Cuomo poured all his self-loathing and loneliness into ten autobiographical songs on Pinkerton, detailing his awkward love life with agonizing specificity, beginning with "Tired of Sex," where the groupie grind has never sounded less appealing. Some real-life girls mentioned on Pinkerton are ones Cuomo had crushes on but didn't date: a lesbian, a girl in one of his classes who rebuffed his invitation to a Green Day concert and an eighteen-year-old in Japan who wrote him a fan letter and with whom he became obsessed, wondering if she thought about him when she masturbated. With all those true confessions, it's no wonder that Cuomo is somewhat embarrassed by Pinkerton now -- and that the record became a cornerstone of the late-Nineties emo movement.
The self-produced album sounds as raw as Cuomo's lyrics, without any of the sheen that Ric Ocasek provided on the band's debut. But what makes Pinkerton more than a blog entry is Cuomo's unfailing gift for power pop. "Across the Sea" -- which quoted so much of that Japanese fan's letter that Cuomo gave her a slice of the songwriting money -- is the masterpiece, building to ever-greater intensity as Cuomo wails about the most distant of all his unattainable girls. At the end, the chorus swells: "I've got your letter/You've got my song." Unrealized fantasy is enough happiness for anyone, Cuomo is saying -- and he sings it with enough passion to make you believe it too.
(Posted: Dec 9, 2004)
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