Album-ending acoustic numbers are a bit of a tacky tradition. They’re usually throwaways, even when they’re good. “Butterfly” is fine on its own, but shines as a great closer in the context of the album — the hangover after the hand-wringing and self-flagellation that precedes it, charged with guilt and shame. I’ll also point out that Pinkerton ends the opposite way that The Blue Album does — a quiet repetition of “I’m sorry” versus the cacophony of “Only in Dreams” — to just as strong an effect.
9. Falling For You
Pinkerton is one of few albums where I legitimately love every track on the album, so ranking any track this low feels like blaspheme, but “Falling For You” doesn’t shine quite as bright as its peers in my opinion, mostly because of its lyrics. It’s murky, pulsing sound is partnered with the album’s mopiest lyrics — or at least the lyrics that feel the mopiest because they’re not as electrified with great moments. That said, “Falling for You” features perhaps Pinkerton’s most iconic line: “What you could possible see in little old three-chord me?”
8. No Other One
A clever inversion of The Blue Album’s “No One Else,” “No Other One” sees Rivers neediness transformed into desperation, punctuated by a few specific observations of his lady (“She’s got a tattoo and two pet snakes”). Despite its swashbuckling, drinking-song esque chorus, the melody is slightly more plodding than the album’s best moments.
7. Why Bother?
All relationships end with breakup or death. Perhaps this is a cynical viewpoint to take, but it aligns with the general theme of “Why Bother?” — if isolation is inevitable, why bother trying to avoid it? The potential for human connection in romance is limited in Rivers Cuomo’s mind, and the tradeoff in breakup pain is dubious. Searing, brief (barely two minutes), and accentuated by a syncopated chorus, “Why Bother?” is a gem.
The chorus is a bit slight — a few atonal shouts of nonsense word “getchoo!” — but this is otherwise a straight banger, the heaviest and most tense track Weezer ever recorded except “Only in Dreams.” The whole song is fiery, but damn… that bridge, building to one of my favorite guitar solos? One of Weezer’s pantheon-level moments.
5. Across the Sea
“Across the Sea” kicks off the album’s flawless four-song stretch that was nearly impossible for me to put in rank order. The “being famous hasn’t made me happy” trope has been done by breakout stars a million times, but “Across the Sea” is one of my favorites (sorry Colton): It opens with a fantasy of a Japanese schoolgirl who wrote him a letter, the type of diary entry that most would leave tucked in their bedside drawer. It’s a breathtaking and moving meditation on a distant connection: “I’ve got your letter, you’ve got my song.” The seocnd half of the song ditches the focus on the one girl as Rivers reflects on his mommy issues and general lack of intimacy while being famous — it’s not as tender as the song’s first two minutes, but then not much music is.
4. Pink Triangle
Most of Pinkerton is filled with acute observations and confessions; “Pink Triangle” is the closest that the album has to a story song, as Rivers recounts falling for the wrong person: “I’m dumb, she’s a Lesbian / I thought I had found the one.” The verses are so good that it’s easy to forgive the song for only having two of them: his ponderance “If everyone’s a little queer, can’t she be a little straight?” that leads into the second chorus is one of Cuomo’s best lines ever.
3. Tired of Sex
In Weezer’s bizarre career narrative, “Tired of Sex” is a seminal moment. It’s easy to imagine casual fans who knew “Buddy Holly” and “If you want to destroy my sweater…”, picking up Pinkerton at Circuit City, hitting play, being greeted with a vulgar list of Rivers’ sexual conquests punctuated by shouts and guitar blasts, then taking the CD out of their Walkman throwing it in the trash.
Once the shock value wears off, though, you’re left with an intensely expressive and electric track that resonates through the rest of the album. “Why can’t I be making love come true?” is perhaps the defining line of Pinkerton, and it’s compelling to hear Rivers teeter on the edge of self-defeating rage.
2. The Good Life
As much fun as it is to emphasize the audience-shedding nature of Pinkerton (see directly above), it’s still a fantastic radio rock album filled with great hooks and melodies. It’s no dense Kid A or In Utero: Almost every track has a pop composition at its core. The album’s most soaring hook and best guitar riff belong to “The Good Life.”
This song is also an immensely important one to me, personally, as my obsession with it coincided with the most depressed and isolated I’ve ever felt: my first year of college. Sure, I may not have sold millions before hitting my emotional tailspin, but I still found myself wondering “who’s that funky dude staring back at me?” when the scrawny, pimply, 18 year-old version of myself looked into the mirror.
1. El Scorcho
Like all of Pinkerton, “El Scorcho” is a little bit fucked up. Most of the lyrics are about the voyeuristic longing Rivers Cuomo derives from reading a girl’s diary, swooning (“I’m Jello, baby”) as she professes affection for both Puccini and the ECW.
But unlike much of the album, there’s plenty of silliness in this song that had made their debut album a hit.
“El Scorcho” is easily the goofiest song on Pinkerton. Large portions of the lyrics are incoherently linked references to rap and pro wrestling and, yeah, Madame Butterfly. But it’s this levity that makes the song so effective: For once on the album, Rivers Cuomo is on the verge of charming and funny to complement his self-doubt and romantic longing. The tone effortlessly slides between aching and tongue-in-cheek, and it helps make “El Scorcho” one of my ten or so favorite rock songs ever.