Review Summary: Chapter 2: horny man screams about sex
It's incredibly fitting for Weezer that one of their most celebrated albums is still incredibly contentious and divisive in many listening circles. Pinkerton
finds the group’s sound swayed by the emotional ebbs of frontman Rivers Cuomo, turning a once energized alt-rock band into a group of bitter, horny mopers. Originally starting as a space opera titled Songs From The Black Hole
is a record with a messy conception, a messy execution, and an incredibly messy reception. The full-length is somewhere between a vague allegory for Cuomo’s frustration with the success of Weezer
), a modernized retelling of Madama Butterfly
(an opera about an American sailor who marries a Japanese woman only to betray her trust,) and Cuomo’s own bitter feelings about love - which manifest in some incredibly unfortunate lyrics about women.
Cuomo’s simplistic and immature attempts to balance a multi-concept record lead to a fundamentally flawed record conceptually. As a retelling of the opera, it misses some marks and includes various songs that seem to be a stretch - “Pink Triangle,” “Across the Sea,” and “No Other One” barely fit and come across as far too desperate to be the story of a risque and promiscuous sailor’s love exploits. As a representation of how fed up the band was with the rockstar life, it’s all too foggy and fails to represent how Cuomo’s thoughts on the music industry (unless Cuomo sees it as a temptation that draws his Pinkerton away from his wife, but that’s a stretch and a half). And, as a showcase of the songwriter’s feelings on love, it comes off creepy, vain, and sexist ("I wonder what clothes you wear to school, I wonder how you decorate your room, I wonder how you touch yourself...”). Really, all of Pinkerton
reminds me of the Blue
track “No One Else,” but without any of the self-awareness. In fact, the overwhelming lack of a mental filter leads to an overall embarrassing record for Weezer where their naive, flawed mindsets are at center stage.
Yet, there’s something there - something incredibly uncomfortable and wince-worthy, sure - but something that draws me in. Maybe it’s just how intimately bare Pinkerton
is as a form of expression, where it really matches just how raw the production and performances are for an alt-pop album is. It’s no grunge rock or whatever, but it has its moments of borderline noise-pop on “Tired of Sex” and “El Scorcho.” But, still, the emphasis is still on pop hooks and earworm melodies that, whether you like it or not, get stuck in your head. Sure, it’s probably not for the best that a song as troublesome
as “Pink Triangle” or “Why Bother"” can work into your mental jukebox so easily, but the simple ingenuity of Weezer’s dynamics and songwriting wills it. Blue
aren’t too different in that respect, yet those simple differences make them seem worlds apart. Both records feature tight performances from genuinely talented musicians, tons of overdriven-guitar-lead bombast, moments of both beauty (“Undone - The Sweater Song” and “Butterfly”) and ugliness (“No One Else” and “The Good Life”), and the ability to make me (and many others) feel the emotions that Cuomo puts out there. Yet, a simple change in the recording process - as well as the instrumental and lyrical tones - makes Pink
feel a hell of a lot darker, for better or for worse.
is a weird one for me, as I find myself talking more negatively about various lyrical aspects more than I find myself appreciating the passionate intensity to the borderline-emo takes on power-pop. More sour than Blue
and anything that would fall afterwards, it’s obvious that Pink
was going to be a critically-panned-at-the-time black sheep, one that would go on to be appreciated by some of the same people who wrote it off eventually. Yet, still, it’s hard to say it was misunderstood, because, at its core, it’s very simple. Cuomo really likes Asian women and is very upset about his sex-life/relationships. Any attempt at metaphor or symbolism doesn’t fall far from the Rivers is horny and angry tree. In that way, Pinkerton
has a fundamental misunderstanding of healthy relationships with women and I think that is reflective of what Cuomo was experiencing at the time. Don’t get it wrong, though, elements of River’s detailed and intimate writing style shines through on certain songs. The bitter nature of the 90’s was obviously going to catch up to them and lead to a more cynical album In that respect, this record has aged poorly, but at the same time it still works to elicit emotions from the listener, which is definitely the goal.
I think as I’ve spent more time with Pinkerton
, the more I can see why so many people love it and so many people hate it. It’s a very passionate and potent record, which was always going to lead to a very potent and passionate response from listeners. It’s also a very immature record, but in much less of a fun way than Blue
- this is the ugly side of being a lonely loser whereas the record had much more levity. Some (younger) listeners can relate to Weezer’s awkward heart pangs, but some more experienced fans see their exclamations as entitled and generally overwrought. Their attitudes towards women, the bitter expressions of love/sex, and the interworkings of classic operatic references, industry-frustration, and moments of genuine heart-bearing emotion all lead to a controversial record of strangely big proportions. It’s objectively flawed and messy, but so was Weezer at this point. There’s something there though - it’s like reading through someone else’s diary and seeing their deepest thoughts - that makes it one of the most unique pop albums of the 90’s. Weezer has tried to return to Blue
, but never Pink
. It’s a record that I don’t think anyone could recreate and I think they know this. It’s wholly scared, shaken, enamored, bitter, cold, loving, careless, shallow, and broken. The puzzle pieces barely fit together, but they still make something interesting.