Weezer - Pinkerton (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Pinkerton (1996)


Here's the big, massive difference between the Blue Album and Pinkerton, Weezer's 1996 sophomore effort: Weezer invites you to dive into the world of this particular band, one that's esoteric and pleasingly yearning (in a way that reminds you maybe of those Beatles albums your dad pulls out sometimes), filled with harmonies and big triumphant guitar solos. In direct contrast Pinkerton makes you identify with Rivers Cuomo and his deep frustrations, often to a very, very uncomfortable degree, the equivalent of being in a cramped room with a man ranting at you about his creepy issues. Pinkerton is the desperate, jumbled spilling out of a single guy's rage with said status, obsession with “half Japanese girls” and desire to be a “good little boy” when he knows he's not that in the least. You could condemn Cuomo's Orientalist obsessions and petty grudges, but it's hard to because (1) the songs are so good and well...(2) most of us have felt like this. We've probably just processed it a little bit easier, in part because of pieces of pop culture like this.

And of course, the main thrill of the album is exactly that it was a raw, dirty record (at least as raw as Weezer could get) written by a man who's chucked his super ego into the trash because it's not fucking helping. The solo on “Pink Triangle” for example is closer to a Cobain bridge than the hummable ones on “Buddy Holly”, while “Tired of Sex” opens with feedback and hideous, simplistic keyboard interlocked with sludgy bass. Weezer produced the record themselves and it has the ramshackle, resentful sound of a band making themselves as loud and profane as they want, Patrick Wilson's drums throughout on “Getchoo” and “Falling For You” pounding to be heard in the mix. It can get a little grating on repeated listen, as if the band was just being snotty to the average listener, but the splashes of beauty throughout are breaths of fresh air amid squeal that still reward twenty years later, like the xylophone on “Triangle”

What truly makes Pinkerton so effective and powerful though is how personal and fearlessly, hideously unfiltered the songs are. Cuomo wrote them of course famously after spending time at Harvard and an operation on his leg, writing ten pieces of bile, loneliness and loathing: loathing for himself and for the women he wants so badly that then changes back into a simple need for anyone, physically and emotionally. Inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly, Pinkerton is a version of that kind of heavy emotion, albeit processed through the world of a white twentysomething pop savant. Many of the lyrics sound like threats or floating creepy thoughts: “It used to be a game/Now it's a crying shame/Cause you don't wanna play around no more”, “So I broke into your room and read your diary...”

But that's why so many people started to embrace Pinkerton, why it's DNA is embedded in dozens of bands, right down to the acoustic closer - “Butterfly”, a beautiful, unbearably wrenching piece of work where Cuomo wrestles with what he's done, who he is, and the possibility of real, lasting empathy for women as something other than intangible, beautiful objects. “I guess you're as real as me/Maybe I can live with that/Maybe I need fantasy/a life of chasing butterfly,” he sings, a moment of epiphany that hopefully doesn't fade and wither either (amusingly plenty of emo bands seem to have missed the point here). Pinkerton was a martyr, an album made so other, especially major label bands didn't have to cross that line and could write slightly more palatable alt-rock. Cuomo himself disowned it for a few years til he got the message that it had found its audience at last, but Weezer will never, ever make anything like it again. Pinkerton lived so others could find it, relate, then start bands of their own, repeating the same cycle of alienation, identification, and creation. And on pop music goes.