Weezer has had a tough time adjusting to the post-’90s rock culture. After the hugely successful “Blue Album” and “Pinkerton,” the group released a slew of albums that drew very little positive attention. Lead songwriter Rivers Cuomo and company recently signed with a new record label, Epitaph, which is known for attracting Warped Tour-esque bands. The partnership is logical, and with “Hurley” (comically named after a character from the television show Lost), Weezer returns to once again make an impact on the modern power-punk scene.
The first track on “Hurley” launches into a pop-punk anthem appropriately entitled “Memories,” in which Cuomo reflects on the old days of Weezer. The song rides on a driving punk riff and a slightly distorted vocal harmony that you’ll probably catch yourself humming later. “Ruling Me” sounds very much like a Weezer song that you would find on one of their beloved earlier albums, until the chorus kicks in with a painfully generic cascade of background vocals that demolish any chance of originality. As the album progresses and hope begins to wane, the song “Trainwrecks” provides some insight into how Cuomo actually views himself and his music. He sings “someday we’ll cut our critics down to size/crash a Diddy party in disguise/we fall but then we rise/we are trainwrecks,” which promotes the notion that they really don’t care about how people view them, and they aren’t going to give into the expectations of others. They write goofy pop-punk songs and it’s clear that they’re having fun with it.
The production of the album presents a stark contrast from their raw-sounding albums like the “Blue Album.” This is not an entirely bad thing; Weezer has never been striving for credibility from the indie rock crowd. “Unspoken” starts off with an acoustic guitar, wind instruments and a string section, but unexpectedly dives into a heavy punk riff. In songs like this, the sleeker production sound works out well. At other times, the synthesizers and cliché harmonies push the songs a little too far into radio-friendly territory to remain original. This is a band that has sold over nine million albums, so credit should be given to clever songwriting. However, “Where’s My Sex” and “Smart Girls” are the pinnacle of Cuomo’s smart-aleck lyrics, which are borderline funny but for the most part just leave you shaking your head.
It is undoubtedly challenging for a band that has created some classic albums to evolve in a manner that pleases everyone. Some would have really preferred to see Weezer mature into something more “serious,” but the fact that they are still pumping out albums unabashedly shows some genuine ambition. Weezer is writing fun but not necessarily artistic songs. It’s also clear that Weezer is creating the music that they want to make, and there is obviously a fan base for it. Perhaps Cuomo says it best in the album closer, “Time Flies,” when he warns us that “even when I’m gone this stupid dance song will be in your head/and I’ll be looking down with a twinkle in my eye.”