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[Epitaph; 2010]

By ; September 13, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

The yearly act of self flagellation that is getting hyped for a new Weezer album just to be massively let down is something fans have been enduring this past decade. Sure The Red Album wasn’t that bad. And yeah, even Make Believe had a couple of gems. But for the most part, Weezer has fallen off substantially from the band they used to be. Without a clear direction for the band, we’ve seen Rivers try to make himself a staple in popular music (“Beverly Hills”). We’ve seen him try to get “back to his roots” by writing a spontaneous, experimental album (The Red Album). We’ve even seen him collaborate with Lil Wayne on a song about partying in the clubs. Regardless of the direction they’ve tried, it always felt like a half-finished project, uninspired and formulaic. And every time leading up to the release, fans would stick together and say that this would finally be the album that would be great, that would remind them why they fell so deeply in love with the band in the first place.

So when the pre-release hype for Hurley came around, we had what to go off of? The band was supposedly returning to their Indie roots. The band was now on an Indie label (Epitaph). The album was named after a character on Lost, and would feature his picture as the album art. Oh, and the band was bringing the raw energy of their new live shows to the studio. On paper this actually sounded like the album to finally deliver. But three albums in of being disappointed, there is only so much even a diehard fan can take. Most casual fans have already written off the band as being “over”. Hell people have been saying that since every release after Blue Album. But specifically in this last decade, Weezer has dug themselves into a deep hole. And so it as such that even with the positive hype leading up to Hurley, most are probably skeptical that Weezer could finally deliver. Some might not even care anymore. Which is a shame, because Hurley is actually quite good.

Of course, it isn’t a masterpiece. It’s not Pinkerton, and it’s not Blue Album. They will never make an album of that caliber again. That was fifteen years ago, and was a reflection of what was going on in their lives then. Perhaps this is why Hurley works so well, because instead of trying emulate their old sound, it’s much more reflective and reminiscent. It’s almost scary how close they come to sounding like their first two albums on this record. As you listen, you will hear brief moments that bring back nostalgia of angst and earnest hooks that made the band popular in the first place. And it is in this, that makes the album so enjoyable. It feels natural. Was anyone buying Rivers lyrics when he sang about partying in the clubs with Patron with tons of hot women? This is perhaps the bands biggest flaw in recent years – the perception that Rivers wasn’t being sincere or serious, and was almost taking the piss out of what he was writing about. Hurley sees himself putting the persona aside, and returning to just writing music that is actually believable and relatable. Music that feels sincere.

The highlight of the album, “Unspoken,” sounds like it could have been on Pinkerton. It’s a stripped-down song that has Rivers singing about a damaged relationship: “And if you take this away from me, I’ll never forgive you, can’t you see. Our life will be broken, our hate will be unspoken.” Fans have been yearning for this kind of writing from Rivers since Pinkerton era. And even despite the fact that he is now 40 years old, it works surprisingly well. Not only does the song sound naked, it comes across as real emotion. It’s great to see that Rivers has finally gotten over the awful reception Pinkerton got at the time, because leaving himself emotionally exposed is clearly one of the best things the band had going for it before he decided to withdraw. Even the upbeat pop songs on here trade in the layered vocals, and formulaic production of recent Weezer efforts for an energetic, angst-filled sound, something we haven’t really heard since Maladroit. “Ruling Me” has Rivers belting out lyrics about yearning for someone, but not having the feeling be mutual.”So fascinated, I’m anticipating the touch, that may never come”. That line in particular sounds like something off their debut, it’s a perfect melody.

Not straying too far from a singular theme, Hurley is very melancholy thematically. Even the anthemic “Trainwrecks,” which calls on those that can’t seem to get it right to be proud and press on (think “Slob”) treads in a bleak observation. Rivers also trades in his usual tongue-in-cheek humor for a more serious style this time around, although it’s not completely absent: “Where’s My Sex?” has him giving us a history lesson on cavemen first discovering socks. Yes, the song is actually about Socks and not Sex. Rivers said that his kid kept saying “Where is my sex?” instead of “socks” by accident. Finding it hilarious, he wrote an entire song about it. Replace “sex” with “socks”, and suddenly the song makes more sense. While on paper this might make you groan, the lyrics are surprisingly endearing. But, even if you can’t find the humor in the lyrics, the song boasts a badass guitar riff similar to “Hash Pipe.” While the album has old-school Weezer written all over it, the band also tries to experiment with some new sounds. “Hang On” has a guest spot from actor Michael Cera, who plays mandolin, hurdy gurdy, and does backup vocals. The song is actually one of the most unusual the band has ever done. The chorus is textbook Weezer, but it has some interesting textures to the music. The final track on the album, “Time Flies,” sounds like it was recorded in a closet on a tape recorder. It’s actually reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s folksier ventures, and is a perfect way to close out an album that is all about being spontaneous, reflecting on your past, and moving on.

This album is not perfect. If there is a major flaw, it’s that it doesn’t sound truly complete. This has been a problem that has plagued Weezer for its last two releases. While this album is enjoyable front to back, it seems like this direction could have been taken further. On the other hand, perhaps the spontaneity of the recording helped them shrug off their tendency to overdo things. Although, one can’t help but ask “what if” they had spent more time working on their albums instead of pumping one out every year. Perhaps they need to slow things down, and really make sure the albums they are putting out are in fact the final product they want us to hear. The on-the-fly production might leave more to be desired for some, although I would argue it’s much preferable to the glossy/clean style of their last three albums. Not everyone will be impressed enough by this musically. For some, it might be too little too late for this album to change their opinions of Weezer’s decline. And, of course because it doesn’t reach the heights of their greatest material, it might seem like a failure. This unfortunately is something that has chased the band their entire career. Hurley is a triumph for the band in that it is finally a return to form. As a standalone record, this is arguably their most enjoyable album since Maladroit. Most importantly, it seems that Rivers has realized that fans just want honest music.


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