Weezer Rocks and Surprises with Hurley

Today, Weezer releases their eighth album, Hurley. Past Weezer albums were always associated with a long period of anticipation- news would filter out (usually through the band’s Web site) that the band was recording a new album (along with pictures and song titles, if we were lucky). The band would go back-and-forth with song selection, maybe even take a break during recording. Then, a release date would be announced. Weeks later, the title would be revealed and a few weeks before the album release, the track list would leak out.

Compared to this historical schedule, Weezer’s Hurley is a big surprise.

New Weezer material is always anticipated around the Kingdom, but Hurley just seemed to sneak up on the world. The band first announced the album back in July- not the recording of an album, but the release date. The title and tracklist quickly followed, and now, in what seems like a blink of an eye since the initial announcement, Hurley is here.

And we at the Kingdom are glad.

Hurley is a good album. Actually, it’s better than that. Weezer has released some good albums, and even great ones (Green, Make Believe) in the past decade, but something about Hurley just feels like it fits right in with their two classic 90s-era albums. Hurley is full of surprises.

As I mentioned in my review of Raditude, I’m typically not a fan of musical collaborations. Once again, Rivers Cuomo used a number of co-writers for the album. But thankfully, there are no featured rappers or guest sitarists. The guest musicians are Ryan Adams on Run Away, Michael Cera on Hang On and a few others, musicians who actually fit on a Weezer record.

As for the songs, there are some genuine good, rocking songs on Hurley. The songwriting is good, featuring Rivers at his most poetic.  The band sounds good here.  Pat is rocking the drums and Rivers’ voice is outstanding, the best it’s been for a long time.  As for the songs, standouts include Ruling Me, Unspoken, Hang On and Smart Girls, which was one of the nicest surprises on Hurley. Prior to the album’s release, the Weezer community panned two songs based on their descriptions alone: Smart Girls and Where’s My Sex.

Smart Girls was described as an homage to the Beach Boys (as seen through the lens of The Beatles’ Back in the U.S.S.R.). As for Where’s My Sex, Rivers said in an interview he was inspired to write the song after his three-year old daughter was looking for some missing socks.

Based on those descriptions, it’s easy to see why these songs could potentially be considered clunkers. But the surprising nature of Hurley shows itself once again: these are good songs. Smart Girls is a fun, poppy rocker (but then again, I like Back in the U.S.S.R.) complete with what feels like the only guitar solo on the album. And for all its goofiness, Where’s My Sex is a fun song that’s a decent listen. There are some other decent songs on here too- lead single Memories, Run Away and Brave New World, which is saved by an incredible bridge.

There are two songs, however, that I can’t get behind. Trainwrecks sounds like it lives up to its name-it goes nowhere. And album closer Time Flies is a low-fi pile of meh.

Something else I can’t get behind is the deluxe version of Hurley, which is something of a departure for me. For The Red Album and Raditude, the deluxe editions contain some of those album’s best songs. For Hurley, I have to wonder if deluxe is even worth it. There are four tracks: All My Friends are Insects, Viva La Vida, I Want to Be Something and Represent. All My Friends are Insects and Represent are available elsewhere (and in the case of Represent, the other version is superior). Viva La Vida, aside from being a cover of the most pretentious song ever, is from a live show which has been available for more than a year. The one new tune is I Want to Be Something, a Rivers acoustic demo that should have been on an Alone instead.  (UPDATE 9/14: Went to Borders, the same place I’ve gotten each of the last four Weezer albums on their release day to pick up Hurley.  Standard was $10.  Deluxe was $20.  No way was I going to pay an extra $10 for those four songs).

My minor quibbles with the deluxe edition aside, Hurley is still a solid Weezer album that feels like it’s a Weezer album. Even though it’s been a bit of a surprise, I’d like to take my time and enjoy it, but I don’t think that’s likely.

In seven short weeks (November 2),Weezer’s former label will release not one, but two compilations featuring old and new material. I’ve already said plenty about the first, Pinkerton Deluxe. The second, Death to False Metal (original title: Odds and Ends) features ten unreleased tracks from 1993-2008 including a cover of Unbreak My Heart (originally recorded for Make Believe) and unheard Weezer tunes Auto Pilot (from the Red Album sessions) and Trampoline and Everyone (recorded during the summer of ’98- a time period I’m obsessed with).

With all this material on the way, it’s a great time to be a Weezer fan.

Surprises like Hurley just make it better.

Weezer Pays Homage To The New Dude In Charge

It’s looking like it will be a good fall for Weezer fans. Even with the Pinkerton Deluxe (no tracklist yet) retrospective, unreleased tunes compilation Odds and Ends (same here) and possibly another installment in the Alone Series (your guess is as good as mine) coming this fall, Weezer is releasing their eighth studio album on September 14.

Rolling Stone had some details about the upcoming album, entitled Hurley, hinting that its title may be inspired by one our favorite characters here at the Kingdom:

After parting ways with their longtime label Geffen/Interscope, Weezer will release Hurley — which may be named after the portly Lost character — through California-based punk label Epitaph.

Seems that like Raditude, this album will feature a few collaborations, but unlike Raditude, these collaborations will be with more rock-influenced artists, like Mac Davis, who wrote In The Ghetto for Elvis Presley (the other King).

As revealed on the Alone II album, much of Rivers’ early material was influenced by the pop sounds of the Beach Boys.  In a way, Hurley could represent a return to Rivers’ roots.  From RS:

Instead, Hurley will focus on the melodies and major chords of traditional ’60s pop. In addition to the planned first single “Memories,” other new tracks include “Ruling Me” and “Hang On,” another pop-rock track that “sounds like Frankie Valli but mixed with Metallica guitars.” There’s also “Smart Girls,” Cuomo’s ode to all the girls that proposition on him on Twitter. … “Smart Girls,” which Cuomo compares to the Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.” in the sense that it sounds like someone else writing a “cheesy Beach Boys type of song.”

In case you have to ask, yes, I’m looking forward to this.  Speaking of things I’m looking forward to, the Lost DVD set coming out later this month will have a look at what Island life is like under the Hugo Reyes regime.

Waiting and Waiting (for Pinkerton Deluxe)

UPDATE September, 2010: A Japanese Web site posted a possible tracklist, view it here.

Last fall, Weezer announced a special Deluxe Edition of their second album, 1996’s Pinkerton would appear in stores in February or March 2010.  Not only would this deluxe album feature the 10 tracks of Pinkerton, it would also contain demos, alternate versions and possibly other unreleased gems like a full-band version of Superfriend (from Songs from the Black Hole), Getting Up and Leaving or even the (now) mythical track Tragic Girl.

Last November, I wrote a post speculating what would comprise Pinkerton Deluxe, and I’ve gotten some traffic to the Kingdom thanks to it.  Well, I feel it necessary to post an update: It’s February (almost March) and we’re going to have to wait a little longer for the album.

Weezer Homie Karl Koch posted on allthingsweezer this week that while the tracklist is done, we will have to wait a little longer for Pinkerton Deluxe.  No word on how much longer.

However, before we get Pinkerton Deluxe, we can expect Odds and Ends, a CD featuring a number of unreleased Weezer songs that were recorded for album releases, but never saw the light of day.  If you want to speculate on what songs will be on Odds and Ends, you better have some time on your hands.  All I can say is check out the Weezer Recording History, and anywhere you see a song mentioned as being recorded during an official album session, you have a potential O+E track.

Weird Al Don't Care About That

Back in ’96 there was some confusion amongst fans of “Weird Al” Yankovic and Weezer (overlapping fan groups for me) as to why Weird Al would thank Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo in the liner notes of his newest album Bad Hair Day when there wasn’t anything resembling a Weezer song on the album.

Turns out Al had wanted to include a sample of Buddy Holly in BHD’s Alternative Polka, but due to a misunderstanding, didn’t get word that he didn’t have permission to do so until after the notes had been printed.

In the recent years, things seemed to have been smoothed out between Weird Al and Weezer, as Weezer let Al use a sample of Buddy Holly for Poodle Hat’s Angry White Boy Polka and one of Al’s latest singles, Skipper Dan, sounds similar to Weezer’s Pork and Beans.

Well, last night, after 13 years of being buried in the vaults, Weird Al released through his Twitter the 20-or-so second clip of Buddy Holly removed from Alternative Polka, which you can listen to here.

True, it’s only 20 seconds and sounds exactly how you think it would sound, but it’s nice to know things are good between Weird Al and The Weezers.

Who Will Have The Titular Line On Weezer's Raditude?

Back in aught-five, when I heard the title of Weezer’s fifth album was to be “Make Believe,” I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Sure, it grew on me, but there was some initial uncertainty.

Today, after learning the title of Weezer’s seventh album (coming October 27) will be “Raditude,” I feel a similar uncertainty.

At first, I read the title as “Ratitude,” which would have been even worse, considering the last decent album about rats was Michael Jackson’s “Ben.”

But then I fully woke up and read the title correctly. Still, I suppose it could have been worse (“Brownerton,” “Maladroit II: Maladroit Harder”). And knowing me, it will grow on me.

The title could make sense given Rivers Cuomo’s ongoing transformation into Good Ol’ Fun Time Rivers. Either way, I’m looking forward to hearing who has the titular line.

UPDATE: According to Rivers’ Twitter (twitter.com/RiversCuomo), we have Rainn Wilson to thank for the title. I’m not going to any of this summer’s Blink/weez shows, but if Weezer ends up playing the Schrute Farms Beetfest, I am so there.

Weird Al: Skipper Dan and Beans

I’ve previously shared my opinion that “Weird Al” Yankovic is one of the greatest musical genuises of our time.  Al is known mostly for his song parodies, but he also has a large number of original songs, most of which are style parodies/homages.  Some of these, like Twister, Frank’s 2,000″ TV and Dare to Be Stupid (not to mention One More Minute, which isn’t an homage to any one artist) stand right up there with some of Al’s best parodies.

Well, Al has released his newest song, Skipper Dan, and if you ask me, it’s a style parody of a song that was huge last summer (and of which you could say I was a fan).  I think he’s got this one down- even to leaving out the guitar solo.

Skipper Dan

He didn’t even throw in a drum solo!

The Wuggie: A Marketing Tie-In Gone Crazy

I’m as big a Weezer fan as there is out there, but I’m not so sure I can get behind their latest idea (if true).

Behold, Rivers Cuomo rocking the “Wuggie”:

Last week, Weezer played KROQ’s annual Weenie Roast, taking the stage atop a couch bedecked in custom Snuggies.  But Rolling Stone says that was just the beginning of a much more sinister plan:

Like the rest of America, he’s obsessed with the Snuggie. So much that his band is — no joke — planning their own line of sleeved blankets called Wuggies. Cuomo told Rolling Stone, “A Wuggie is basically exactly like a Snuggie, except it says Weezer on it. The people at Snuggie are doing it with us and promoting it with us. It’s a totally legit Snuggie.”

Part of me feels the band would be better off giving their attention to the mysterious Album Seven.  On the other hand, no one makes more fun of Rivers Cuomo than Rivers Cuomo, so as long as he’s having fun with it, why not?

Don't Forget What Day Today Is…

…that’s right, it’s International Weezer Day!

Last year was a good year for fans of the Weez- with a new album, tour, and a boatload of solo stuff from Rivers.  Who knows what’s on tap this year? Could be more albums, another tour or two (hopefully without a co-headliner) and more solo stuff from RC.  But then again, it could be the beginning of another multi-year wait before any other Weezer action.  

But I have a feeling it’s the former rather than the latter (or is it latter rather than the former? I never get that one right).  Anyway, from all of us here at the Kingdom to all of you out there, may the Weez be with you.

Rivers Cuomo: Alone Again

If there was ever an album that I’m predisposed to like, it would be Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.

The second in a series (of hopefully many) of albums of [Weezer lead singer’s] Rivers Cuomo’s home solo demos gives listeners a chance to hear some of the songs that weren’t big radio hits (or necessarily tunes that made a Weezer album), but are instead some of Rivers’ favorite compositions.

This album is the Empire Strikes Back to Alone I’s A New Hope.  While Alone I was good and gave the fans a taste of songs they’d been waiting to hear, Alone II is deeper and more emotionally satisfying.  Alone II actually flows as a comprehensive album.  The only drawback to the album-not everything is epic or even great (similar to Alone I).  There are two song snippets that don’t stand up on their own.  And the three tracks representing Songs From The Black Hole are more exposition for the overall SFTBH story than songs that stand up on their own (with the possible exception of Come to My Pod).

Other than those five tracks, the rest of the album consists of songs that could have made any Weezer album, and a few that could be big radio hits.  They’re enjoyable songs with no embarassing boy band-style attempts at music like Alone I’s This Is the Way.  Some of the songs, like The Purification of Water, My Brain is Working Overtime and The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World have already been circulated in a live or inferior quality version amongst fans.  In those cases, it’s great to have those songs in an official version.

As a fan bordering on the obsessive, for me, the gem of the album is actually its liner notes.  I described last year’s liner notes as “detailed,” but Alone II’s liners put those to shame.  The booklet is a 28-page chronological journey through Rivers’ songwriting life.  He’s brutally honest with the places he was in during his lows, as well as how analytical he could be with his obsessive of writing the perfect song.  However, it sounds like he has regained his confidence and is in a better place.  Either way, I’m looking forward to any other writing projects he may have in his future.

As well as the musical ones.

Number Nine

Since 2000, I’ve been to nine Weezer concerts.  Yesterday evening, The Civee (who is not a Weezer fan) and I attended my latest, which took place in the Palace at Auburn Hills located pretty damn far away from Detroit.

Even though I’m not one of the cool kids anymore (and it’s debatable as to if I ever was), we had floor tickets and enjoyed the show from the crowd.  To say it was an interesting Weezer show would not be giving the concert justice.  

The music was great.  And the band did more songs than I’d ever see them do before.  But the band seemed more alive this time.  Up to and including my fifth Weezer show in December 2001, lead singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo would stand in one place while capably performing the guitar and vocals.  Since then, his presence has grown by leaps and bounds, as I mentioned during my last show:

Lead singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo was like a human dynamo. He was way more chatty than ever before…didn’t mind letting others take the spotlight, letting every member of the band front at least one song. During El Scorcho, Rivers gave up lead guitar duties and actually walked/danced/staggered around the stage while singing.

The amount of action going on on the stage made 2005 Rivers look like he did during my very first show.  Not only did Rivers sing and play guitar, he ran around the stage, danced, chatted up his band-mates, clapped, and delivered some blistering solos while jumping on a trampoline. There was a lot of life to the show, and that was a good thing.

Opening acts Tokyo Police Club and Angels and Airwaves were more than capable of starting the evening.  I hadn’t heard any of the output of either band, but I enjoyed the sets (even if TPC sounded repetitive and A&A (or AVA as their shirts read) was a bit too dramatic).  But when Weezer came to the stage in white matching overalls (which they later shed in favor of matching red tracksuits), it was time to rock.

The setlist spanned their career, and each member got to take a few turns singing lead on a song.  I do have two complaints about the setlist: It was virtually identical to the previous few shows and with the exception of a group-efforted My Name is Jonas and Brian-fronted Susanne, the older songs were strictly singles.  I would have liked to have heard something along the lines of Don’t Let Go, No One Else or Getchoo.  But I guess when you try and cram six-plus albums worth of songs into one show, not everyone is going to get what they want.

My only other slight complaint is the trading-off of lead vocalists.  It’s fine for Pat to sing his song “Automatic” or to turn in a cover of “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” But it’s still weird hearing Brian singing El Scorcho.

Six of the show’s songs were off the newest album, which were all strong performances.  They actually pulled off a live version of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, and I have to say I was pleased to hear them play Dreamin’ (with recorded bird noises) in a live setting.

Other highlights of the show included about 30 fans (including Scott’s dad) joining them onstage in Hootenanny form for Island in the Sun and Beverly Hills.  This was enjoyable, but about 25 of those fans had guitars–it would have been more interesting had there been a second tuba or some other instruments rather than 25 guitars.

The band closed the night with a Rivers-fronted cover of Sliver and Buddy Holly.  The band sounded tight throughout the show, but really shined (probably because Rivers wasn’t distracted by the trampoline) with these two songs.  

I’m glad Weezer is still tight musically, and isn’t afraid of trying new things.  I’m also happy The Civee appeared to have a good time.  The band has grown a lot in the few years I’ve been seeing them live, and I’m looking forward to the next tour–I just hope it’s closer than Detroit.*

*I’m sure the city isn’t crazy about me, but I can’t stand Detroit.  Driving to/through the city is a nightmare.  If you’re not getting lost, you’re stuck in traffic or almost hit by some gigantic SUV going 95.