Weezer : Hurley
Art is only as convincing as the audience – and the artist – wants it to be. Universal appeal – while the bedrock of a commercial, consumer-driven culture – is seemingly inherently impossible with each individual’s makeup differing from his neighbour; what one person may find funny or moving, another may find crass or shallow, for instance. It’s obvious, sure, but Weezer created almost universal acclaim among their fans for either both their classic first – the self-titled ‘blue’ album – and their also classic second record, Pinkerton. Their career since has been spent with Weezer fans arguing the merits of each subsequent release, with each not particularly satiated.
The argument stems from the fact that Blue Album Weezer was a euphoric rush of nerdy, geeky pop-rock; simple, but amazingly emotive and effective… whereas Pinkerton Weezer was a deeply evocative breakdown album constructed by the band’s protagonist Rivers Cuomo as he underwent a crisis of faith, life and love. Each have their merits, and bear the hallmarks of a great band, which is why, ever since 2001, Weezer fans have given them chance after chance. Across the Green Album (2001), Maladroit (2002), Make Believe (2005), The Red Album (2008) and last year’s Raditude, they’ve expected those early heights to be scaled once more, to have Weezer they knew and loved returned to them, fully realised and as lovable as they once were.
But that’s the problem with the passing of time. We all change. Our reaction to whatever Rivers Cuomo is creating now is never going to match the first flush of a great band making classic albums. In fact, it can be argued that, in this case, there is too much of a good thing. So long starved of Weezer while Cuomo battled his demons, went to Harvard and nailed half-Asian girls between 1996 and 2000, to have six albums in nine years, when Weezer fans only had those initial, brilliant, two for so long, and to have them all be so patchy, begs the question of what if Weezer had only released, say, another three albums for the last decade, rather than six? Across Green, Maladroit, Make Believe, Red and Raditude, there’s probably about two and half albums worth of great Weezer tunes. The problem is that, along with a spike in work rate for Cuomo, there’s also been more room misfires than previously.
Which brings us to Hurley. Unfortunately, it’s more of the same maddening inconsistency we’ve come to expect… but there are also hints that we’re closer to the Weezer of yore’s genius. A return to form? Kind of, because it’s the best work they’ve done since maladroit, but then, that’s damning with faint praise.
Putting aside the cringe-worthy moments of Where’s My Sex? and Smart Girls – really, Rivers, the best you can come up with are veiled references to socks and a basic rewrite of Girl Got Hot from Raditude?... The World Has Turned And Left Me Here these are definitely not – and it’s clear that with Cuomo taking back over primary song-writing duties, and forgoing guests like Lil Wayne (as admirable as his desire to change things up was, the tunes weren’t worthy of Jimmy Eat World, let alone Weezer) the band are at least sounding cohesive again. Lead single Memories is workmanlike in the usual Weezer single mode; a scatter-gun blast of shining power pop-rock that has dubious nostalgic lyrics that would leave Randy Newman shaking his head. But it does its job well – it’s eminently clear that this is Weezer trying to do what they do best.
The real interest lays in moments like Trainwreck or the Ryan Adams-cowrite on Run Away. Both are slower, more measured; like you’d expect a mature Weezer to sound like. Pork And Beans, this is not.
Unspoken is the album’s real ‘missed opportunity’ highlight. It’s one of the few moments of the past fifteen years that Cuomo has bared his soul slightly, and musically Weezer have strayed from their usual strict, almost cookie-cutter-pop tenets. Accompanied by strings it builds and builds before finally releasing in a distorted explosion; you get the feeling that by more often stepping out the box Cuomo has built for himself, we’ll eventually have another classic; this is an ideal building block and showcases that hint of maturity a little further.
But it’s Hang On that’s truly excellent in that context of ‘where did they go wrong?’ as it’s a perfect example of a Weezer track, one that finally trades more on subtlety than the overt ‘is he or isn’t he being ironic’ idiocy we’ve come to expect.
The only problem is exactly that; we’ve come to expect a certain musical immaturity from Weezer and Cuomo, as he’s blatantly made it clear that he simply wants to play at being a rock star… just in a pop band that were probably miscast as the emotional bagboys of a generation. There are hints, however, that once Cuomo accepts that he’s getting older – and doesn’t have to write bad songs about Smart Girls, or try on lame motifs like replacing socks with ‘sex’ – Weezer will harness their undeniable genius for making art that connects again. We all get old; Rivers. And those who’ve grown up with you would love to hear what you think of it.