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Weezer Salutes the Dudes

Mac Hendrickson | Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being strange is a tricky business. It’s tough to tell if putting an unmodified profile shot of a character from a recent TV series on your album cover will be well received. Weezer is about to find out.

Weezer’s new album, following last year’s belly flop “Raditude,” is titled “Hurley” after one of the characters from the recently concluded television series “Lost.” The assumption would be that the allusion to this contemporary character was meant to reveal something about the approach of the songs.

So who was Hurley? He was an overweight Cali dude. He was the comic relief for the show. He was probably a Weezer fan. In fact, Jorge Garcia, the actor who played Hurley in “Lost,” admitted that it was more than an honor to have been placed on the album’s cover.

Suffice it to say, the album appears to be a salute to the lovable dudes in the world in all their average glory. Sound like a Weezer album yet? That’s exactly what it is.

Front man Rivers Cuomo is at his best in writing catchy neo-punk anthems. The album explodes with the dynamite track “Memories.” The song is a retrospect of the 90’s, but not in the revisionist-VH1 tendency. Weezer was there, making great music and hanging out with the weirdoes — the guys who thought they were Buddy Holly.

“Trainwrecks” and “Unspoken” are almost as strong as “Memories.” “Unspoken” rises from acoustic punches to a punk rock plea. “Trainwrecks” is a classic Cuomo song about being young and kind of a loser, and how that’s OK.

The remainder of the tracks taper off into the zone of the likable but forgettable. The few songs that you don’t forget will be the ones you skip over the second time through. “Where’s My Sex” consists of several statements about sex that appear to actually be about socks. Don’t look for meaning — you might get nauseous.

“Smart Girls” is a song about, well, smart girls, who are everywhere, like zombies. Cuomo asks, “Where did all these smart girls come from?” If he’s going to make songs about attending Harvard, he shouldn’t ask such dumb questions. 

The album’s weakest point is Cuomo’s lyrics. On earlier albums, he was able to pull off his weirdo-conversationalist anthems. Here, the words spit off awkwardly as garage band lyricism from a teenage front man. Lyrics like “In the rain / in the sun / Everybody / Needs someone” almost sound tongue-in-check, and Cuomo’s intentionality is in question. 

Critically acclaimed neo-folk artist Joe Henry said of his 2007 album “Civilians” that the sound and feel of the music had been structured around a certain black and white photograph, which eventually became the album’s cover. Henry presented his strategy as unique. Though most don’t work from cover to music, the idea of matching the album artwork with the overall feel of the music is actually almost as common as albums themselves. 

In this aspect, “Hurley” shines. The 10 tracks, more or less, are the soundtrack for the life of a 21st-century dude, lovable and unsophisticated. It’s a catchy mix of idiosyncrasy and pop.  It’s weird and light hearted. It will never change your life, or even your mind. It’s good Thursday night music. Good for, after winning the lottery, riding around with your buddy and savoring the remaining hours of the simple life.  It’s Hurley’s music.