WHY HURLEY IS MY FAVOURITE WEEZER ALBUM
Updated: Sep 10
This is gonna be hard to explain...
Weezer are an intriguing band. To some, they're the geeky guitar heroes who can do no wrong. To others, they're a band so revered they were once offered $10 million to break up. And to a select few, they're the ones who did "Teenage Dirtbag", not Wheatus.
In my peer circles, a majority at least have a fleeting appreciation of nerd rock gods Weezer, all knowing of the staple early hits such as "Buddy Holly", "Say It Ain't So" and "Undone - The Sweater Song", the mega music video channel monsters "Beverly Hills", "Island In The Sun" and "Pork & Beans", and of course, the meme-driven cover of Toto's "Africa". But go for the hardcore fanbase, and that's where the gateway to endless quarrels opens up. The most consistent argument to this day is still Blue vs. Pinkerton (it's Pinkerton, by the way), but there's a bevy of similar debates being had every day, a frequent couple being the simple questions:
What is the best Weezer album? or What's your favourite Weezer album?
Now, when I was delving deeper into the quartet's back catalogue in high school, I outright would've said my favourite album is basically their best album, and that was the aforementioned 1996 sophomore cult classic Pinkerton. But that was me 10/11 years ago. Since then, Weezer have added a further six LPs, with varying degrees of success and reception from fans and critics alike, and have another FOUR planned for release in the next two years. And more importantly, since then, I've grown up and my music opinions have matured. I used to frown upon pop music with a pseudo superiority complex, whilst finding solace in bands like All Time Low, Elliot Minor and indeed Weezer, bands that were all following similar pop rock structures, just with more relatable lyrics and different instrumentation. So, with all that said, I'm asking myself this; what is my favourite Weezer album?
Hurley. Just look at that album cover. It looks like some intern at their label was tasked with creating the art and title of Weezer's 2010 effort in the space of 2 hours, and they had the ingenious idea to crop a picture of Jorge Garcia and Rivers Cuomo backstage at Lopez Tonight. No questions asked. Print it, ship it, sit back and chill. See what happens.
And it's fucking brilliant.
In actuality, the album cover and title were Cuomo's idea, as he lovingly puts it in a 2010 interview with Spinner, via EW:
"We didn’t want to do a fourth self-titled record and we knew people would refer to it as ‘the Hurley record’ even if left it without that title, so we just called it ‘Hurley.’ No words are on the cover because all we wanted was his amazing face."
It's weirdly gorgeous, and with the context from Cuomo, rather endearing and wholesome to a great extent. It deserves to be framed on college dorm rooms and art galleries alike, always there, watching you...
At this point in my discussion/explanation/gush, I realise I've not said a word about tunes.
Let's talk about the basic details first. Hurley was released just nine months after their previous effort Raditude, an album that is tonally all over the fucking shop, with waaaaaaaay too many cooks in the kitchen for Weezer's first, albeit not the last, venture into mainstream pop trends. The end product was a freakish mess, amalgamated and fused together by the likes of Jacknife Lee, Butch Walker, and Dr. Luke (eugh). The bad outweighs the good by a hefty amount, and it is often near the bottom of Weezer album ranking lists. The band needed a sharp swerve in direction after this grandiose bomb, so they dipped from longtime label Geffen Records, and headed to legendary independent punk label Epitaph with a sole producer in Shawn Everett, and began work on their follow-up: Hurley.
Opening with first single "Memories", the album firmly states what to anticipate for the next half hour: raw and unrelenting sugar-coated power pop. It's probably good to note here that Hurley is where Cuomo's vocals are at their most visceral since probably Pinkerton because, fucking hell, he lets loose during that middle-8 on "Memories". Cuomo speaks about this during the intro to a live session of the track:
"For many years, I kind of was singing in a particular voice and it was good, but on Hurley, I just felt like trying different things...like, imagining me in these different scenarios, like I was a forest gnome, and I was battling elves or something. And that would just inspire these really intense feelings in me. I guess it's method acting? I'm not an actor, but it's something like that."
This kind of "method singing" is prominent on the album, especially in the aforementioned wild section on "Memories", where Cuomo screeches nonsensically about adult chores before twinkling into a glockenspiel break as the final chorus looms. This is where Hurley's main themes come into play; it's a coming-of-age record tinged with the frustrations of adulthood and "the real world", but doesn't look upon it with despair, and looks both back and forwards with a certain fondness. Weezer's ability to come out of the gates swinging with an absolute slammer like this to set up the rest of the album has been acknowledged before (see: "My Name Is Jonas" on Blue, "Tired Of Sex" on Pinkerton, maybe even "American Gigolo" on Maladroit). But "Memories" is a different kind of creature, starting with an orchestra tuning up, then it pounds in like a juggernaut as the quartet chug an admittedly basic chord sequence into what is one of their best openers. The simple structure allows for the music to make a statement without any of the awkwardness or absolute cringe of Raditude's deeper cuts. Simply put, it's what fans needed as assurance.
With Hurley, it's quite obvious Weezer were doing a sort of redux of what happened after the fallout of Pinkerton: release a straightforward pop rock album (Green) to cleanse the palette and recoup fans. However, unlike Green, Hurley both washes off the grime of its predecessor and serves up an all-you-can-eat buffet of interesting tunes without the formulaic dredge that Green suffers from. One of the ways Hurley comes off as feeling fully fleshed out is the various roster of incredible songwriters that came in to tweak and polish a majority of the tunes. These include Dan Wilson (Semisonic frontman and also noted multiple-Grammy Award winner for writing with Adele and The Dixie Chicks), Desmond Child (legendary hit-maker with the likes of Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Kiss), Tony Kanal (bassist of No Doubt) and Linda Perry (frontwoman of 4 Non Blondes, the band behind this classic). It's safe to say that Weezer alone could've made Hurley a good album, but I personally feel that the songwriting talent added to the mixture makes it a great album, as a lot of them come from backgrounds in rock and alternative genres. I note this because Raditude also had a bevy of prolific songwriters, though they were a lot more in the dance pop and hip hop veins that Weezer's usual forté of unapologetic geeky pop rock.
My housemate has just looked this over and made me realise that I've only talked about one song so far, so here's some quick takes on the rest of the album before I start to lose you:
"Ruling Me" is straight after "Memories" and somehow manages to pump harder and faster than its predecessor. Co-written with the aforementioned Dan Wilson, it's prime Weezer power pop goodness, straight from the 90s playbook of feel-good tunes that slap hard and leave you grinning and exhilarated as it fades out, à la Semisonic's "Singing In My Sleep", Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" and The Wannadies' "Might Be Stars". Scott Shriner's bass and Patrick Wilson's drums chug and pound respectively, whilst Cuomo is a vocal marvel and guitarist Brian Bell adds sprinkles of charm through some delicious yet simple power pop leads.
"Unspoken" sounds like a modernised cut from the Pinkerton sessions. When you put Cuomo and an acoustic guitar in a room together, some of his best work arises, and that's no different here. It's raw, honest, and that tinge of strings and Bell providing harmonies just before it explodes into a killer final chorus is one of my favourite sections of the whole album. Rivers sounds the most open and vulnerable that he has since the 90s, and his performance shows some real growth since the misfire of Raditude.
Following up such a powerful tune, we follow "Unspoken" up with "Where's My Sex?", the first example that a lot of fans point at as a reason why Hurley isn't quite the underrated masterpiece that some people regard it as. I'll be the first to admit that I hesitated when I saw the song title on the tracklist as I prepared to listen to the album for the first time, but it gre on me to the point that I could class it as my "guilty pleasure" on the album. It's dumb pop rock with a repetitive hard rock rhythm, which is par for the course for Weezer, but my main criticism, and many others' criticism, is the lyrics and how the subject matter is handled.
For those new to Hurley, here's some lines from "Where's My Sex?":
"Sex-making is a family tradition"
"Mom made my sex"
"But now I'm like a prehistoric screwball, walking around with no sex at all"
"I can't go out without my sex"
"Sex on my feet, sex in the drawer, sex in my shoes, or sex on my floor"
Have you spotted it yet? Replace "sex" with "socks"! It's not a creepy song, I swear! In all seriousness though, this is the dud on the album. Even as I'm writing this and repeating the song, my opinions keep faltering and changing, so let's just put this down as the worst song on the album. Interestingly, it follows suit of Raditude's bafflingly catchy "I'm Your Daddy" as a song inspired by Cuomo's daughter, although at least this one doesn't turn a heartfelt phrase into a peculiar song about pursuing a woman in a club. No, "Where's My Sex?" derived from his daughter being unable to pronounce "socks" and instead said "sex", and so we got this. I stand by it being a GP, but it's awkward and sticks out in a bad way.
If you know Hurley, then you know there's a song missing from this barrage of quickfire (and some not-so-quickfire) opinions: "Trainwrecks". The reason why? Well, quite frankly, it's probably one of the best songs Weezer has written, produced and put out to the world.