For Weezer’s sophomore album, Pinkerton, people expected another nerdy love song like “Buddy Holly.” They got Rivers Cuomo’s nervy rants on love instead. The album turned into a commercial and critical failure. Thanks to social networking and a slew of knock-off bands inspired by it, Pinkerton’s morphed into one of the most important albums of the 1990s and an amazing alternative rock album.
Pinkerton gets the same bonus feature treatment as their self-titled debut, aka the Blue Album. It appears part of an effort to put out old unreleased songs and demos. Cuomo has a ton stored under his bed apparently.
Originally released in 1996, it was the last album featuring original bassist Matt Sharp. He would leave to focus on his own band, The Rentals, a cult group in its own right. Guitarist Brian Bell and drummer Pat Wilson round out Weezer’s lineup. Like the Blue Album, the band generates a wall of fuzz. They fuse epic ‘70s guitar soloing with pop punk and power pop.
Listeners at the time considered Pinkerton jarring after being accustomed to singles like “The Sweater Song” from the debut. The band slams their instruments harder and louder here with Wilson displaying some crazy drumming skills. Sharp thumps out Pixies-style basslines. Cuomo melodically shouts to the point of his voice breaking.
Through the racket, the lyrics cut the deepest. On Pinkerton, Cuomo pulls his insides out confessing his awkwardness with women so honestly it’s unsettling. In “Across the Sea,” he returns a Japanese girl’s fan letter with an ironic stalker song of his own. The album stabilizes itself with dark humor, though. In “El Scorcho” he desires a cute Asian girl who “shreds the cello.” “Pink Triangle” describes him accidentally falling in love with a lesbian. Later pop punk and emo bands imitated bits of Weezer’s approach. Unlike a lot of those bands, the emotions come off believable and not whiny.
Like the treatment for The Blue Album, Pinkerton gets b-sides, studio holdovers, radio remixes and live recordings. The non-album tracks are all great. Half are good enough to belong on a proper release. “I Just Threw Out the Love of my Dreams” from Cuomo’s abandoned space opera, Songs From the Black Hole, stands out most. Rachel Haden, Cuomo’s friend and former member of The Rentals, sings lead vocals.
The large amount of filler in the bonus tracks keeps Pinkerton Deluxe from getting a five-star rating. Only the most anal completist would be pleased to hear so many alternate and near identical versions of the singles. For example, you get four versions of “The Good Life.” The radio mix turns down the drum and bass volume—a little. The live recordings comprise mostly sterile sessions from TV and radio. The only true concert recordings come from their 1996 Reading Festival set which sounds muddy by live album standards. By contrast, the original record sounds more like a great concert. The amount of rarely heard additional songs negates the need for padding.
Aside from such carelessness, with Pinkerton Deluxe you hear the band at its most creative. Even better, Weezer’s music sounds fresh, almost like brand new indie rock.