By Allison Stewart
You're not the only one who misses the old Weezer. On "Memories," one of the best tracks on the group's new disc, "Hurley," singer Rivers Cuomo reminisces about the band's early days playing hacky sack and messing with journalists ("We didn't know what we were doing half of the time / We were so sure of ourselves and sure of our way through life") in the years before fame and familial responsibilities took over.
Since those glory days, Cuomo and company have taken a sledgehammer to their legacy, having discarded brainy, often intimate-minded power pop in favor of brainless and dated faux-pop-punk. Whether the band is genuine in its desire to make dumb albums or it's making some kind of ironic statement about dumb albums is still impossible to tell. Weezer has become the musical equivalent of Joaquin Phoenix: The band may be goofing or may be sincere, but it's awkward either way.
Occasionally, "Hurley" charms. At the very least, it begins the slow climb out of the hole dug by 2009's so-bad-it's-good-oh-wait-no-actually-it's-just-bad "Raditude." It's an even faux-harder collection of punk-pop tracks overloaded with sound-alike songs and heavy with undisguised filler, many written with the assistance of Top 40 vets like Linda Perry and No Doubt's Tony Kanal. There are few tracks here (with the exception of the approving ode "Smart Girls") that would be out of place on a Matrix-produced Avril Lavigne disc.
But for every inadvertent gem like "Run Away" (written with Ryan Adams), there's a painful dud like "Where's My Sex?," a staccato blast of Dada-ish pop ("I can't go out without my sex / It's cold outside and my toes get wet / . . . Where's my sex?") that Cuomo might as well have titled "Where's My Dignity?" He should know: It's always in the last place you look.
Recommended tracks: "Memories," "Ruling Me"