Music Reviews
Pinkerton [Reissue]

Weezer Pinkerton [Reissue]

(Interscope) Rating - 9/10

It’s funny that for my generation – the one of Harry Potter and various miscellaneous objects, and of childhood nostalgia over the Fresh Prince of Bel Air – Weezer is a bit of an oddity, a relic from a bygone age. They’re almost a novelty band: our awareness being dominated by mixed recent advertisements like Beverly Hills and Pork and Beans. So perhaps then Pinkerton is a bit of an unknown quantity, an X to be solved, sorted and returned to its rightful place. Given that I was barely brandishing crayons at the time of its release, I hope I can offer one thing that is found wanting in the critiques of most reissues: a fresh pair of ears.

Tired of Sex kicks off the action, but immediately it’s… different, unsettlingly but intriguingly so. There are the dulled punching drums; beaten, trudging bass lines and wearied vocals. It makes one thing clear at least, this is not going to be a remotely happy or trivial album.

If that was a warning shot then Getchoo, the second track, is far more direct. Audibly pained Rivers Cuomo tells the listener that “this is beginning to hurt / this is beginning to be serious.”  It’s brutal, and this is the sound of a man bearing his soul, set against violent riffs and trademark Weezer “uh-huh”s, and exposed on something as public as a record. If, inexplicably, you can’t find love for the music you will at least find admiration for him. Remember this is the same man who ridicules his love life with lines like “What's with these homies dissing my girl / why do they gotta front?”

That Weezer is still in here: Why Bother and El Scorcho showcase this most – alt-rock riffs and power-pop choruses like “I’m a lot like you so please / Hello, I’m here, I’m waiting”; detailing how she likes Cio-Cio San “[I] Fall in love all over again” or “I know I should get next to you / You got a look that makes me think you're cool”. Somehow though an inevitable nihilism always returns, and Cuomo concludes “Why bother? It's gonna hurt me” with dispiriting clarity.

This record is filled with highlights: Pink Triangle, Across the Sea and the haunting Butterfly are three notable tracks. Moreover, if you don’t become bogged down in the quicksand of lyrics it’s as pleasant a listen as other Weezer produce, though it certainly has a grungier, rougher edge. But that is not Pinkerton’s strength. What makes it a great listen is that it is just fascinating: take for example that it is in fact a concept album reflecting the trials in love of Lieutenant Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly; that it originated from a rock opera concept; its zero to hero story; the 1.5 hours of bonus material on the reissue with which to cut your teeth; or indeed that this was arguably the spawning point of the modern day ‘Emo’ culture – the list is seemingly endless. The most significant part of this intrigue is what I might suggest this album represents among Weezer’s other work: this is Rivers Cuomo vindicating his grievances and pains by singing them to the world. Music for so many lyricists is a way of telling the world what can’t be said openly; look to Richey Edwards or Ian Curtis as two extreme and tragic examples. The comparison may not be absolutely watertight but it remains accurate enough.

A quick history lesson then: 14 years ago, Pinkerton was released to be panned by the critics, the masses and even Cuomo himself, calling it a “hideous record”. I’d like to put this down to the success of The Blue Album and Buddy Holly. So, is the release of Pinkerton more welcome over a decade on? The answer is yes, for exactly the same reason. Honestly, instrumentally speaking it’s not that exciting and at times it becomes an almost numbing listen. But, if I may, I’d like to draw another parallel with the Manic Street Preachers – this is their Holy Bible – in other words this is an unknown quantity alright; it’s Weezer’s raw, emotive bastard child; and a great, brilliant, titanic blot on an often pristinely laundered back catalogue. For that reason in particular this is a thing to be cherished.