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Weezer, ‘Hurley’ (Epitaph)

Such is the predictable cycle of pre-release Weezer buzz that Rivers Cuomo fans must’ve been skeptical upon hearing that, on the new Hurley, their hero was forgoing the simplistic MTV interstitial bait he’s been churning out for a decade to return to the devastating self-confessional form of 1994’s self-titled debut and 1996’s emo touchstone Pinkerton. This time around, though, there were reasons to give such rumors credence. Having Epitaph for a label lent a patina of punk cred, and Cuomo told interviewers the music was “raw” and that he was mulling a tour devoted to his band’s mid-’90s classics. One could hope.

Well, the Blue Album this ain’t. Neither, thankfully, is it Raditude. Instead, it’s a solid collection of precise and persuasively melodic rock that has enough oddball brio to feel like the effort of a real live human being, rather than more formally flawless, emotionally inert output from the Cuomobot.

To wit: The opening verse of boppingly nostalgic first single and lead-off track “Memories” mentions “pissing in plastic cups” and “watching freaky Dutch kids vomit and then have sex.” It’s just pervy enough to work. Elsewhere, “Unspoken” builds organically from introverted acoustic-based charm to brassy pop-metal pomp, and “Run Away” yearns like it means it. “Hang On” even shows the band attractively adopting some cinematic latter-day Springsteen chug. (The celebratory “Smart Girls” gets by on principle.)

While Hurley avoids jarring missteps like last year’s club-rock curiosity “I Can’t Stop Partying” (who was that song for anyway?) it does have a couple clunkers. “Where’s My Sex?” is as flat as its title, and Cuomo sounds like he can’t decide whether to wag his tongue or keep it in his cheek on the rock star portrait “Trainwrecks.”

But hey, this album was never gonna change anyone’s life, Cuomo included. Weezer hasn’t been designed to do that for a long time. The band’s aims are more modest now: have fun, get people to sing along, share a common feeling or two. Hurley achieves those goals with something approaching dignity. Phew.