‘Hurley’ Almost as Good as ‘Lost’

Weezer -- "Hurley" -- Epitaph -- 4 STARS

Epitaph Records

Most tracks on Weezer’s latest album “Hurley” encapsulate the temperament of Hurley from the series “Lost”—pictured on the cover—who famously stays upbeat and easy going even while stranded on a mysterious island. Weezer have always shared Hurley’s attitude, and in the past, this manifested itself in the perfect combination of energetic guitar melodies, contented, mellow vocals, and steady drumming with speckles of clash. With the release of “Hurley,” the alternative punk-rock giants once again deliver a collection of successful, mosh-worthy songs charged with energy; however, much of the lyrics come off cheesy and unimaginative, and are unfortunately cluttered with clichés.

“Hurley” starts with “Memories,” which is reminiscent in all the best ways of their 2005 song “Beverley Hills.” The serene string introduction is immediately followed by the bass-powered tempo of classic Weezer rock, which instantly compels quality head-banging. Crescendos of toms and bass and banters between vocals and short guitar riffs through the track lend it fresh bursts of energy. This driving energy extends to “Ruling Me” and “Trainwrecks,” which is certainly no disaster. Softer and slower numbers like “Unspoken,” “Brave New World,” and “I Want to Be Something” contrast with the upbeat tempo of the rest of the album, allowing listeners to recover from severe energy expenditure, as well as giving depth to the album.

“Trainwrecks” is the gleaming gem of the record, capturing the essence of living the Weezer life through creative, well-formulated lyrics. Cumos sings, “We’re digging through the couch for cash / we’re taking cabs cause both our cars are trashed / but we’re still kicking ass / we are trainwrecks.” On the contrary, songs like “I Want to Be Something” and “Represent” demonstrate the band’s new maturity, discussing complex emotions. Weezer’s growth shows in the lyrics of “Represent:” “it matters how you play the game / it matters that you can take the pain / you don’t want to lie, steal, or cheat your way to the top.”

However, the literary precision doesn’t translate to most of the other tracks, whose lyrics are placid and obvious. Weezer dedicate an entire song to the hackneyed concept “time flies when you’re having fun” in “Time Flies.” The multitude of songs about girls and falling in and out of love become tiresome after the fourth track of much of the same, “Smart Girls.” Although Rivers Cuomo sings “there’s so much I want to say about you,” in “Run Away,” he isn’t very successful in coming up with new ways to say these things.

Despite their lyrical weakness, Weezer demonstrates skill in navigating of all corners of rock in “Hurley”, from polished happy-go-lucky pop-rock in “Ruling Me” to bass-driven risqué tension in “Where’s My Sex;” returning to the coarse garage-band roots of “Time Flies” and purity of acoustic melodies in “I Want to be Something.” On top of everything else, “Hurley” also includes a cover of Coldplay’s megahit “Viva la Vida.” It’s always comforting to know that if Coldplay retires, Weezer can fill in, and then some.

Adding to the strength of the music, Weezer utilizes a varied instrumentation, from acoustic guitar, flute and piano to synthesized operatic vocals and techno interludes. Within each song in “Hurley”, Weezer sews together these starkly different forms to create eccentric combinations and pleasantly shock its fans. In “All My Friends Are Insects,” listeners are jerked from the emotional, heartfelt acoustic piano introduction to the seedy drum solo, over which Cuomo revels in a cheerful, quirky discussion of earthworms, butterflies and dragonflies, as he describes, “They are my friends and yeah / they’re all insects.”

With a steady career spanning two decades, Weezer has accumulated a solid base of loyal fans that will enjoy “Hurley” in all its “Hakuna Matata.” Although a lot of the lyrics are shallow and uninventive, rock cravings will be satisfied by the energetic guitar riffs and upbeat rhythms of classic Weezer with the novel pairings of genres and new instrumentations offered in “Hurley.”