a love letter to rivers cuomo's diary of an album: pinkerton

(image found here)

The first entry for "BLOOMEcore's" album article lineup, where music editor and writer Ruven Samaraweera selects music he feels embodies the ideals expressed through BLOOME magazine in its writings. Similar lineups will be conducted for other various mediums of art.
To be completely honest, I can't even remember a time before I listened to Weezer's sophomore album Pinkerton (1996), nor the type of music I listened to before it. I only barely recall my first time listening to the record. It was almost as if Pinkerton was a waking call to my teenaged emotions, and the beginning of my artistic self-development. I have a general list of albums that I rank as my favourites, and as the list changes over time, there are only about three albums that consistently stay at the top; and it just so happens to be that Pinkerton is always one of them. 

Maybe it's the fact that I first listened to the album at a time when I felt the typical rush of teenage angst and edge drown me. Perhaps it's due to this factor that I'm still able to relate to the album up to this day; however I'm certain that Weezer front-man Rivers Cuomo had done something magical to create an album that is able to emulate his emotions so well. Due to this factor, Pinkerton is considered to be the diary entry in the Weezer discography.

Album Cover for Weezer's Pinkerton, 1996;
Kambara Yoru No Yuki, Hiroshige

Pinkerton spawned off of Weezer's 1995 Songs from the Black Hole, a project initially meant to be the successor to Weezer's self-titled debut until the project was dropped due to it's overly-whimsical nature. An operation to extend Cuomo's leg, which led to both a handicap and multiple visits to the hospital; as well as experiences that could be described as self-alienation (due to his rise in fame), are counted among the reasons of the sudden drop of the space-rock opera idea.

It's safe to say that this wasn't the most joyful period in Cuomo's life. What the tragedy resulted to however, was Cuomo reflecting his bitter sentiments directly into the music he wrote around this time, resulting in the dark and depressing sound Weezer fans identify most within Pinkerton. The album was then recorded during the first half of 1996 at the infamous Sound City Studio. 

The final product was released on September 24th, 1996, under the David Geffen Company label. The album displayed themes of both sexual frustration, and broken relationships. It had 10 songs, and ran a short 35 minutes. Fans and critics absolutely hated it: Rolling Stone's readers went as far as rating it the third worst album of the year.  Album sales fell extremely short from the expectations set by the record label, and the band went on a 5 year hiatus.  


"This has been a tough year. It's not just that the world has said Pinkerton isn't worth a shit, but that the Blue album wasn't either. It was a fluke. It was the (Buddy Holly) video. I'm a shitty songwriter."

Rivers Cuomo, 1997


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However, as time progressed, and people started re-listening to the album, it began to gain a cult following. Critics speculated that the reasoning behind it's initial failure had been due to the fan's disappointment in Pinkerton's darker sounds; something which their debut did very well at combatting in the age and era of grunge. 

As the album's following increased, music news outlets started conducting retrospective reviews on the album: showering it with critical acclaim. The scores ranged from 5 stars received by Rolling Stones magazine; a 10/10 from Pitchfork, and a universally acclaimed 100/100 from Metacritic.

While the story behind Pinkerton could inspire a rather lengthy article, the actual music is the reason why we're here today. To be put simply: Pinkerton is an absolute masterpiece. Rivers Cuomo may say otherwise, but overlooking his insecurities, it truly is. It delves perfectly into the nerdy awkwardness of his being, and the album may be the closest we can get to understanding Rivers' quirky nature.

From start to finish, the album shows how confused Cuomo is with his new found fame. From the first song, Tired of Sex, where he states how tired he is with not being able to find a legitimate relationship; to Across the Sea, the avalanching song where Cuomo sings about how he imagines an 18 year-old Japanese fan masturbating while writing a letter to him; to the final track, Butterfly, where Rivers entails loneliness by singing about how he can never seem to make relationships work, while strumming a lonesome acoustic guitar.  


"Why bother? It's gonna hurt me. It's gonna kill when you desert me."
'Why Bother?', Weezer, 1996

(image found here)
The reason I consider this album to be so essential to today's youth is because of the excellent dichotomy between both lyrical content and musical content. While lyrically, it's overtly sexual and was written almost as if Cuomo tries to make the listener uncomfortable; the music is composed in a way that if you blasted it at full volume, rather than making the listener feeling nauseous, it can make you feel hazily comfortable as the huge sound of the mix sweeps you deep into the sea of the loud guitars, drums, and the bass. It's all done quite cleverly as well, because the vocals on the mix don't stand out the way vocals should on an album, but rather sound as if they're drowning, most likely referencing Cuomo's feelings of depression during the period the album was written in. 

Another thing that makes it so essential to me is the embarrassingly relatable lyrical content. While it is extremely uncomfortable, the lyrics hit, rather sadly, very close to home. This doesn't just apply to me; songs like Why Bother?, where Cuomo wails about why he'd rather masturbate than fall in love with yet another girl who is only going to break his heart. While it is very misogynistic, almost every teen of the current generation has felt this feeling towards someone of which they are attracted to (not necessarily the sexual portion, but more so the fed up aspect).

I'd suggest Pinkerton to anyone of the average reader demographic of this magazine (young, artistic), as this was the album that showed me both that infusing your emotions into your artistic work may lead to some great outcomes. It also showed me to take subjective opinions - on how emotional the work comes out to be - with a grain of salt (seeing as how most critics had a large change of heart for the album overtime). Add that message to the absolutely stellar compositions, and the awkward yet relatable lyrical content, and Pinkerton is an album for a generation that wasn't even born when the album was released. Now, if you haven't already, go out and listen to Pinkerton; however I can't promise to you that it'll have the same effect on you as it did for me. Although if it does, you'll have a stellar album that you can fall in love with again on each listen.   

BY RUVEN SAMARAWEERA

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