album, which was OK and harmless and marked the first album where lead singer Rivers Cuomo finally let other band members in on the songwriting, even going as far as letting the other members sing lead on a few songs. It was an experimental album and now that I look back on it, isn’t as bad as I initially thought.

Just nine months ago, they released Raditude, which sounded just as bad as the album’s title. It was clear that Cuomo stopped taking things seriously and was just out to have fun.

Just months later, when the band announced they were already recording a follow-up album, I was scared. Very scared.

I had no idea what to expect with Hurley. More nonsense? More songs featuring Lil Wayne? More songs about “letting it all hang out?”

Cuomo, who has surely heard fans' displeasure with the band’s musical direction over the past half-decade, promised Hurley would be more of a return toward “pure raw rock” music that the band simply mastered on their first two classic albums, The Blue Album and Pinkerton. I took it with a grain of salt realizing 40-year-old Cuomo isn’t 24-year-old Cuomo anymore.

Upon the first few listens of Hurley, I have been pleasantly surprised.

The first single “Memories,” which isn’t that great, but catchy as anything the band has ever written, is an ode to the old days when Weezer first started or as Cuomo puts is, “back when Audioslave was still Rage (Against the Machine).” Instrumentally, it’s just as good as anything from their work in the 90s, although the lyrics are a bit odd, but at this point of Cuomo’s career, that’s expected.

The album really picks up with the second, third and fourth tracks, “Ruling Me,” “Trainwreck” and “Unspoken,” respectively. Not only is “Unspoken” the best song off Hurley, it’s quite possibly the best song the band has released in 14 years, and I mean that.

It’s raw, emotional and under produced and almost sounds like a demo tape. In other words, “pure raw rock” that Cuomo promised.

The fifth track, “Where’s My Sex?” probably belongs on Raditiude and is a ridiculous ode to his daughter calling socks sex. Despite how utterly stupid the song is, it’s still beyond catchy.

The sixth track “Runaway” is close to “Unspoken,” not nearly as good, but still more of a raw rock feel that sounds like an early return to the band’s career.

“Hang On” sounds like something straight off Make Believe and “Smart Girls” showcases Cuomo’s softest vocals on the album. The album’s final track “Time Flies” sounds like a Beatles influenced song with a country twist.

If nothing else, Hurley is the first album in a long, long time where the band actually gives a damn.

Is it close to The Blue Album or Pinkerton? No, not even close. Is it close to The Red Album or Raditude? No, not even close.

For more than a decade, I’ve been trying to figure out if Cuomo is either a song-writing genius or a complete goofball who jots down simple lyrics to a incomplex melody without putting much thought or creative spunk into a song. (For those wondering, Cuomo is a Harvard graduate.)

After all, this is the guy whose penned songs about sweaters, living in Beverly Hills, hanging out in the mall, and if the mall weren't good enough, hanging out in the garage.

But even at their worst, the one thing Weezer is able to do — perhaps better than any other band in the past 16 years — is able to make any song - no matter how simple or asinine - into one of the poppiest and catchiest songs that will stay stuck in your head for a long, long time.

And as Cuomo states in the final verse of the final song off Hurley, maybe that’s the only thing they’re concerned with anyway. After all, it doesn't matter what the songs are long as people remember them.

“Some sad day
They’ll be taking me away
But I won’t be dead
Because even when I’m gone
This stupid damn song
Will be in your head
I’ll be looking down with a twinkle in my eyes”


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