Pinkerton is fascinating for so many reasons. Weezer followed up their accessible and critically acclaimed debut with a record about a dysfunctional young man who is tired of meaningless sex and hopelessly frustrated with his relationships with women, to the point where he ultimately falls in love with a lesbian.
It’s an absurdly confessional album and it’s no surprise in the slightest that it failed to meet expectations at the time. Weezer’s sound didn’t get bigger and more expansive; it got weirder and quainter. Lead single “El Scorcho” did not land in the same way as “Buddy Holly” or “Say It Ain’t So”, despite it since becoming one of the band’s most euphoric singalong tunes. Ain’t time a funny thing?
Now considered a cult classic, Pinkerton is beloved by fans and music publications alike. Perhaps people were afraid to admit it at the time, but the sheer mental terror of Rivers Cuomo resonates with listeners. You don’t have to be quite as unhinged to relate to his character’s self-consious and awkward demanour.
Musically, Pinkerton isn’t even all that different from the debut, and the hooks were there all along. I find it impossible to choose between the two albums, as they’re totally different entities. Besides anything else, you couldn’t have one without the other. Pinkerton is derived from the success of its predecessor.
What was once considered a sloppy sophmore album is now universally celebrated. Twenty-five years on from its release, Pinkerton stands as a landmark of ’90s rock. The initial reception it received was damning enough for Cuomo to change the style and attitude of his songwriting for years afterward, which I find a great shame. Though the Green Album and Make Believe contained some super singles, those records weren’t even a patch on Pinkerton. They lack the chaos of “Tired of Sex”, plus the brutal honesty and admission of “Butterfly”.
There’s a politeness to Weezer’s music that has never truly been recovered since. That’s not to say the music has been bad, and it certainly doesn’t mean that Cuomo should have continued writing misogynistic songs forever. It’s just that sincerity goes an awful long way. We’re all human, after all.
8 out of 10
When we reviewed the Blue Album way back when, André summed it up best when he said Weezer showed us it could be cool to be uncool. Their second album, Pinkerton, went an altogether different route. It showed just how uncool it could be to be uncool. Happily, over time, this too has proven itself to be pretty cool.
Pinkerton remains strange and messy in ways only Weezer could manage. While your run of the mill ‘90s rock stars were getting tired of heroin, Rivers Cuomo was getting tired of sex and of falling in love with lesbians. Aren’t we all, Rivers. Aren’t we all. While the lyrics of songs like “Across the Sea” and “Pink Triangle” aren’t always pretty, there’s no doubting their candour. Combined with record’s grungier production and Cuomo’s ever-reliable gift for earworms, those tracks make for a strangely personal - if occasionally uncomfortable - dose of Weezer.
In a way there is probably no album truer of the band than Pinkerton. The irresistible riffs, flowing melodies, and mortifying moments are all there, rocking out. It’s brave and utterly hopeless all at once, and I’m glad its vulnerability has been rewarded over the years - even if I’d personally sooner listen to the band’s debut.
7 out of 10
I first encountered Pinkerton in 2010. I was 16 years old. The album’s deluxe edition had just been released to much fanfare that even I, a sixth former unable to look past MySpace for new bands, couldn’t ignore. It was the first Weezer album I’d ever heard. Hitting play on “Tired of Sex” all those years ago started a journey that’s still rolling to this day. A Weezer tattoo sits on my right forearm, I own almost everything the band has ever released, and I was lucky enough to interview Rivers Cuomo himself earlier this year. I think that’s the life-changing power of Pinkerton, really. It pulled me so far into Rivers’ world that I’ve been unable to escape ever since.
It is the group’s best, if least typical, album. An untreated, abrasive live sound; queasy, uncomfortably intimate and personal tales that go beyond embarrassment into fearful realms unknown; theory-laden compositions containing melodies that burst with angst and anger. It can be overwhelming and off-putting to experience, regardless of whether you approach it fresh or after the Blue Album, but honesty and nakedness are its speciality. I came for the singalong hooks of “El Scorcho”, “Pink Triangle”, and “Falling for You”, but I stayed for the stories Rivers told about himself - alone in his college dorm, sniffing envelopes sent to him by female fans, his leg held together by pins, fantasising about loves lost and loves unrequited. It’s difficult to stare but impossible to look away.
I’ve lost count over the years of how many times I’ve found myself sat up at 1am, saying to myself, ‘I’ll just listen to “Tired of Sex” and then go to sleep’, only to watch as the minutes go by and the full album clocks up yet another complete rotation. It’s a repeated incident that reminds me of where it all started: a 16-year-old intending to simply dip his toes into the Weezer water by sampling a small portion of Pinkerton, only to find himself still swimming 11 years later.
10 out of 10