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.

What About Waaaalt?

This is the second entry in a series titled “IWant Some Freakin’ Answers.”  From time to time, I’ll talk about some of the things we’ve seen over the past five seasons of Lost that I’d like answered.  I’m not going to deal with topics we know will get answered (like the smoke monster), but rather those things that no one but die-hard Lost fans would care about.  It’s very likely that not everything will be answered, and even possible that some may be passed off as continuity errors, but Lost wouldn’t have obsessive fans if people didn’t care about the little things, right?

Out of all the Lost cast members, life outside the show has been most unkind to Malcolm David Kelley, who played Walt Lloyd (a.k.a. WAAAALT! or “My boy”).  Originally playing a ten year old boy, Kelley started his growth spurt in the years following Season 1, as he was removed from the show’s main cast (in a surprisingly benign way) while making cameo appearances throughout the following season.

During Season 1, we got the impression that Walt was not quite normal.  Called “special” by several people, Walt was kidnapped by the Others after flashing some knife throwing and bird attracting skills.  In addition, Walt also hinted at having the abilities of precognition and astral projection–all leading up to the question behind this week’s I Want Some Freakin’ Answers — what is (or was) up with Walt?

Originally portrayed as Michael’s rebellious kid (or alternatively, the kid Michael was stuck with raising) after crashing on the island, Walt quickly became friends with Locke and Hurley.  Locke and Boone taught Walt how to throw a mean knife, and Hurley taught Walt all about gambling (although, Hurley lost a lot of money to Walt, so maybe Hugo was really teaching him how not to play backgammon).  “Special,” a flashback episode devoted to Walt and Michael established that Walt was raised by his mother and an unwilling stepfather who was spooked by some weird things that happened whenever Walt was around.

More weirdness happened later in the first season, during a discussion between Walt and Locke.  Locke reached out to touch Walt, who got implored Locke “Don’t open it, Mr. Locke. Don’t open that thing.”  Spooked by his encounter with Locke and a chilling vision of things to come, Walt willingly left the island with his father on the raft, only to be kidnapped by the Others.

Even though he was in the care of the Others, Walt appeared to Shannon twice, speaking backwards (much like another little man from another place), warning of doom shortly before Shannon’s death.  Walt (or more likely, the Others) communicated to Michael through the Swan’s computer, who was slowly losing his sanity.  The trick worked, sending Michael off the deep end and giving the Others their bargaining chip in Ben’s plan to get Jack to do the spinal surgery which would save Ben’s life.

In a Missing Piece produced between the third and fourth seasons, we learned that the Others were just as scared of Walt’s powers as his step father was.  We didn’t learn anything of the powers or what benefit they would serve to the Island, but we learned that he was one scary kid.

After being captured by the Others, Michael is asked several questions about Walt, including “has Walt ever been somewhere he wasn’t meant to be?”  Partially because he was an absent father for most of Walt’s life, Michael is unable to answer these questions, but is able to bargain for his and Walt’s freedom, as well as a safe way off the island.  In a brief meeting, Walt tells Michael the others aren’t who they seem to be and that he spends his time taking tests.

Finally, Michael turns in Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley (in addition to killing Ana Lucia and Libby) and at the end of Season Two, sets off for civilization.  Here, Walt and Michael’s paths diverge.  Michael agrees to help the Others by posing as a spy on Widmore’s ship.  On the other hand, Walt goes back to school (but not before appearing to a near-death Locke on the island and urging him to finish up his work), and meets Jeremy Bentham/John Locke and travels to visit Hurley.

Walt meets Jeremy Bentham.

It would be nice in the final season to find out what was going on with Walt.  Why did the Others want him?  How did they know that he was special?  Did he have other gifts than killing birds and appearing in places he wasn’t supposed to be?  What did the Others get out of him?  And why was he so fearful about the hatch.

There are a lot of loose ends in regard to Walt.  And because he’s appeared on the show sparingly since the end of Season One, I don’t have many guesses as to how and if he fits in in the overall scheme of things.  If they were to bring him back, at least Walt would reach Malcolm David Kelley’s real-life age, so if they were to bring him back, now would be an appropriate time.

And hopefully, we’d find out whether Walt got that $83,000 Hurley owed him.

Follow[ing] The Leader May Not Be The Best Idea

Since coming back from the dead, John Locke hasn’t been quite right, and all signs pointed to him going off the deep end on tonight’s episode of Lost, Follow The Leader.

First of all, there’s the very fact that he came back from the dead, which seemingly goes against the laws of nature (which may or may not apply on Lost Island).   Secondly, he’s had a higher-than-usual rapport with the island- knowing what to do and where to go, and as we saw tonight, knowing exactly when he was.

And finally, tonight, we heard of Locke’s plan, which made me think he’s lost it. Continue reading “Follow[ing] The Leader May Not Be The Best Idea”

The Reyes-Straume Roundtable Will Address Whatever Happened [Happened]

Hurley and Miles prepare to discuss the news of the day.Usually, when Lost throws a Kate episode out there, I get very bitter afterwards, wishing the episode had focused on someone more integral to the show’s overall mythology.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think there are plenty of other characters on the island (everyone but Sun) who has a more interesting story and who is more integral to the Lost saga.  But at least tonight, after Whatever Happened, Happened, I’m not bitter.  For a Kate episode, it was not that bad.

There are a few reasons for this; The continued self-assertion of Sawyer as leader of the survivors.  DHARMA.  The continued downward spiral of Jack into the biggest idiot on the island.  The Others.  But most of all, the two conversations between Hurley and Miles discussing time travel and whether they’re living in their own future or their past. (And by the way, Miles is right, he just doesn’t know why.  I think)

Continue reading “The Reyes-Straume Roundtable Will Address Whatever Happened [Happened]”