Weezer | Hurley

Those in red, you know what to do.

In full disclosure, Weezer has always been a special band to me. Growing up, like many in my generation, Weezer’s Blue and Pinkerton albums became an influential soundtrack to and sometimes for my life. With absolute classics like Say It Ain’t So, Across the Sea, Buddy Holly, and El Scorcho (to name just a few), they were nerd rock bliss. Pinkerton in particular was an incredibly personal album of angst and heartache, that though deeply personal lyrically, spoke to universal themes and emotions of an entire generation. Though a commercial and critical failure at the time, it has grown an obsessive cult following, oft-quoted as their rock pop masterpiece. And then, they disappeared..rumored to be broken up and done.

After a long hiatus involving Rivers Cuomo shutting himself off from the world and bassist Matt Sharp leaving the band to concentrate on The Rentals, the band reemerged. With a new bassist, Mikey Welsh (who would leave shortly after the release of Green), the band emerged in the summer of 2000 with a new setlist of songs. The hype grew for a new album, but what came out of the band shocked long-time fans. Nearly none of the, now known by Weezer fans as, Summer Songs 2k were on the album (that at times seemed to be an extension of the Weezer of old). And, though they paired up with original producer of the Blue album, Cars front man, Ric Ocasek, Weezer sounded different. Sure the catchy hooks were still there, but the deeply personal lyrics that people related to on Pinkerton were gone. Also missing was the raw vulnerability that was once a signature aspect of their sound. Hash Pipe brought them back into the mainstream, and Island in the Sun still stands as a classic of their expansive catalog, but the album is rather repetitive and rather soulless despite all its sugary appeal.

As the years passed, the band continued to put out more and more music (Rivers is a prolific writer, often arguably keeping his best songs only on demo tapes as the Alone solo releases often showcase). The quality of the albums though, arguably continued to deteriorate. Sure each album had its memorable classics, but the number of tracks that were good, or even at times, downright listenable (and not embarrassing) seemed to diminish with each passing album. All of this culminated with their last album with Geffen, Raditude, a disaster of a an album with some of the most worst, most empty pop songs they’ve ever written (Can’t Stop Partying). Collaborating with rap stars, and emo-pop bands, the album is a mess, and often comes across as a midlife crisis. And though it does have a couple stand out tracks, the album seemed to be the final nail, the final goodbye to the Weezer that was, and never will be again.

Flashing forward, less than a year, and Weezer is now on independent label Epitaph with their first “indie” release, Hurley. Is the Weezer of old back? Well…not completely. Is it another Pinkerton? Not even close. Does it contain any embarrassingly awful songs? Yes. However, despite these reservations, I can honestly say it’s the first album they have done since their now classics, that makes me think that the band is back on the right path. Collaborating with former Semisonic front man Dan Wilson, and alt-country rocker Ryan Adams on two tracks, the album features some of the best songwriting heard from Rivers in ages. Cuomo’s voice sounds less over-produced, and as a whole, a more Pinkerton-esque rawness returns. I still miss the unforgettable guitar solos that haven’t really been prevalent since Maladroit, but perhaps that will come back in future albums as well. Though I consistently skip Trainwrecks, Where’s My Sex, Smart Girls, and Brave New World, the hit to miss ratio is much more solid compared to their past few albums.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never get a Pinkerton again. And, with this album, I finally feel confident in what may come next for one of my first musical loves (and much of that future does sound exciting, with an unreleased tracks album, Pinkerton deluxe, a new Rivers solo demo album, and a Pinkerton/Blue memories tour within the next six months). It’s clear Weezer are not dead yet.

No videos for this album yet (though if you dig around an uninspired Memories video featuring the Jackass cast exists)…

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