Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
The John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band of sexual frustration. That’s really the best way to explain it. Incredibly, almost uncomfortably, confessional and oftentimes harrowing, Weezer’s Pinkerton is an anomaly in the band’s oeuvre. Disillusioned by the success of his band’s first album and under the influence of both pain and pain killers from the aftermath of leg surgery, Rivers Cuomo sequestered himself to a lonely semester at Harvard, where he wrote new songs and pieced together old demos from his scrapped concept album, Songs From The Black Hole. So though not every song is explicitly autobiographical, the emotion and subject matter is still true to Cuomo, who writes with soul-bearing sincerity throughout. Pinkerton is a song cycle largely about heartbreak and depression (with disparate references to Madame Butterfly), but Cuomo revitalizes these subjects through his revealing lyrics, which are self-pitying but feel human, not pathetic. During the record he reveals embarrassing secrets about his feelings for an adoring fan (“Across The Sea”), agonizes over pursuing romantic interests (“El Scorcho,” “Why Bother?,” “Falling For You”) and resigns himself to staying in a dysfunctional relationship (“No Other One”). Yet along with the despair, there are moments of hope and humor, even if it is self-deprecating. “Pink Triangle” is about a doomed crush on a lesbian, while on “The Good Life,” he decides to pick himself up and get back “out on the floor, shakin’ booty.”
But it’s not just Cuomo’s words. His songwriting and the band’s performance provide considerably more power than on Weezer’s already fantastic debut. The band’s basic sound hasn’t changed much—it’s still the same mix of power pop, punk-pop, indie rock and heavy metal—but they decided to go for a more visceral, bare-bones sound, akin to their live performances. The result is often messy and dense, with overlapping backing vocals, noise-ravaged guitar riffs, pounding beats and Cuomo’s emotive shouts rising above the din. Cuomo’s songs, too, are better than ever, and for an album so rough and emotional, they are perhaps even more hooky than the songs on Weezer. “Tired Of Sex” and “Getchoo” vie for the most brutal and angry moment in their catalog; “The Good Life” and “El Scorcho” have memorable, fist-pumping choruses; “Why Bother?” has a raucous, freewheeling energy, and “Butterfly” is a heartrending, acoustic closer.
At the time, unsurprisingly for an album so emotionally vulnerable, Pinkerton was largely shunned both by the press and the music-buying public, leading to its initial flop release and Weezer’s hiatus shortly there afterwards. It was only years later, as the album’s cult audience grew, that critics suddenly revered it, gradually leading to its current stature as one of the greatest records of the 1990s. Even so, Pinkerton had a profound influence on the then-burgeoning emo and indie rock scenes, which, at the time, weren’t so far apart. If only more artists were as honest as Cuomo is here.