This is Grant’s half of the Pinkerton point-counterpoint review. Read Dan’s half here.
Pinkerton is the sound of a band afraid to become great. Representing a comeback after the hiatus Weezer took in response to their debut album’s surprise success, it doesn’t so much as reinvent the band as push their less desirable attributes to the forefront. Weezer’s early work embraced its quaintness and made no effort to appear polished, but much of Pinkerton turns the aw-shucks charm into something far worse—childishness. The album sounds unfinished, amateur, and slight, a noble effort from a high school garage band, but not one with such a devoted following. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments—it does—or that Rivers Cuomo forgot how to construct a tune—he didn’t—but that it has a horrible tone and message, and even the better songs convey annoying problems.
Said debut album, Weezer (rechristened The Blue Album because of its cover) was a critical album in emo’s transition from Rites of Spring-style punk to 1990s power pop and careening vocals. But it’s Pinkerton that seems to anticipate the rash of wimpy, whiny bands that subsequently sprouted up under the term’s guise. The melodies are by and large listenable, but there’s an effeminate undercurrent to everything, both in the slight and repetitive music and, more importantly, in the lyrics of Cuomo, who sings as though he’s been castrated.
The band keeps things moving on tracks like “Tired of Sex,” but Rivers cobbles together an embarrassing set of lyrics that threatens the dignity of almost every song. Conveying an even greater sense of immaturity than the music, he whines about the impossibility that girls could ever like him, punctuating the theme with “What could you possibly see in little old three-chord me” in the otherwise charming “Falling for You.” Likewise, when he whines “Why bother? It’s gonna hurt me / It’s gonna kill when you desert me” on “Why Bother,” one can’t possibly agree with him that it’s a crying shame that he’s all alone—it’s what he deserves, especially if two bad break-ups have sucked the life out of him.
Rock bands from here to eternity have sung about relationship problems, but of all the avenues from which to approach the issue, the I’m worthless-so-what’s-the-point one conveys the greatest immaturity. Even “Tired of Sex” runs into this problem. Songs such as The Cure’s “Siamese Twins” have described feelings of regret over sexual encounters, but they’re more credible when addressing a specific situation. When Rivers simply says “I’m tired of having sex,” without any more context or elaboration, he sounds, well, prepubescent. This sentiment, when combined with the rejections of relationships expressed elsewhere, leads to one simple thought: Grow a pair.
Because of this feeling, when he switches course and later extolls the glories of shakin’ booty or touching yourself, he sounds patently ridiculous. By that point in the album, he’s lost credibility with the listener on the topic.
Sonically, Pinkerton songs rely heavily on similarly tossed off, amorphous shards of guitar that don’t sound heavy enough to be so caustic. Weezer, on this album and their debut, don’t exactly exude sonic beauty, which makes their albums sound much better in small doses. Several of the songs are hummable (“No Other One” especially), though the band tends to fall into predictable, vague grooves. Cuomo nails the bridges of “Falling” and “Across the Sea,” but if that makes you pay attention to his lyrics—both of which, interestingly, center around the word “Goddamn”—you’ve lost the war. “The Good Life” has the album’s best melody, but, again, with his chorus he sounds like a little kid.
Pinkerton isn’t a difficult listen by any stretch—only “El Scorcho” is truly unlistenable—so long as you don’t expect much and ignore the lyrics. Yet it’s so caustic after ten tracks that you’re searching for a way out. Rivers wrote a few reasonably catchy melodies, and “Pink Triangle” is a perfect summation of Weezer at their pre-Make Believe best—off-center but endearing—but the specter of childhood looms over every moment. Listening to Pinkerton, one hopes that Rivers and company will grow up, both in their playing and in their minds.