Slowpoke Music Review: “Pinkerton” – Weezer

Pinkerton - Weezer

Yeah, yeah – the album’s fifteen years old now, and I’m late to the game. I only got around to it just now, okay? I suppose it’s a comment on the quality of the album itself that a complete outsider, with no emotional connection to the band, no real investment in the music scene, and have only vaguely heard that the album exists and that it was noteworthy, decides upon first listening that it’s worth making a public note about it.

So here’s my TL;DR verdict:

It’s not bad.

What, you want more? Fine, have some pretentious analysis:

Apparently, this album tanked hard during its initial release. No surprise there – as limited as my music knowledge is (believe me, it’s very fucking limited), “Pinkerton” doesn’t sound much like a ’90s song. It does, however, sound like the musical blueprint or prototype for much of what’s come out in the last ten years or so – the foundational frequency of the alt rock and emo bands that emerged in its wake.

For that, I kind of want to punch Cuomo in the mouth.

Kind of. Even if “Pinkerton” was the underlying influence of a crippling wave of trashy, shallow and insincere pop rockers, it’s not the album’s fault, or Cuomo’s, that so damn many of them failed to capture “Pinkerton’s” spirit.  There’s a component in “Pinkerton” rarely found in its descendants, and even then in only one or two tracks at a time. It isn’t that Cuomo “keeps it real” better than the musicians he influenced, or that he’s more technically competent. “Pinkerton” swerves all over the charts on both – wavering between an almost tsundere insincerity and authenticity of emotional appeal, and between simplicity and complexity of its structure.

No, the difference between “Pinkerton” and its derivative albums is simply that derivative albums are merely influenced by “Pinkerton,” and merely try to capture that specific album’s essence. “Pinkerton” attempts to encapsulate teenage boyhood itself – its mock-cynicism, its stupidities, its shallowness, its hypocrisies and its few moments of glory. It is an origin-point album – it doesn’t attempt any emulation except that of the life of its singer. It doesn’t so much “confess” as it “illustrates.”

And, quite frankly, it illustrates that Rivers Cuomo, in 1996, was one emotionally fucked up dude.

(And, if I’m not terribly mistaken, he listened to a lot of The Pillows – I could’ve sworn I heard some j-rock influence, and he is, apparently, a fan of anime to some extent.)

Of course, so was everybody that lived long enough to ride the hormone wave. Which is why it failed then – the Weezer audience prior to Pinkerton was looking for shallow, trashy pop and not a mirror unto both Cuomo and themselves, and its critics then had outgrown the emotional immaturity that resonates best with the album’s entirety.

Which is why it’s succeeded since – because if you still remember the days when you had an embarrassingly ill-timed hard-on for everything in a skirt, and a sense that the world was about to kick you in the groin (and wasn’t everything pretty much centered around your dick back then), then there’s a part of you that thrums like a tuning fork with “Pinkerton.” And it’s had 15 years to strike people’s forks.

So it’s an important album. And, mostly, it sounds pretty good too. So I guess it’ll stay on my iPod, then. And I guess I’d recommend it to you.

~ by Gonzo Mehum on January 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “Slowpoke Music Review: “Pinkerton” – Weezer”

  1. I’m a Weezer fan (I guess), but I find Pinkerton to be a very uneven album, mostly for the reasons you mention. Rivers Cuomo in his best moments is still basically a fucked-up dude. Perhaps not so much anymore, but during those early albums? Whoo-boy. (Being an Asian woman did not endear him to me, either.)

    I never considered the Pillows influence, though perhaps on a future playthrough I’ll have to listen to them back-to-back. (“Ride on Shooting Star” is still one of my favorites of theirs. How can you argue with lyrics that include Grungy Hamster and Revengeful Lobster?! I mean, WTF? *laugh*)

  2. A great post, thanks for taking the time to share, continued success to your site in the future!

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