Katy Perry. Hillary Duff. Hanson. Madonna. Dido. Nelly Furtado. Cher. Britney Spears. Kelly Clarkson. Pink. Lisa Loeb. Weezer.
A cursory glance of the above list of names would reveal a cross-section of recent years’ popular music charts, artists that have received massive radio play and consistent rotation on music channels like MTV. A closer examination of the names, however, reveals one glaring standout, a name that quite honestly has more integrity and artistic merit than the others and does not belong amongst them. That name is Weezer and the reason their name is included in the assortment is the very same reason that their latest album, Hurley, is their worst to date.
The reason Weezer is sharing company with the aforementioned names is due to the fact that the songs included on their latest venture are all co-written by the same people that helped pen pop hits for those artists. Thus, the resulting album sounds like music crafted by those artists and not by the alternative rock masterminds helmed by Rivers Cuomo. Not even the band’s unique delivery and undeniable musical prowess can save them from lavishing in mediocrity on Hurley, resulting in three quarters of an hour that sounds like nothing more than a cash grab during its best moments. Why else would Cuomo and Co. put their namesake to tracks as bland as “Ruling Me” (co-written by Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame) and “Hang On” (co-written by Rick Nowels, ghostwriter for the likes of Madonna and Cher)?
Weezer’s motivation for bringing in professional songwriters most likely lies in chief songwriter Rivers Cuomo’s apparent lack of intriguing new material. The two songs included here penned solely by Cuomo (lead-off track “Memories” and the quiet “Unspoken”) lack any real vibrancy and are certainly miles away from the skill that brought listeners alt-rock gems like “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” all those years ago. So bringing in some hired help makes sense, considering the band most likely wants to stay atop the mainstream wave of success it began riding with their 2001 comeback album The Green Album and has ridden pretty consistently since.
The trouble with Weezer trying to attain mainstream pop success by any means necessary is that the band is really at its best when attempting more artistic ventures. After all, the band achieved its greatest success with their low-key and blackout-dark sophomore album, Pinkerton, a recording that merged their initial pop sensibilities with a penchant for deep emotion and staggering honesty. Unfortunately, the band took an extended hiatus following the release of Pinkerton, forever throwing off their momentum and ultimately resulting in listless material like that contained on Hurley. Unlike their previous pop leanings such as “Hash Pipe” and “Beverly Hills,” however, the tracks included here have no distinct hook and no identity of their own. Rather, they are milquetoast, vanilla renderings that are simply trying to hard to be a hit (“Smart Girls,” “Where’s My Sex?”).
The bottom line is Hurley is an undeniable dud from a musical standpoint that will most likely see some commercial success given the audience it is going for. After all, pop music is designed so that each song sounds similar and can be easily disposed if need be. Hurley is perfect for that and thus is most likely indicative of what we’ll be getting from Weezer down the road.
– Ian Rice
To purchase a copy of Hurley, please click here.