DISCLAIMER: This is not an album review of Weezer’s new album Hurley. When Weezer released their latest Lost-character-inspired LP a few weeks ago, I certainly considered writing one. As anyone reading this now can probably notice, this blog hasn’t had a proper album review featured on the site for over a month. Whenever a new release comes out that excites me and gives me a good deal to think about, I start to imagine how I might describe it to the spam-bots, Googlers, and Facebook friends that make up my devoted audience (Over 13 hundred hits in three months – thx guyz!).
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t figure out an objective way to describe the album, without drawing in all the deep-seeded emotional scars that over a decade of Weezer fandom has carved into my skin. In fact, I refuse to believe there is such a thing as a legitimate review of a Weezer album this late into their rollercoaster ride of a career – sorry Pitchfork – but there simply is no way to provide an explanation of a new Weezer album that will mean something to the diehard lifelong Weezer fan, to the fans who signed on in 2001 with the Green Album, to the teeny-boppers and soccer Moms clapping their hands to “Beverly Hills”, and also to the college freshman who’s spent his life living under a rock but has always wanted to figure out who these “Weezers” were, who everyone was talking about. Every Weezer fan and non-fan’s opinion of the band is colored by a history of wonder, torment, and the pulling of heartstrings. The big psych-out, the big let down, the stupid hats on the album covers. Reviewing a Weezer album is like a battered woman trying to review her abusive husband. It’s like reviewing your daughter’s 110-page thesis on the merits of Satanism. She really worked hard on that paper – but really honey? Satanism? Who have you been hanging out with? Remember that story you wrote in 7th grade about the princess who learned how to fly? That was so fucking beautiful. I still pull it out and read it from time to time, and I’m always bawling by the end of the last sentence.
Admittedly, there’s some part of me that wants to climb to the highest mountain and scream to the townspeople below, “HURLEY IS THE BEST WEEZER ALBUM SINCE MALADROIT“, but my first reaction to that instinct is – who gives a shit? Being the best Weezer album since Maladroit is something I could’ve said about 2009’s Radititude, since it was leagues better than the Red Album and Make Believe, and I could’ve even argued it about the appropriately-colored abortion of an album that was Weezer’s third self-titled, considering the royal diarrhea pot that was 2005’s Make Believe. And every single one of those albums represented a moment in the lives of all Weezer fans when they let out a simultaneous cry of “FUCK!”, when their hopes were once again dashed, when Daddy came home for Christmas but he didn’t bring any presents, he was wasted when he walked in through the door, and he had some nasty whore‘s tongue in his mouth while everyone else was singing “Silent Night”.
Grandiose metaphors aside, you might wonder, given all this bullshit I’m spouting, what would inspire me to write anything in the first place? Well, two days ago, the New York Times reported on the story of 29 year-old Seattle resident James Burns – the spontaneous generate of an old dog turd contained in a jar sealed with cheesecloth – who is trying to raise $10 million to persuade Weezer to break up. The worst part? Burns isn’t even a Weezer fan. Burns is a hate-bandwagoner, with no part of his heart tied to this sinking ship. In his interview with the Times, Burns explained he was tired of seeing his friends continue to place hope in the next Weezer release, “when every Weezer fan that [he] know[s] has thought they were terrible for a decade or more.” Therein lies your critical misunderstanding, Burnsy – Weezer are an amazing band, always have been, and always will be – it’s their music that has been terrible. No matter what garbage Michael Jackson released in the 90s, there will always be Thriller. For a generation of young nerds coming of age in the turn of the century, 1996’s Pinkerton was more than a favorite, it was an affirmation of every fist they had ever made and ever tear they had ever cried. “El Scorcho” was a battlecry and a swan song written just for you, you who knew what it was like to love without being loved back, by a 6th grade girl with a ponytail who didn’t even know your name. Fuck you Burns, if your black heart is too Grinch-like to have shared that special something with me and thousands more over a decade ago. Fuck you if you’re angry about the war in the news, when you’re only reading the headlines. This fight does not belong to you. If your last name is not Schiavo you have no business unplugging my Terry.
When I was in high school and Maladroit was Weezer’s newest release, the band was already disappointing me and my fellow Weezer fans. For Weezer purists, there are only two great Weezer albums – 1994’s debut The Blue Album, and 96’s Pinkerton. Despite the Green Album’s critical and commercial success, fans of Pinkerton were quick to dismiss the album as being flat and emotionally hollow – which it is. All diehard Weezer fans know the story of the hiatus that emerged between Pinkerton and Weezer’s triumphant return in 2001: on Pinkerton, Rivers Cuomo had laid his heart bare on the tracks, writing some of the most heartbreaking and brutally honest songs of his generation – and despite high critical praise, in comparison to the smash success of their first album it was a commercial failure. Cuomo, unfortunately, did not take this in stride. The band virtually dropped off the face of the earth for half a decade, with Cuomo announcing a hiatus and seeming to have given up hope in rock music and himself. When Weezer re-emerged in 2001 with a new bassist and a new sound, Rivers’s attitude had changed. He was excited about music again, and why? Because as he explained to Rolling Stone in 2002, he had began to hone in on the mathematical formula for the perfect song, based on painstaking analysis of bands like Nirvana, Oasis, and Green Day. It never needed to be said that Cuomo’s heart was no longer in the music – he had openly replaced it with cold math. A single listen to the Green Album can yield a perfect understanding of just how this translates into actual music. In 2006, this inspired my high school band to write a song about the Green Album, titled “Rivers 3000”, with such mediocre lyrics as “Outside it’s green, but inside a machine. I’m not so keen, but I’m still listening.”
This critical moment in the evolution of Weezer is the first reason why it is impossible to objectively review a release from the band in 2010. Because at this point there will never be another release comparable to their first two albums, and fans can only hope for a couple tracks that sound like “good Green Album songs” on any later releases. Just read four or five reviews of 2010’s Hurley, and I guarantee you’ll find that sentiment echoed in every one. Hoping for tracks as good as Blue’s “Say It Ain’t So” or Pinkerton‘s “Across the Sea” at this point is like hoping for Joy Division from New Order. They’re simply not the same band.
And trying to understand Weezer as a band that started with the Green Album is even more confusing. Without the genius context of their first two records, modern genius-idiot Cuomo can come off as just plain idiotic. If you don’t know there might be gold to look for under the cheesy pop production and possibly the stupidest lyrical content available in pop music today (nasty whore notwithstanding), you will probably never find it. For these reasons, I know it is only a unique listening experience based on a personal history that allow me to say that I’ve loved the last two records Weezer have released, 2009’s Raditude and this year’s Hurley. I couldn’t say why “(If You Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” redeemed “Can’t Stop Partying” on Raditude, when “Pork and Beans” couldn’t redeem “Cold Dark World” on the Red Album. I don’t know if it has to do with time, if my changing expectations for the latest Weezer album make smaller successes into bigger ones, or if perhaps growing nostalgia makes a brilliant chord progression on a track like “Unspoken” off of Hurley hit harder, shine brighter. Also, most disappointingly to note, these albums represent the first time Cuomo brought in outside help for songwriting, from some of pop music’s most reputable songwriters including So So Def mastermind Jermaine Dupri and famed Pink-collaborator Linda Perry. Is the reason these latest releases are better simply because in the last two years, pop music as a whole has gotten better? Are Weezer now only able to hit the mark when they’re in the right hands, and the timing is right, a la Usher?
Because it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like “Unspoken” is the most emotionally charged, emotionally tangible song released by the band since 1996. But it’s also one of two songs on the record where Cuomo has no co-writer. How am I supposed to feel about that? Is the song’s inclusion on the record profound, or accidental? What the fuck is this asshole and his ragtag band of aging hipsters going to do with my heart next, now that I’ve been given this inkling of hope for the future? How will Weezer disappoint me next?
Yeah, so maybe Daddy came home for Christmas this year and he wasn’t drunk, and he even left me a shiny new X-Box under the tree, and he even folded a little piece of paper and taped it to the box – inside, the words, “Love, Dad”. Not so long ago, we told ourselves we would never forgive him, we would never let him back in, no matter how he begged or pleaded. Now that time seems far away, now he’s asking for hugs, now he wants to take us bowling next weekend, and wants to know what our plans are for New Years. Fuck you, man! Don’t you know what it’s like to have something you love get ripped out from under you, get stomped into pieces and soiled with whiskey and urine? You’re writing these songs, Dad, and some of them are great, but who are you writing them for? You used to write songs only for me, just for me. You used to get me, Dad. Now you don’t even know who I am anymore. I don’t know if you know who you are anymore. I don’t even know if you’re anybody. And I don’t know if I want to love you now, I don’t know if I want things to get better. I’ll let you in this much, we can go have coffee some time but I can’t make it a regular thing. You’ve been sober for a few years now, and I’m proud of you, but you aren’t my father anymore and you can’t have that back. I’m just not going to let my guard down. How many times did you drop a promising single before, followed by a dissapointing record? How many times do I have to cringe from the words you’ve chosen, sung in the same voice I fell in love with so many years ago? When I was twelve I thought it would be a good idea to name my first-born after you, and your name is Rivers. How many times can this heart stand breaking?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m looking forward to Death to False Metal, the upcoming collection of unreleased Weezer tracks due out this November. And I’m positive for every new release that comes after that, I’ll listen faithfully, and quickly report to my closest friends (who are ALL, of course, Weezer fans) the two or three tracks that can’t be missed, that should be listened to repeatedly before you let your heart get snagged by the plethora of mediocrity that is sure to follow. I truly believe Hurley to be the strongest showing from a Weezer album in nearly a decade. In terms of killer-to-filler percentage there is no comparison between it and the last three Weezer albums that came before it. But I still can’t commit myself completely to it, I can’t admit even that much without going through the paragraphs of twisted agony that came before it, without contextualizing every success Weezer is able to make with the story of tragedy that started it all.
I am a diehard Weezer fan, and Blue and Pinkerton may always hold two of the slots in my five desert island discs. As such, I recommend Hurley to all fellow Weezer fans – though I also have to imagine they’ve already went and bought or downloaded it on their own without my guidance. For non-fans, you know by now what two albums I’d recommend to you, and if those albums make you into a true fan, then it might be time for you to embark on your very own journey through the Weezer catalogue, so you might have your own opinion one day on this Hurley. Until then, maybe you should start thinking about better ways to spend your time than reading a ridiculously overlong personal diatribe on a band you know next to nothing about.