Weezer burst on to the rock scene in 1994. “The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly” were fine pieces of music, but it wasn’t until “Say It Ain’t So” hit that I really took notice. Even then, I was broke most of the time and never allowed myself to purchase a copy of the record. Shame on you, Glenn. Hey, I did buy Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven and Soundgarden’s Superunknown. I had some modern/non-hair metal taste!
Anyway, that was the time of the great 90s pop-punk explosion. Kurt Cobain had killed himself and the grunge world hated being rock stars….enter Green Day, Offspring, Rancid and a billion others. While I was two years removed from my mad love of hair metal (which I still love and feel not an ounce of shame for singing along to songs by bands like Winger or Warrant), I sort of slid through grunge and wound up with these punk bands.
I was a year removed from having spinal fusion surgery (thanks to my no good scoliosis) and was finally free of ever having to wear a back brace ever again! FREEDOM! Green Day was my new favorite band and even though I loved Dookie, I freaking loved Insomniac. But that album was very quickly joined by more amazingness: …And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid (still an all-time fav), (What’s the Story) Morning Glory by some Brit-pop brats named Oasis (another fav), and No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom (man, Gwen Stefani has strayed so far away…). But there was a gem that I find myself going back to even now more than any of them.
There was a new Weezer song on the radio. It was poppy, but it sounded gritty, it was goofy, but the lyrics, man, the lyrics! “I wish I could get my head out of the sand, cuz I think we’d make a good team, and you would keep my fingernails clean…but that’s just a stupid dream that I won’t realize, cuz I can’t even look in your eyes without shakin’ and I ain’t fakin’, I’ll bring home the turkey if you bring home the bacon….” (If this were a book, I’d not be allowed to use that many actual lyrics-believe me, I’ve tried)
This record is maybe the most honest, open, vulnerable, self-deprecating, amazing mix of catchy, goofy, dirty, shameful, heartbreak and awesomeness..maybe ever.
How many band’s have the kind of success that Weezer did, and then after finishing their first big tours, have their singer take a break to go to college…at Harvard? One minute you’re a big rock star, the next you’re dropped into a world where most of the young adults don’t know or care who you are out there… I think I read that Rivers Cuomo (their singer) was home-schooled or something, too. Or grew up on a commune? Something out of the ordinary. Anyways, he’s this already sort of awkward guy who is now surrounded by all kinds of girls…
I feel like Pinkerton is like us getting to read his freaking journal. It’s Rivers’ diary. And it’s open for all to see. And we see EVERYTHING.
“Tired of Sex” (Oh why can’t be making love…come true?) Who writes that? “Getchoo” (This beginning to hurt. This is beginning to get serious…uh-huh.) Two great dark-sided, dirty gems right out the gate!
And then, Bring on the pine(ing)!
“No Other One” (My girl’s a liar, but I’ll stand beside her. Shes all I got and I don’t want to be alone) I went through a five-year relationship with this sort of story. It’s funny what you’ll put up with when you don’t think you’re worth anything. Plenty of us do it.
“Why Bother” (Maybe we could even get together, maybe you can break my heart next summer! Why bother it’s gonna hurt me, it’s gonna kill when you desert me…) I’ve had that mindset most of my life! When I got into girls, this was me all the time! Especially starting in 1995!
“Across the Sea” Let’s just stop right here. This song is something most songwriters wish they could do as well as Cuomo does here. How vulnerable can you be in a lyric? Gaslight Anthem had a song called “Too Much Blood” It’s about cutting yourself open and letting it all bleed out on the page. “Across the Sea” came about from a letter Cuomo received from a Japanese fan: “When I got the letter, I fell in love with her. It was such a great letter. I was very lonely at the time, but at the same time I was very depressed that I would never meet her.”–(thanks to Wikipedia for that quote) He encapsulates that feeling, those emotions so perfectly well in this tune it just…it feels so real. that’s because it is. (They don’t make stationery like this where I’m from so fragile, so defined, so I sniff and I lick your envelope and fall to little pieces every time, I wonder what clothes you wear to school, I wonder how you decorate your room, I wonder how you touch yourself and curse myself for being across the sea…)
“The Good Life” was one of the singles and it’s a great, fun tune. (shakin’ booty, making’ sweet love all night long…it’s time I got back to the good life) The other single, “El Scorcho” made me fall in love with the band. (See my love for this tune above)
“Pink Triangle” is another jaw-drop for me as a teen. The song about a guy who falls in love (in his mind) with the girl of his dreams, only to discover…da-da-dahhhh- she’s a lesbian. (I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian, I thought I had found the one) and my favorite whiney but perfect piney line (everyone’s a little queer, can’t she be a little straight). Again, who writes lyrics this fucking honest????
“Falling for You” is probably my least favorite (but still good) song on the record….but it leads to my favorite vocal on the album with the final track, “Butterfly”. I do not know the story behind the song, but every time…I mean, every time Rivers’ sing that chorus, “I’m sorry for what I did, I did what my body told me to I didn’t mean to do you harm, Every time I pin down one I think I want it slips away….” I FEEL it. It just comes across like the most truthful, heartfelt apology I’ve ever heard in a song.
I’ve always wished Rivers would have gone back to school and let himself fall in and out of love again and again…but that’s not how life works. Pinkerton is special. It’s special because it’s a time capsule (for the most part) of a shy guy’s time following stardom and yet he still feels awkward and insecure around women. It’s a snapshot. It’s perfect.
I’ve been listening to it and singing at the top of my lungs all week.
On a side note…..
My wife and I talked the other day about a friend of ours that admitted to thinking for as long as he could recall, that any relationship with a person of the opposite sex is a possibility for a relationship with a person that could be “the one”. As my wife is telling me this, spewing it at me, shocked at the way our friend thought, I felt the shame and awkwardness of Pinkerton. I know our friend has entered into every conversation with available women like this….the fact is, I also shyly, awkwardly entered into conversations with “available” women that same exact way. I was suddenly uncomfortable and ashamed. I wanted to change the fucking subject ASAP! You know what? It’s not that strange. I think Rivers also went into interactions with this mentality as evidenced by the lyrics of Pinkerton.
And you know what I figured out? Yes, it is awful. It’s sad for the girls and women us guys had talked to with these assumptive and dreamy possibilities in our minds, but it’s also mind-blindingly crazy to think of the amount of pressure we (the dumb boys) placed upon something as simple as a “hello” or smile, or low and behold a full conversation on anything with us pathetic fools.
What the hell? WHo wired us guys this way? I thought about it and imagined how many cool friends I might have made throughout the years had I approached women the way I do now. I’m happily married (14 years) and talk to all people the same way. THere’s NO pressure,There’s no expectations or romantic possibilities. I am interested in connecting with regular everyday people. Guys! Younger dudes, we need to stop thinking every person of the opposite sex we approach or are at the same part/in the same bar/ working with are our perfect mate. WHY are we putting such insane pressure on ourselves? Why are we putting so much secret pressure on them? No wonder women are afraid to smile at some of us.
Okay, that said, do I think that alters my feelings for Pinkerton? No, maybe it adds layers and questions to a musical, lyrical, personal journal of an album that is a piece of musical gold, but that only ADDS to its specialness.
Pinkerton is a rarity in the world. A time capsule of a man and his friends and the way he and his shadow skulked through a world that was a rollercoaster of highs and lows and fantasy and reality. Of having your head above the clouds in one month and then becoming the reclusive, shy guy you were before almost overnight.
To think that this record was a semi-failure when it came out is a damn shame.BUT it has since become the most beloved Weezer record, right alongside and rightfully so, the debut album. (Dude, yes, sorry I was late to the party. “My Name is Jonas”, “No One Else.”, “The World has Turned, (the singles) and “In the (fucking) Garage” are classics that all of us late 80s and early 90s kids can relate to….
Anyways, I love this album and I’m not alone. If you don’t know it, look it up, order it, download it, stream it….check it out.
Oh, and if you didn’t know, the new mass market paperback and hardcover editions of my werewolf novel, BLOOD AND RAIN, are OUT NOW!
Grab a copy here: http://mybook.to/BloodandRain