17 Years Ago: Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’ Album Released
Weezer’s second album, ‘Pinkerton,’ which turns 17 today, has lived two entirely different lives.
The first time around, the album was roundly criticized for its awkward, angry, dark lyrical content; odd and starkly personal song subjects; and seemingly off-kilter musical arrangements. Whereas the band’s debut, now known as 'The Blue Album,' had been an easy-to-swallow set of garage-pop nuggets, ‘Pinkerton’ featured a range of styles and high-art concepts. Rolling Stone named it one of the worst albums of the year.
Then the ‘Pinkerton’ Renaissance occurred. The album’s second life is evidence of the changing opinions of music fans and a highly altered sonic/cultural landscape. After the Millennium and 9/11, music took a turn for the darker, angrier and more emotional and introspective. Fringe genres like emo, pop-punk, indie electronica and nu-metal began flooding the mainstream, and albums critical of George W. Bush’s foreign policy -- Radiohead’s ‘Hail to the Thief’ (2003) and Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ (2004), for example -- popped up. And then Radiohead’s 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’ turned the record industry on its head with its "pay what you want" model. Needless to say, the '00s were tumultuous times. And with that turmoil came a new appreciation for ‘Pinkerton,’ which had gained a cult following in the interim years and has since been deemed one of the first true emo albums.
It’s amazing what a couple of years will do. Rolling Stone’s revisionist-history editorial department even re-reviewed the album with and bestowed its coveted five-star rating in 2004. In 2010, the magazine placed the album in the Top 50 of its 100 Best Albums of the ’90s list. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon.
Sonically, 'Pinkerton' is a surprisingly tight-knit group of well-crafted songs. The album includes one of the most awkward openers of all time, ‘Tired of Sex,’ which features lead singer Rivers Cuomo bemoaning the "new girl every night," "unlucky in love" ethic of a tortured artiste. ‘Across the Sea,’ meanwhile, follows its narrator on a fetishistic fantasy that can easily be described as masturbatory and extremely sexist. And of course, there’s the truly bizarre ‘Pink Triangle,’ about falling in love with a gay woman, the "pink triangle on her sleeve" in the lyric evoking a Holocaust-like image, rhyming "I’m dumb" with "she’s a lesbian" -- not the most sensitive lyric ever written.
The centerpiece of the album, though, is ‘The Good Life,’ a near-perfect song about growing older, yearning for the past and wanting to relive "the good life." This tune, more than any on the album, is where rock fans can hear the chrysalis of the emo movement.
Despite ‘Pinkerton’ being initially panned, the album got all the way up to No. 19 on the Billboard 200 chart -- more than likely on the momentum of the band’s debut album, released just two years prior. In November 2010, the album was released in deluxe reissue format, with alternate/rough takes, outtakes live cuts, and several live versions of the album’s songs.