The greatest sophomore slump of the 90s.
Rivers Cuomo’s worst songs are better than most bands’ best songs. Say what you will about the band’s last couple of albums (ok, all their albums except their first two), This band knows how to rock out, and Cuomo is one of the most talented songwriters of pop rock. Most of you probably know Weezer because of their debut album Weezer (nicknamed The Blue Album). It’s a great album and I recommend it to anyone unfamiliar with the band, though I guarantee you’ve already heard “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” many times.
But this post is not about The Blue Album – there are plenty of great things said about that album elsewhere on the internet. This post is about the follow up to that great debut album – an even better album that many people forget about. That album is Pinkerton, a total change in direction for Weezer where they reached a new level of creativity and lyrical depth that the band has yet to match since. This album deserves to be just as famous, if not more famous, than The Blue Album because I believe this is not only the band’s best album but also one of the best albums of the 90s.
The album starts off with a bang. “Tired of Sex” has my vote for the best album opener, or at least the most potent. The whole album can be summarized by the first track: the freakout guitars, the banging bass and drums, the well-constructed songs, and Cuomo’s brutal honesty – he’s tired of sex, and damn it he’s going to tell you about it.
One thing really incredible about this album is how loud it is. Every moment the band sounds like they are on the brink of destruction, and you find yourself just waiting for the amps to explode. The sound is a complete 180 from the The Blue Album‘s happy rock sound. The mood also really clashes with the peaceful album cover (what is it with Cuomo and Japan?). However, if you listen closely you’ll notice how well constructed these songs are. The melodies never get lost in the noise, and the band is tight while maintaing all the madness. Not enough credit is given to the rest of the band. Matt Sharp is a hell of a bass player and Patrick Wilson’s drumming is some of the best of the 90s, especially on this album. Cuomo is technically the lead guitarist, but it’s Brain Bell that shines on guitar.
The biggest thing you take away from Pinkerton is this: Cuomo has big trouble with the ladies. He falls in love with a lesbian (“Pink Triangle”) and a 14-year-old Japanese girl (“Across The Sea”). He’s in love with a girl who scares the shit out of him (“No Other One”) and another one whom he likes way too much (“Falling For You”). A lot of the time I have to laugh at how hopeless Cuomo is with the ladies, but sometimes he takes it too far – try not to cringe the first time you hear “Butterfly”.
Other highlights include “The Good Life” and “El Scorcho”, the only songs off the album that were somewhat successful as singles. But this is not a singles album, which every other Weezer album is. Maybe this is why I like this album the most from this band – it’s the only one that actually feels like a full album from start to finish.
This album is incredible for another reason – this is one of the first true Emo albums (also one of the few that didn’t suck). Cuomo isn’t holding anything back from us, and everything that’s on his mind comes out in the lyrics in ways that are disturbing yet relatable. It might not be as cheeky as Fall Out Boy or as likable as Dashboard Confessional, but this is pure Emo music.
It could have been very easy for Weezer to release The Blue Album II, Cuomo is a good enough songwriter to have written a whole album’s worth of songs just as good as “Buddy Holly”. Instead this band went the hard way and made an album of true, raw art. This was a huge gamble, and it hasn’t payed off until recently (the album was considered crap when released in 1996). But all is good – this album is finally getting the treatment it deserves.
Fun fact: Cuomo ended up marrying a Japanese woman from across the sea.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber