Weezer – The Blue Album + Pinkerton

Oh man, this one has been a long time coming. What can you say about Weezer these days? A lot, but not much of it will be any good; ever since they came roaring back in the summer of 2001, they’ve seemed to be on a path to destroy every ounce of power-pop credibility they ever had. “Returns to form” ring false, Rivers Cuomo continues to be oblivious to his own needs, and no one seems to realize it’s because the most important member the band ever had has been gone for almost 15 years now. But unlike so many other radio giants spitting their radio gaga, we still have their twin peaks, the pop monoliths known as The Blue Album and Pinkerton.

We all know the stories with both of these albums, but just in case, let’s give a quick summary. In 1991, Weezer formed with Cuomo, Sharp, Wilson, and some dude no one cares about. A couple years and a cult following later, they get a deal with Geffen and are being produced by Cars alumni Ric Ocasek and things are good. The Blue Album skyrockets them into critical and commercial acclaim, and with that money comes a much needed leg surgery for Cuomo. Unfortunately, the leg surgery leaves Cuomo depressed and sedated, leading to much of the broken-heart, autobiographical nature of Pinkerton, the sophmore album born from Songs From the Black Hole‘s failure to launch. Pinkerton is released, no one gets it, Weezer says sorry fade into the shadows.

It’s a tragedy that everyone knows, especially recovering diehard fans like me (Password to the clubhouse: “Maladroit wasn’t that bad”) but it’s a tale that should have ended there. Subtract a bassist, add an ego, and you’ve got the Weezer of today, a shadow of it’s former self, constantly promising better days yet vehemently denying things have ever gone sour. What happened?

What could have gone down in 5 years to turn Cuomo and crew into corporate ghosts, goats to milk Rick Rubin’s children? Apart from the embarrassment of the Pinkerton debacle (Apparently no one had taste in 1996), the departure of Sharp, the McCartney to Cuomo’s Lennon, and a whole bunch of session playing for movie soundtracks doesn’t really help Cuomo’s songwriting prowess. Just listen to even a slice of Make Believe and you’ll hear a man who has learned the secret to lazy songwriting and is making millions off of it.

Well, fuck all of that. It’s summer 1994, “Undone (The Sweater Song)” bursts onto the scene, and suddenly Weezer are the new Cheap Trick, a bunch of young guitar nerds raised of Kiss and The Quick who know how to turn their teenage experience into pure ecstasy, weird geek ramblings and all. If “My Name I Jonas” wasn’t so damn immediate, the album’s other nine songs would clue you in as well; these guys know how to hit the pleasure synapses. The octave build in “No One Else”, the guitar solo in “Buddy Holly”, and don’t you think for a second I forgot the climax of “Only In Dreams”, possibly the greatest, most cathartic and emotional denouement in Weezer’s history.

The Blue Album representing something greater than he ten perfect songs in carried. It was a power-pop landmark in a world ruled by guys trying to sound as tough and nihilistic as possible. It showed that sometimes the best way to make a hit was to be honest and universal, something that is slowly becoming less and less true everyday. It showed that sometimes a bowl-cut is just plain cooler than ripped-up plaid and jeans. It showed a bunch of kids from California could be more than just zombies with copies of Sixteen Stone.

Just two years later, and it seems everyone forgot that being honest didn’t always mean being pretty, with Pinkerton being basically a concept album about a stressed-out, over-sexed, under-loved nerd obsessed with intimacy, even if it was from an underage girl across an ocean. For godssake, it references Neon Genesis Evangelion in “El Scorcho” (“Goddamn you half Japanese girls/do it to me everytime/oh the redhead said you shred the cello” referencing Shinji and Asuka from the anime). Let me get that across to you: the most famous power-pop band in the world released a lead single referencing a niche anime series about 14-year-olds fighting “Angels” in giant humanoid robots. That takes balls, even if they are blue.

The album roared through River’s personal struggles, even if he denies it is true at all. It’s nice to save face, but we can all hear his honesty when talks about falling to pieces at the scent of the envelope from Japan. Sure, it’s sounds like the mood swings of a stalker and sex addict, but at it’s heart, it’s an album about a man with everything in the world with no one to share it with. He can have all of the sex he wants, but he has no one to simply talk about pro-wrestling or opera with, a struggle we can all identify with.

These two albums are evidence that at one point, Rivers could identify with himself truly instead of what he thinks people want him to be. Not just Rivers, but Weezer itself, the classic line-up of Rivers, Matt Sharp, Brian Bell, and Patrick Wilson, four like-minded dudes who knew how to write a pop song. Now you’re lucky if you can even get a marginally average release from the poor saps. But there will always be their first two albums, the two giants of 90s guitar-pop that fill almost everyone over the age of 18 with a sense of nostalgia that can’t even be killed by the umteenth million spin of “Beverly Hills”.

by Trevor “(Undone) The Sweater Man” Johnson

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1 Comment

  1. New Stuff: 6/18/10 – ’bout fuckin’ time « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Weezer – The Blue Album + Pinkerton Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)New Stuff For Everyone on 2/7/10!Reviews Update!Another New Review! Yay! […]

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