I love you.
I once briefly dated a girl who asked me what my favorite albums are, and somewhere near the end of the long list that rattled off, Pinkerton had made the cut. Upon hearing the album’s title, her expression went from interested to visibly disgusted, so I asked her why she had the look on her face. “Weezer is like the touch-stone band of every single insecure dude who’s had broken hearts ever since middle school.” she replied. An argument ensued, and somewhere in the fury of me trying to defend the album —not because I was offended she was calling me an insecure dude with heartbreak issues, mind you — but rather a call to arms in the defense of Weezer, the thought there might actually be a large amount of truth to the statement eventually crossed my mind.
For those that don’t know the myth and legend that fuels the lyrical content of Pinkerton here’s the SparkNotes version. Weezer’s debut album made them an overnight sensation. They went from playing tiny clubs to filling out arenas. Suddenly the nerdiest kids were leading rock and roll life styles, having heinous amounts of sex, partying every single night and so on and so forth. Front man and chief songwriter Rivers Cuomo became so disillusioned with all of the above he decided to put the band on hiatus and go back to school at Harvard University. But not before he decided to finally have corrective surgery (he was born with one leg shorter than the other), the recovery from which forced him to walk with a cane and grow a beard. OK. He wasn’t forced to grow a beard, but you get the picture.
If that sounds pathetic, it’s because it is. Rivers went from being run on MTV every hour to being an awkward gimp that was too afraid to go talk to the Japanese girl in his writing class (see El Scorcho and Pink Triangle). But somewhere deep into his ascetic hibernation his heart “exploded” and he realized he just wanted to rock again. Suffering from paranoia that the bands success was due to studio tricks and witty music videos instead of the songs themselves though, Cuomo booted Cars’ songwriter Ric Ocasek from the producer’s seat and instead decided to produce the album that would become Pinkerton himself.
Painful, and painfully great
The album came out, absolutely tanked commercially and critically and no one, but no one, likes it. The reaction devastated Cuomo, pushing him to the edge of a nervous breakdown, and when it came time to record the next record he was so scarred from the failure of Pinkerton that he brought Ocasek back into the fold, vowing to make the most commercial record possible. He even went so far as to get the director of Blue Album videos to return to produce music videos like “Island In The Sun”, bringing with him all of the cutesy top forty charm that everyone remembered. From that point on Weezer was never the same, and most diehard fans don’t consider any of the subsequent records to be “real” Weezer.
But then that didn’t really matter, because in large part due to our obsessions with “deep cuts” and “underrated albums”, history has been kind to Pinkerton and now it’s sort of considered a masterpiece.
Pinkerton is the musical equivalent to crying while eating ice cream and watching the Bachelor, except if we somehow decided that the above activity was a masterpiece of human triumph. The only times I pay attention to each and every song (which all of them are perfectly constructed power-pop masterpiece) is when I’m either sad or need some type of reassurance that I do feel mad at someone for playing love games with me – and almost hilariously I’m in either of those two situations a lot more than I’d like to be. There are very few albums in existence which can nail the pop formula on every single song, yet delve so completely into a theme or concept. Pinkerton, at heart is a concept record. Cuomo took a cue from the hard ‘70s rock bands he admired so much, but instead of talking about distant galaxies he wrote love songs to Japanese girls who sent him fan letters that he read as he limped back to his dorm room.
During a family road trip to Disneyland in high school my parents let me plug my music into the car stereo and I played the whole album from beginning to end. My father, who supported my music obsession from the beginning, always encouraged me to introduce him to new music, so why not Weezer? I remember the embarrassing stale air that permeated the car as my fifty-something parents and older sister had to sit through the painfully self-deprecating lyrics. At the time of my fourteen year old life no words could possibly ring truer than “God damn you half Japanese girls”, considering the current heart break at the time was in fact…half Japanese. While the diary-like lyrics made me feel like someone understood me, I remember feeling like the album had cemented the fact that I was a weirdo in my family’s mind more than I already had.
The first serious girlfriend I ever had post-high school, a music nerd herself, scoffed at my love of Weezer and referred to them as “The band that dudes discover when they drink beer for the first time in their parent’s basement”. If you’re the only one in your circle who is a music nerd, I dare you to try defending Pinkerton to your friends that only like “Island In The Sun”, I pleaded with people “No, you don’t understand! Rivers Cuomo became famous after the Blue album, then got all sad and depressed, then became a hermit and retreated to academia at Harvard and THEN wrote the saddest angst-ridden songs of his entire career.” To which the response more often than not was “Dude. How does that sound even remotely enjoyable?”
Stupid question deserves AWESOME F@#@ING ANSWER!
In fact, the only girl I was ever interested in that liked Weezer was a violinist that wanted to play music with me in a band. Really the only reason I had a crush on her was because she knew all the lyrics to the album’s closing track “Butterfly”, but things sort of fell through when all she did was get so stoned she couldn’t remember where she was —which most of the time it was in her own living room — proving that despite what it meant to me, Pinkerton probably could not bring me love.
Pinkerton is that best friend that gets you, that understands you, and most importantly doesn’t pull any punches. The friend that realizes your new girlfriend isn’t all she’s cracked up to be; the friend that wants you to come over drink beer and play video games while bitching about how everyone else sucks, that all relationships can be terrible and that no one will ever understand women.Pinkerton is therapy, a safety blanket, a night light for the most pathetic young-at heart “nice guys”. Pinkerton says all the feelings of confusion and insecurity you keep deep down inside and screams them out at the top of its lungs in front of gallons of fuzzed out guitars. And you know what? Maybe I shouldn’t have had that friend telling me I was in the right, all those times I was in the wrong. Maybe I should have just faced real problems and insecurities head on. But when you’re young who wants to face their own issues when they can just listen to rock and roll instead?
For all those nights I spent by your side, for all the times you helped me through the over-dramatized end-of-the-world-as-I-know-its, for every time I ever muttered “Why bother? You’re gonna hurt me, it’s gonna kill when you desert me”, for every time I blasted and screamed along to the entire album from start to finish to keep myself awake while driving friends/girlfriends home, for every time I needed a friend, for every time I felt like no one else understood my all too normal youthful heartbreak, I thank you Pinkerton. And I love you.