Brilliant pop, effervescent and evergreen, but seriously bruised.
Mike Diver 2010-11-12
Weezer mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but since the mid-90s they’ve rarely stood proud as anyone’s favourite band. The reason’s very simple: diminishing returns. Once the 21st century dawned, the Rivers Cuomo-fronted pop-rockers seemed to content themselves with releasing a handful of killer singles and packaging them on albums full of mediocre filler. It wasn’t always the way.
1994’s eponymous debut, commonly referred to as The Blue Album (two further self-titled sets, of 2001 and 2008, were coloured/titled Green and Red respectively), spawned MTV-courting hits Buddy Holly, Say It Ain’t So and Undone; via a winning mix of mega-sized hooks, heart-on-sleeve lyrics and clever promo videos, it made unlikely stars of four geeky-looking guys from Los Angeles. But it’s 1996’s Pinkerton that is repeatedly held aloft by fans as the finest album in the band’s catalogue. And with good reason: it’s the perfect mix of melancholy and sunshine, heartache and honey, rejection and reflection. And the pain isn’t purely emotional: Cuomo had recently undergone surgery on his back and to lengthen a leg, and was walking with a cane.
In the booklet that accompanies this deluxe repackaging – with plenty of juicy exclusive content, including recordings from 1996’s Reading Festival – there is evidence that Cuomo, the sole writing force throughout, was wary of Pinkerton not ticking the same boxes as its predecessor. In a reprinted letter he writes, "I hope you all don’t hate it… but I really wanted these songs to be an exploration of my dark side". And, frequently, they are; albeit with said explorations into a fractured mindset complemented by comparatively upbeat instrumentation. The song titles offer clues as to a shift in emotion and attitude – Tired of Sex, Why Bother? – but a cursory scan of the lyrics paints a vivid picture of a soul cut adrift. Sure, there are cute rhymes and neat choruses, but Cuomo was mining some coal-black feelings for inspiration.
"How stupid is it / I can’t talk about it / I’ve gotta sing about it / And make a record up" – so goes a song-along section of El Scorcho, in just a few words summarising everything Pinkerton’s about. It’s brilliant pop, musically effervescent and conceptually evergreen, but seriously bruised. It’s such a potent recipe. And it’s not aged in the slightest – while hardly a hit on release, its critical reputation has grown immensely.
While there are probably several new LPs of 2010 that have deserved their five-star reviews, 12 months down the line chances are that few buyers will be regularly returning to them. The same can’t be said, personally, of this. Almost 15 years on it remains a stereo regular, and loved like the day it was delivered, awkwardly and self-consciously, into a world that didn’t know what to do with it. And, largely, still doesn’t. So give it a home, won’t you; it could be your album of the year.