RiYL: Cheap Trick, The Get Up Kids, Pixies
While a cursory listen to the cryptically titled and packaged sophomore Weezer indicates a less melodic, more caustic, and way less teen-friendly band, there was far more going on than any of us realized at the time. Despite selling an order of magnitude fewer copies than any other Weezer record, Pinkerton remains the album most beloved by fans and most imitated by the scores of Weezer clones working their ways up in local music scenes nationwide.
Sometimes I feel almost as if the Weezer of Pinkerton is a different band; there's the goofy, lovable, Muppet-hugging MTV Weezer of the other albums, and then there's the feedback-crazed misanthropes who made this classic record. Plenty of introverted rock stars have tried to sabotage their fame with deliberately uncommercial recordings, from Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music to Nick Lowe's "Bay City Rollers We Love You" single. But few besides Weezer's Rivers Cuomo have ever been perceptive enough to know what would really scare away the kiddies is saying what they really thought.
Pinkerton is a relentlessly dark album. The nerd songwriter from the debut's "In The Garage" grows up, gets everything he ever wanted, and is miserable for it. "Tired Of Sex" disgustedly dismisses the groupie lifestyle, while "Why Bother?" declares love and relationships a total waste of time. Cuomo's few positive moments are delivered so as to make it clear he's being unrealistically idealistic ("Across The Sea") or poisonously satirical ("El Scorcho"). The album's deliberately unpolished sound (the Pixies' Surfer Rosa was clearly a huge influence) and songs that often center around crude two-chord riffs belie the overall sophistication of Cuomo's message.
The genius of Pinkerton is that for however unflattering a self-portrait Cuomo paints, by the acoustic closer "Butterfly." he's completely won us over. This final song, in addition to being really pretty, is in many ways the key to Pinkerton's psychology. Cuomo sings of catching a butterfly as a boy, attracted by its beauty, but crushing it in his big hands. What Rivers is saying here is despite all the trappings of fame he hasn't advance one bit -- he's still a clumsy child, chasing after the pretty things in life with no idea as to the consequences his involvement will have.
On the first album and most of what's come since Pinkerton, Cuomo has reverted to the child's point of view to win our sympathy and pity. Here, he sings as an adult, and despite the ugliness of the message, Rivers' undeniable honesty has reached a substantial cult that realizes it's the man's greatest work.
MARK DONOHUE | Known to some as "Western Homes," Mark is a graduate of UC Berkeley, a starving musician, and an avid baseball fan. Be afraid. Very afraid.