Three Weezer “Pinkerton” Things for Today

Weezer’s sophomore album, Pinkerton, was a failure by all accounts when it was released in 1996.  It wasn’t successful commercially, not was it successful critically, but in the time between now and then, the album has become legendary.  It basically spawned the entire emo genre and it’s considered one of the best albums of the last 20 years.

1. Pitchfork gives the deluxe reissue ofPinkerton a 10.0.  Which is not surprising, given how Pitchfork likes bestow the fabled 10.0 rating on reissued albums.

The supposedly juvenile feelings of Pinkerton still pack visceral power years after listeners would’ve supposedly outgrown them. It’s a record that reaches well beyond a diaristic look at Cuomo’s perversions, and instead asks something more universal: Do we really grow out of our teenage feelings, or do we need something like Pinkerton to expose them as merely being repressed to the point where they mutate? It’s heavy stuff, and in the manner of Violent Femmes, you can argue about the sexual politics, the late-career parody, or the total uncoolness of it in retrospect, but even if Pinkerton is ultimately an album that gets one single shot at you, the mark it leaves is indelible.

2. Rivers Cuomo talks aboutPinkerton with Rolling Stone, who’s readers named the album the third worst in 1996.

I get the sense it was a less collaborative effort than the Blue album. Is that true?

No. I don’t feel that way. Because on Pinkerton I hear a lot of—I hear the sound of Brian. That’s a new element for us. And there’s no click track, so you can hear the fluctuations in Pat’s steel. The other thing is, about half of those songs on Pinkerton I didn’t demo first. I wrote them on acoustic guitar and as a song composition, they were finished completely just me and my acoustic guitar, but then I didn’t orchestrate what everyone was playing. I didn’t make a full demo, I just strummed the chords and sang it and then everyone joined in, and then from there, Brian and I added overdubs. On the Blue Album, listen to a song like “Buddy Holly” and compare it to my demo, which is on Alone[Cuomo’s 2007 album of previously unreleased material]. It’s hardly any different apart from the tempo. Pinkerton sounds more collaborative to me.

3. Oddly enough, and I may take this with a giant grain of sand, but Howard Stern influenced Pinkerton. Still.

And, in retrospect, it began the long con of transforming Cuomo into a new and totally contemporary version of a rock star. This was a guy who was born in an ashram in 1970 and was a super-successful musician by 1993 in part because he was a nerd—because he was more interested in daydreaming about romance than fucking, because he sang aboutDungeons & Dragons. By 1996, he was telling girls to strip in his hotel room; by 2006, he was graduating from Harvard while meatheads screamed his songs at karaoke bars.Pinkerton, despite its unpopularity at the time, is the album that cemented what the Blue Album started: the further collapse of indie ideals into mainstream culture. It’s an album that could only meaningfully be made once, which is at least part of the reason why all the emo/pop hybrids it inspired are so ignorable: Nobody will build a better Pinkerton, and, really, nobody needs to.

Pinkerton is, and always will be, an essential ten album for me.  I’m still convinced that if Weezer had never released another album after Pinkerton, they would be regarded in the same breath today as Jeff Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel.  And if Cuomo had offed himself after Pinkerton, then well, he’d be the nerd-boyfriend Kurt Cobain. A messiah for the horned-rimmed males of America.

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