Classic Album Reviews: Weezer — Pinkerton (1996)

As Bootsy likes to remind me, Weezer basically sucks these days.  Sure they’ll have a decent song here or there (Hashpipe anyone?) but one could argue that they’ve been mailing it in for a while (Hurley…really?).  However, Weezer still has a decent fan base, a base built on their first release and ironically enough, it’s follow up, Pinkerton.  At its core Pinkerton is basically about love, sex, disillusionment, and relationships. However it is written from the perspective of a young man struggling with fame and its impact on having mature relationships with the opposite sex.

When Pinkerton first came out in 1996 it was considered a big disappointment. Fresh off the heels of the “Blue” album, which included the novelty hit and video Buddy Holly, Weezer’s second album seemed to fall into the sophomore slump category. There wasn’t a quirky hit like Buddy Holly or The Sweater Song and the first released single, El Scorcho, was musically hard to listen, sing along, or dance to. The whole album had a harder edge to it and some of the songs seemed to be in a minor key, which also made it difficult to immediately embrace.  In fact Rolling Stone readers voted it the 3rd worse album of 1996.  The album’s negative reception was hard on the band (mainly Rivers Coumo) and it took five years for Weezer to get back into the studio.

The love/relationship songs on Pinkerton are written from the perspective of someone immature in handling relationships. As young men, instead of showing vulnerability, we tend to act cocky, acting like it doesn’t matter, that there’s always another chick to conquer. The singer is befuddled, as men usually are when dealing with the opposite sex, but it’s covered by boastfulness. Tired of Sex is a classic example. The song is about how much tail he’s getting and that it’s all soooo boring. He’s both boasting and wanting something more. Getchoo is a song about a guy who has done his girl wrong but now is surprised she’s not coming back. Why Bother takes it one step backward: He knows he’s going to get hurt in the end, why even start the relationship?  It’s just not worth it. It’s a tact many young guys take when deciding whether to enter into a relationship or continue to hang with their bros.

Vulnerability does sneak in toward the end of the album. Across the Sea is about a fan in Japan who would be a perfect girlfriend if she didn’t live so far away (plus there are some bonus mother issues thrown in to boot). Pink Triangle is about falling in love with someone who is unavailable (in this case a lesbian). This song contains the classic line “Everyone’s a little queer, why can’t she be a little straight.”  Finally in the album’s second to last song the singer finally finds someone he can settle down with.  But it’s a little nerve wracking, he doesn’t want to get his heart broke. The last verse really sums it up:

I'm shaking at your touch/I like you way too much/My baby, I'm afraid I'm falling for you/And I'd do about anything to get the hell out alive/Or maybe I would rather settle down with you.

Despite its initial negative reaction, the album has grown in stature over the last 16 years and is now considered a classic and regarded as Weezer’s best album.  In 2002, Rolling Stone readers, just six years after saying it was the 3rd worse album of 1996, voted it the 16th best album of all time!  Other music publications have placed it in their top albums of the 90’s lists.  Unfortunately for their fans, Weezer has not reached the heights suggested by Pinkerton and are more than willing to put out albums of lesser and lesser quality.

11 thoughts on “Classic Album Reviews: Weezer — Pinkerton (1996)”

  1. Nice write-up. I enjoy this feature.

    one could argue that they’ve been mailing it in for a while

    This is how I've always felt about Weezer. I remember giving this basic review to both the Blue Album and Pinkerton. They just always struck me as a band with a lot more potential who didn't care to try to reach it.

  2. I am an unabashed Weezer apologist. I love their old music. I love their new music. It kind of annoys me when people say "It's new so it sucks". Rivers doesn't write the same kind of music anymore (He's not in his early 20s. It would be a lie if he did), but there's some really good stuff that no one pays attention to because the singles that get put out are the pop fluff that no one wants to listen to. That said, I didn't like Hurley as much as I loved Raditude (despite the name).

    Pinkerton is my third favorite Weezer Album. You didn't mention my favorite song from the album, The Good Life. That, Across the Sea, and the other one you didn't mention- Butterfly- are my favorites.

    1. You are right I should have mentioned The Good Life. That is a great song.

  3. This is probably the place to admit that the blue album was one of the first albums I ever owned.

    I did also enjoy this comment: ...and some of the songs seemed to be in a minor key, which also made it difficult to immediately embrace

    Heh, that's like,100% of the songs I listen to.

  4. I was pretty big into Weezer until Make Believe. I was excited about that album because it had been a couple of years since Maladroit. I got the copy (also purchased System of a Down's Mezmerize that day. I remember that because both albums were Rick Rubin and played it and was just turned off by it. It was so boring! 'We Are All On Drugs', what the hell is that! It killed my love of the band and I couldnt bring myself to even listen to any =w= album for a long time. I didnt even bother to buy the next 2 albums. Irrational, probably. But, there are always the first 4 albums in the Weezer canon I will always like.

    Anyways, Pinkerton. freealonzo has pretty much covered everything about the album. I really enjoy the 'The Good Life' 'El Scorcho' 'Pink Triangle' run of songs. I will probably get around to buying the Deluxe Edition of the album sometime soon (chock full of live recordings and demo songs from the Songs From the Black Hole thing Rivers was trying to do but evolved into Pinkerton if I remember right). One of my favorite Weezer songs was a 'B' side to 'The Good Life', the song is called 'I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams' and it features Rachel Hayden on lead vocals.

  5. I bought the blue album based upon "Undone" and "Jamie" (off DGC Rarities Vol 1). I liked it but I never fell in love with it.
    Pinkerton came out when I was in college and listening to trip-hop, illbient, jungle, hip-hop, &c. So I was never even really tempted to listen. Since then, nothing has really grabbed me enough for me to search it out. A co-worker lent me Raditude and I returned it quickly.

    "Say It Ain't So" and "Surf Wax America" still make me smile with nostalgia for the first time I was allowed to drive all by myself from Pequot to NU. Blue album and Mazzy Star's "So Tonight That I Can See" were my newest CDs that day.

  6. i'll cop to being a weezer fan up until maladroit, most likely. the blue album came out towards the end of junior high for me, so it was pretty perfectly suited for that. i didn't get into pinkerton until much later after it came out, but it was better adjusted for the timeframe when i did get into it. probably my favorite from them. i liked the green album, but my interest in them kind of trailed off after that. maybe they're still putting out good stuff, but i wouldn't really know. that said, pinkerton is a fabulous album for all the reasons you laid out.

    also, the green album is where i trailed off, but "keep fishin'" is one of my favorite videos...


    "hey, they aren't half bad."
    "no, they're all bad!"

  7. Still a Weezer fan, but Pinkerton was their highpoint. Great write-up free, as usual - you nailed it.

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