When a band waits a half-decade between records early in their career and then issues a spate of releases in quick succession later on, its obvious a significant transition has occurred. This is true with Hurley, to be released by seminal 90's alt-pop heroes Weezer on September, in relation to its recent albums such as Raditude, Weezer (the Red Album) and Make Believe. From its debut release, Weezer (the Blue Album), in 1993 until the end of the decade, the Southern California-based quartet only offered a single follow up, 1996's excellent Pinkerton – which is often only slightly correctly credited with launching the emo-alternative genre (Pinkerton is far too muscular and deft to be associated with such whiners). Meanwhile, 2003's Make Believe launched a foursome of new releases through the 2000's first decade, culminating with Hurley.
Weezer generally seems to present two types of albums: power-pop infused lighter material and cohesive, heavier collections. Of the first type are the color-themed, self-titled records (Blue, Green and Red) and its most recent Raditude, while the later concept can be found in Pinkerton, Maladroit, Make Believe and now Hurley. Here, most of the brash innuendo of Raditude is dispatched with – save for the gnarly "Where's My Sex," although an argument could be made it's in-line with Pinkerton's outstanding "The Good Life" in substance and direction. But in tone and tempo, Hurley most closely reflects Make Believe than any other Weezer product, with largely serious themes and heavy song structures with plenty of guitar crunch from frontman Rivers Cuomo and guitarist Brian Bell and thunderous percussion from drummer Pat Wilson.
Lead-off track and first single, "Memories," is a typical Weezer arena rock construction, with its aggressive tempo harking back to "Holiday" off the Blue Album and its highlights of synthy keyboards, while its successor, "Ruling Me" blends Cheap Trick-style hooks and Bun E. Carlos drums with an expanded vocal range from Cuomo. Later on, the meaty ballad "Trainwrecks" introduces an Arcade Fire anthemic dimension and some clever lyrics like "we don't update our blogs; we're trainwrecks." Touche, Mr. Cuomo.
A couple of the most revealing numbers indicating the collection's overall tone are found later in the Springsteen flavor of "Hang On" – a sound Weezer has not explored before – and the Pinkerton-era influences on "Brave New World," with Cuomo at his most self-aware, confessing, "I've been scared to make a move." It could be an honest reflection of his aversion to more personal themes in his songwriting that has been an ongoing undercurrent of Cuomo's career. Oddly placed midway through the set, though, is "Unspoken," an unadorned solo piece for most of its duration until the band picks up near the end. It would have found a better home amongst his 2005 solo demos. I mean, seriously, strings in a Weezer song?!
Come for: "Memories"
Stay for: "Trainwrecks"
You'll be surprised by: "Hang On"