If I were reviewing the character Hurley, this would be an easier job – My Review of Weezer’s “Hurley”

Another year, another Weezer album as it were (these past 3 years they’ve turned into Woody Allen in terms of being prolific and consistency). Unfortunately, it seems the trend from 2008’s Red to 2009’s Raditude to 2010’s Hurley has gone slightly downhill, after coming back up from 2005’s Make Believe. The three-year hiatus did River’s and crew good as they found their Pop Rock roots and returned more to form with Red. Raditude wasn’t as strong an effort, but I for one did enjoy the album as a whole.

With Hurley, while there are some good songs I do enjoy – “Trainwrecks,” “Hang On” and “Brave New World,” I was and still am quite disappointed with the album’s first single “Memories,” as I am with the slower, softer songs on the album; I’ve primarily enjoyed River’s softer forays – from the classic “Butterfly” to Raditude’s “Put Me Back Together” and “I Don’t Want to Let You Go.” Hurley’s “Time Flies,” and “Unspoken,” are a little boring for my taste.

As a whole, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed in Hurley, especially after how excited I was to hear about the album title. There are some good tracks on there, but where Red and Raditude had a more classic Weezer album feel, even if the songs themselves weren’t as good as Blue through Maladroit (yes, I’m including Maladroit). I’ve defended both Red and Raditude by saying that River’s stuck with what he was really good at – writing a perfectly crafted pop rock song, and after trying and failing to step away from that with Make Believe, did a good job returning to form with those two. Hurley almost seems like he coasted through the process, because he was back in his song-writing wheelhouse.

That being said, I do feel obligated to support the band, as they have been among my favorite ever since I got into music. I even got the deluxe edition, with the bonus tracks, including a pretty decent live cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” which is a song I (and probably a good deal of America) got tired of when it was a big single, but enjoyed hearing from another big act. Not as cool a cover as their “Kids/Poker Face” from Raditude, but I’ll take it. Also, the short-but-sweet “All My Friends Are Insects,” seems to me, at least on the basis of bugs being in the title, a little tribute or homage, or even just a call back to the aforementioned “Butterfly,” an unappreciated favorite of mine, which starts out with a nice piano introduction – a change of pace to the always guitar-heavy hooks of the previous songs on the album, then tells a little story of a guy who enjoys Earth’s little creatures. I can’t say that I relate – I refuse to befriend insects. Also in the bonus tracks, their Unofficial U.S. World Cup Team Anthem – “Represent,” which didn’t get much notice during the tournament, but I enjoyed nonetheless.

I’m not much for grades or ratings, because if I like something I’ll usually just give it my non-patented Thumb-Up-Of-Approval, but in this case I’m going to stick with a 5 star scale, of which I’ll give Hurley 3 stars. For reference and comparison, Blue and Pinkerton get 5 stars, Maladroit and Green get 4.5 stars, and Red and Raditude get 4. Make Believe gets a 2.

P.S. I give the Album Artwork 5 stars. Hurley’s the Man.

Hurley

He's such a happy guy, how can you not smile when you see this?

Music Review: Weezer’s “Raditude”

I’m gonna try something a little different on the blog. Here’s a review of the new Weezer album, Raditude, that came out on Tuesday, November 3rd.

I’ll start off with a disclaimer – I’m a huge Weezer fan. I’ve long considered them my favorite band, and I have been following them ever since I got into music. In fact, the first concert I ever went to was Weezer at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA in March of 2001. (Before I was even in High School! Wow!)

Unfortunately, because of my age, I was not old enough to witness and appreciate the early, glory days of Weezer – Blue and Pinkerton remain their best albums to date. But the good thing about music is that it’s timeless (although try telling that to some people in the older generation who believe my generation hasn’t ever heard of The Beatles – it’s happened). Anyway, the show helped bring me into the world of Weezer, and I promptly bought their 3 albums in response.

It’s common knowledge at this point that their next three albums were not as well received as the previous three. Especially not #4 Maladroit, and #5 Make Believe. Maladroit was fine, it showcased the band’s desires to play heavier rock, but lacked the success with singles their previous albums had. Make Believe was worse – definitely their poorest effort. It was a relatively ambitious album where they tried reaching in a bunch of different directions; each song sounded like it could fit in another album, but as a whole didn’t fit in together well. There were a couple good songs, but overall a disappointment. When Red came out last year, the band moved in a positive direction. I was a big fan of the album, although singles-wise they had the same issues as previous songs – “Pork and Beans” was musically similar to “Beverly Hills,” but a little better. “Troublemaker,” on the other hand,  is a more traditionally Weezer song, and one of my favorites on that album.

Raditude has a comparable feel to Red, but it’s a little more pop-rock, which is really where Rivers Cuomo is at his best. It’s a fun, catchy album along the lines of Green; there’s maturity but still hints of their older, simpler love songs. Their first single, “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)” is a perfect example of this. It’s in the tone of their newer sound, but the song is about the awkward time in a relationship before it blooms into something more. It’s upbeat, has a catchy hook, and has almost everything a Green era Weezer song would have, except for a guitar solo that mimicks the main melody of the song. In fact, the whole of Raditude lacks the presence of guitar solos, or really much advanced guitar work at all. The only song with much of a solo section is “The Story Of My Life,” which appears on the iTunes bonus tracks version of the album. This song is a bit further from traditional, as it is a completely acoustic and raw song, not included on the proper album.

“If You’re Wondering If I Want You To” featuring Sara Bareilles from AOL Sessions:

Speaking of the end of the album and bonus tracks, the band did something they started with Red, offering a bonus track version of the album. This time, they released a few different versions of the extended editions – an iTunes version which features “The Story of My Life ” and their cover/mash up of MGMT’s “Kids” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” The cover is a great song, and the mashup is seamless – the band uses the two songs identical chord progressions to their advantage, and Weezer does his best Gaga impression during the one verse of the song they include. It’s one of the longer songs on the album, and the synth rhythm acts as the backbone to the whole track.

My favorite track is “Can’t Stop Partying,” which is originally an old demo of Rivers’ he released on the second volume of his Home Recordings album, from last year. For “Raditude, he includes the whole band, some synths and the help of Rapper Lil’ Wayne to sing the second verse. Included in that second verse, a lyric that couldn’t happen in any other musical situation – “…it’s Weezer and it’s Weezy, upside down MTV…” The song has the same tongue-in-cheek tone as Make Believe’s “We Are All On Drugs,” but insists on itself less. Rivers also sticks to more of his melodic vocals, which is always a welcome decision over his previous obsession with  talk-rapping (see Maladroit’s “American Gigolo.”) It’s interesting as a contrast to his acoustic demo, but doesn’t lose anything as a polished, genre-mixing song.

Here’s “Can’t Stop Partying” from the AOL Sessions –  instead of Lil Wayne on they got Chamillionaire:

As a whole, I really enjoy the new album. It’s definitely no Blue, but as is the case with any other band that peaks early, I’m not sure they’ll ever make anything as good as their first one. As I hinted earlier, Rivers has made a career of attempting to create the perfect pop rock song, and is one of the more prolific writers of his generation. (In 2000-2001 the band released 30-40 demos on their website – I filled 2 CDs of most of them). Where he faltered a bit with attempting to be more than a pop-writer on Make Believe, he comes back with near full force on this one. One thing about Weezer that I’ve always loved is their ability to grow on me per each listen…so if you’re looking for a good pop rock album with some catchy, uncomplicated riffs and lyrics, look no further than Raditude. I give it my Josh Glass Thumb Up of Approval.