Weezer’s slow transformation from geeky alternative heroes to mainstream rock bottom feeders has been pretty well-documented elsewhere, so I won’t bother with any over-thought meta-analysis here. This band used to be pretty good, and now they’re not so good. That’s that. The announcement of Hurley, the band’s eighth album, offered a glimmer of hope in that it would be the group’s first-ever release outside the major-label confines of Geffen. Although the mall-punk-hued Epitaph is hardly a breeding ground for artistic virtuosity, it was still worth asking: what if Weezer’s increasingly generic output over the past 10 years was a result of Rivers Cuomo’s inability to handle mounting corporate pressure?
Turns out, that wasn’t it. Hurley is, for the most part, chock full of the same mechanical dreck that has peppered Weezer’s last handful of releases, from Maladroit to Raditude. (I’m being generous in leaving out the maligned self-titled Green Album; its generic pop-punk was more forgettable than unpleasant.) Cuomo has insinuated that Hurley is a return to form; that its canned nostalgia and “raw, emotional” lyrical bent are meant to be reminiscent of 1997’s Pinkerton. This is all bullshit. Sure, lead single “Memories” is the catchiest thing the band has penned in some time, but its awkward cultural references (“Playin’ Hacky Sack back when Audioslave was still Rage”) hardly qualify as anything resembling emotion.
“Ruling Me,” co-written by Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, is a solid slab of hooky pop-punk, but again, its lyrics are dumber than dumb. Let’s get one thing straight: Rivers Cuomo has never been the most brilliant lyricist. His childlike phrasings worked so well on the band’s first two records because the band seemed and sounded so excited; they were, after all, just a bunch of goofy dudes who were suddenly getting paid to play rock music, and their enthusiasm showed. Fast forward a decade, millions of dollars, and one clothing line tie-in later, and, well, you get the idea.
If there is a compliment to be paid to Hurley, it is that the band refrains from delving into the sort of WTF territory they’ve explored of late. There are no Lil Wayne cameos or Rivers raps to be found here. There are, though, some really bad songs. The chugging, campy “Where’s My Sex?” boasts some truly awful lyrics, even for Weezer. (You can read for yourself here.) “Smart Girls” finds Cuomo trying to bag him some college-educated poon, I guess. On “Time Flies,” he muses on the “stupid damn song” that “will still be in your head” after he’s gone. It’s a rare example of Cuomo being kinda clever; too bad it’s a not-so-veiled insult to the band’s remaining fans.
I don’t know. Maybe Weezer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s a whole new crop of kids discovering the band’s fuzzed chords and towering major-key melodies (which, it should be pointed out, haven’t much changed since the Blue Album) and itching to start their own bands. But it’s also hard to excuse Hurley for its general laziness. And besides, the kids still know how to seek out the good stuff. A recent comment on Weezer’s MySpace reads in part:
“I WOULD LIKE TO SEE WEEZER GO BACK TO SOME OF PINKERTON U GUYS CHANGED A LOT PEOPLE SAY THAT WEEZER BECAME SELLOUTS I DON’T THINK SO BUT SOME OF UR NEW SONGS AREN’T SO GREAT…LIKE UR NEW SONGS ARE MORE KIDDISH…I JUST HEARD PINKERTON TODAY FOR PROBABLY JUST A HOUR AND I HAVE BEEN LISTENING TO WEEZER FOR MOST OF MY WHOLE LIFE AND RIGHT NOW I AM 13 SO I AM ASKING AS A FAN OF WEEZER TO PLEASE CHANGE SOME OF UR MATERIAL…PINKERTON IS MUSICAL GENUIS WEEZER FOREVER.”