Weezer's 'Hurley' writes another chapter in bizarre third phase of band's career

Weezer has released three self-titled albums, each signaling a key phase in the band’s career.

The first, 1994’s so-called “Blue Album,” introduced the group as a geeky Los Angeles power-pop quartet with a socially awkward former-metalhead lead singer. “The Green Album” followed in 2001, when said front man, Rivers Cuomo, decided to remake Weezer as a bubblegum pop group, jettisoning the kinds of personal lyrics that, during the band’s five-year hiatus, had made him an emo demigod.

“The Red Album,” released in 2008, is where things really got weird. Cuomo grew a mustache, put on a cowboy hat and let his band mates write some songs. In concert, the musicians started swapping instruments, and the following year, on “Raditude,” Cuomo brought in outside songwriters, among them hip-hop hitmaker Jermaine Dupri.

“Hurley,” the band’s eighth album (and first for indie label Epitaph), continues Cuomo’s descent into the bizarre. (The album is streaming on Weezer’s MySpace page.) Depending on who you ask, the album is named either for the “Lost” character pictured on the cover or a popular skater-wear company, which recently launched a line of Weezer-inspired clothes. Cuomo has again teamed with mainstream songwriters, and of the 10 tracks, he composed only two by himself.

Cuomo has always been an admirer of pop music, and in that sense, a song like “Ruling Me,” his collaboration with Desmond Child, an industry lifer who’s worked with Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, and Ricky Martin, isn’t all that surprising. It’s not all that bad, either. The same is true of “Run Away” and “Hang On. As forgettable as these tunes are, they aren’t about to ruin Weezer’s legacy.

“Where’s My Sex?” written with Greg Wells, is the best of Cuomo’s Top 40 team-ups. Musically, it’s in keeping with Weezer’s latter-day super-slick, hyper-melodic pop-punk sound, but the lyrics find Cuomo riffing on sexual frustration, a theme he hasn’t explored since Weezer’s best album, 1996’s “Pinkerton.”

If Cuomo fares surprisingly well with the song doctors, his own songs are the disc’s most substantial. On “Memories,” the first and possibly best track, he reminisces about Weezer’s early years, singing, “I want to be there again.”

It’s a strange line, given Weezer’s recent trajectory, but in his own way, Cuomo may actually have actually succeeded in bringing the band full circle. He’ll probably never again sing with the kind of emotion that made “The Blue Album” and “Pinkerton” so great, but his devotion to being an outsider, to not fitting and leaving fans guessing what’s sincere and what’s artifice, where the joke begins
and ends, remains as strong as ever.

— Kenneth Partridge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *