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51mCPzhJy5L. SL500 AA300 Traditionally, WEEZER albums are at their best when they have no title and are only identified by the color of the background present on the cover. The “blue album”, the “green album,” the “red album.” Fact is, while those might be their best, Weezer have never made a bad album.

While their last album, RADITUDE was a bit of a disappointment, it wasn’t really a bad record – it just wasn’t up to Weezer standards. I have a theory that the album was actually intentionally crafted to irritate fans, critics, and more importantly – the label executives of the band’s longtime home at Geffen/DGC. Their last album for the label, RADITUDE was possibly looked at as a “deal-breaker” for the band. There’s a common practice in the business for bands to turn in a rushed album, an “experimental” album, or an album where they just simply don’t put forth 100% effort, because it doesn’t really matter since it’s the end of the road at said label.

For a very long time there was a standard practice of ridiculous “seven album deals,” even though the odds were stacked against a band ever actually making seven albums. Sixteen years after the release of the “blue album,” RADITUDE marked lucky number seven for the Los Angeles-based band. Coincidence?

Now comes time for HURLEY, the eighth studio album from Weezer, and their first for indie powerhouse Epitaph Records.

Reviewed here from the standard edition (a deluxe edition will be available, along with vinyl/digital variations – each with bonus materials), HURLEY is a ten-track affair, clocking in at just over 33-minutes. To say that they album is a “return to form” would be an understatement. Bursting at the seams with the classic sounds one would expect from an earlier Weezer record, HURLEY brings back the feel-good, downstroked rock that listeners have been waiting for, along with a few welcome surprises.

As evident in the first single, “Memories,” the wise-cracking, name-dropping Weezer is back, and if they were seeking a return to their glory days as the lyrics seem to indicate, they’ve accomplished their mission. “Ruling Me” is another up-tempo pop number with a riff on the verses that takes you right back to the sound of the band’s first album. “Trainwrecks” has a little bit more of a “modern rock” sound, but that’s not a bad thing, as it leads into “Unspoken” – one of the most surprising tracks on the album, and my personal favorite. With a PINKERTON-era acoustic intro that features a whimsical pan-flute in the background that becomes replaced by a full string section, listeners will be suprised to hear the sudden turn into Weezer at their electrified loudest, and possibly heaviest in the song’s third act.

Despite some interesting tempo changes, “Where’s My Sex”  (“sex” = “socks”) manages to squeeze in a nod to Bounce dryer sheets, while providing the low point of the album. “Run Away” has my money for the album’s second single, while “Hang On” is pure pop gold. The orchestration that backs the band adds to a polished vibe that recalls 60’s pop a la Brian Wilson or the Phil Spector “wall of sound.” Then there’s “Smart Girls,” which just plain rocks.

“Brave New World” should have been the album closer, with it’s epic feel and introspection into the next chapter of Weezer’s nearly two-decade-long career. Instead, the acoustic “Time Flies” wraps things up, providing it’s own version of closure. Hard to believe that the 20th Anniversary of Weezer’s debut is less than four years away.

Bottom line: Weezer’s HURLEY is one of 2010’s best albums. How did they manage to pull off writing, recording, and releasing the album a mere 10 months after their last? My theory is that this album was written before RADITUDE. Fans of cover-boy Jorge Garcia from LOST can feel free to search for clues and unravel the mystery…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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