Rivers Hated It. A Generation of Bands Loved It: Reflections on Weezer's Pinkerton 

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"It's a hideous record. It was such a hugely painful mistake that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people ... and [it] just won't go away. It's like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself." —Rivers Cuomo, 2001

As we all know by now, a large swath of suburban misfits who came of age in the 90s — many who eventually began bands of their own — will forever beg to differ. We talked to members of Titus Andronicus, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Free Energy and more, to get their thoughts on the reissue of Pinkerton.




Chris Chu of The Morning Benders

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
"Tired of Sex." I love this song so much. I love Rivers' scream after the first chorus. I love how his songwriting is super vulnerable, but it still might be a joke. I love how fucked up it sounds. I love it all. Brilliant.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
It's almost too early to remember. The Blue Album was one of the first albums I ever bought, and Pinkerton came soon after. I liked it as a kid, although I think I liked The Blue Album more. However, I have a very vivid memory of the time I pulled out Pinkerton in high school after not hearing it for a few years, and I was totally blown away at how amazing it was. Weezer is one of the few bands that I listened to as a kid that I still like today.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
Definitely. Probably the sound of Pinkerton, more than anything else — how dark and live and crunchy it sounds. There's a rawness there that we've tried to capture in our recordings, for sure. I like how the pallet of sounds they chose make the album really cohesive. You can picture them in a basement just running through the songs. Perfect album flow.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
A lot of people have been down on Weezer lately, but, honestly, I'm pretty stoked on them. I saw them play at a festival in Montreal a few months back, and I was just so refreshed to see a band playing so joyously and unselfconsciously. Rivers running around like a maniac and jumping off the drum riser onto a trampoline. They just seemed so happy to be playing music and goofing off with each other... and it totally was infectious.

Will McElroy of the Magic Kids

We just listened to Pinkerton in the van the other day, and everyone has been gushing about it ever since — except Michael (bassist), who was apparently young enough when it came out to have never heard a single song from it until that moment. The bad sound in the van didn't do much to pique his interest, so it has started a running discussion about whether or not there's a certain window within which this album can become an all-time favorite, and if it's possible to miss it. Like, how much of its appeal is limited to a certain age, or generation, and how much is intrinsic?

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
Our favorites seem to change with every listen. They've all held the top spot at one point or another. There's so much to appreciate in every song — ranging from big and deliberate to seemingly casual — that different aspects seem to reveal themselves depending on your mood. You can put it away and come back to a totally new album.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I remember "El Scorcho" making my heart explode at 14, first time I heard it, after a few unsuspecting hours of waiting for it to download on Napster. I remember Alice (singer) describing how she and an ex-boyfriend listened to it so many times they knew which lines they were each supposed to sing.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
The aspect that I'm most jealous of is the millions of perfect sounds and micro-moments throughout — from some stray feedback to the way a line is tossed off — that seem at once random but too right to be accidental. The things you shouldn't be able to fake, or would have to be extremely neurotic to try to control anyway.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
Recently, one of the other 'Kids reminded me of the song "Beverly Hills," which I've come to think of as the ultimate justification for Weezer's continued existence. If they'd quit after Pinkerton, we would be without one of the most pure, unfettered, should-be-in-a-dictionary expressions of stupidity and banality in a pop chorus ever. Try singing it out loud to yourself a few times, and you'll be mollified into some zen-like state of oneness with the world.




Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlinâ�‚��„�

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
In our song "Kiss Your Lips," I refer to "El Scorcho" as my favorite Weezer song. This is probably true, although, as everybody knows, Pinkerton as a whole is their masterwork — "Pink Triangle," "Tired of Sex." Is it true that he wrote the album while in the hospital recovering from having his legs lengthened?

Why is "El Scorcho" my favorite? Gargling, sparse drum hits, a sexy singalong stupid guitar riff. The first lyric is "Goddamn." Then the chorus kicks in, and it's the most perfect singalong bit, then there's the weird two-time bit, then back to the stoned beat. I love it. It's just a great love song. My favorite lyric is probably, "You will keep my fingernails clean." Oh Rivers.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I was 14 when it came out I think. I was a massive dork. Still am. But so was Rivers, and he was dead sexy and I had a pretty massive crush on him. Still do. We listened to the whole album in the tour van driving through Germany [this] summer. It was funny listening to it again as a grown-up. Different things stuck out. It's still a great album.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
I couldn't say; I think it's very difficult to pinpoint influences. It was definitely a favorite in my formative years though. As massive as Weezer were, they were still a relatively indie band. They weren't Metallica, and in Rockhampton in the 90s listening to anything that wasn't Metallica marked you out as a bit weird.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
I love the fact that all their fans despair when they bring out another album, and that they don't seem to care. "Where's My Sex" is truly awful, but I can't help thinking that maybe the joke is on us. I am a little confused by it, but it makes me laugh. Maybe one day they'll make another Pinkerton, but I doubt it. They've made videos with the Muppets and baby animals, and we're called a twee band? I love them forever.

Kip Berman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
"The Good Life." I remember listening to that and thinking, "I also don't want to be an old man anymore" — even though I was in high school. Still, somehow I felt like I could relate, like it was about not wanting to be uptight and lame all the time. I was lame and uptight all the time, and despite lots of sugar in my tea, I've sort of remained that way. Oh well, still a great song.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I was dating a girl who always suggested that Pains should sound more like Weezer. I totally agreed, but it's hard, ya know? For starters, I can't shred. Rivers can shred. Also, they have big Marshall amps and I have a Roland Jazz Chorus (it sounds like its name, for those who are wondering). And their songs are better constructed, they have pre-choruses, harmonies, riffs, modulations. Maybe someday we'll get there.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
Yeah, I think we referenced the dry heavy guitar and unaffected vocals a lot when working on our second album, but the British people we were recording with weren't super familiar with it. They'd always be like, "Every American band we ever meet won't shut up about bloody Weezer." Unnatural amounts of Weezer love is sort of a uniquely American thing — because they sound so American. I really like that. USA! USA! USA!

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
It's really unfair when people consider their first two albums total genius perfection (to me they are), but then turn around and say everything else they've ever done is worthless. It's a weird take on a songwriter/band who continues to write really good rock songs, and it tends to mythologize those first records a bit too much. I mean, "Pork and Beans" was a good song, and "Island in the Sun" was great too. It's like, they wrote two five-star records that defined a generation and continues to hold tremendous influence, which is about two more than just about every band ever will ever do.




AJ Wolosenko of Your Youth

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
"Tired of Sex." It's so raw and aggressive — the opening feedback, the thumping drums, the fuzzed-out bass...and then the absolutely ripping solo. Plus, the second verse is killer, pitch-perfect, building-the-momentum, with the guitars edging out and pushing into the red, and Rivers really stretching his voice, leading you right into that solo. The whole song just kicks with that combo of being out of control and totally tight. When they snap into the half-time at the end, it feels like they're all banging on their gear at the same time, and it's magically working out.

It's also one of those amazing first songs on an album that sets the stage for what's to come. And in this case, I feel like it's sort of a great middle finger to people coming in from The Blue Album. Because Pinkerton's not quite the In Utero to The Blue Album's Nevermind, but in some ways it is. And they establish that pretty quickly and pretty clearly.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I actually most remember buying it and not liking it. Just being confused by it. Listening to it for the first time with another friend who was a big Weezer fan, and both of us sort of looking at each other like, "Hey, what is this? Maybe let's listen to â�‚��œEl Scorchoâ�‚��„� again." And then coming back to it a little later, living with it for a while, and ending up thinking it was cool and dark and totally about where I was at the time.

But I also really remember when it was this fucking enigma. It's become much more "understood" recently, but there really was a point in time when it was like, "Is this the last thing they had to say?" And that gave it this really interesting position. There were those whispers about Songs from the Black Hole and the whole leg-correction surgery thing, but you really didn't know. You had these two magnificent albums and then a total disappearance. It gave Pinkerton this different kind of weighted importance.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
Clearly, the short answer is yes — Weezer's a huge influence. Your Youth is a loud pop band, and Weezer is a big touchstone in that regard. Some people have tried calling us out on that, using it as some sort of pejorative, but we think the comparison is a compliment. It means people are getting what we're trying to do. Even if they don't like it, they get it ... The other part is what [Rivers is] singing about/his attitude. The first two Weezer records were about embracing the fact that they were weird and quirky and charming, and then wrapping it up in Marshall stacks. I get a lot from that, both as a guy listening to a rock record and as a guy in a rock band trying to write songs.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
I mean, there are clearly two Weezers — the line in the sand coming in between their first two records and the rest of it. The first Weezer is one of my favorite bands of all-time; the second one exists. Even your heroes get old. Even though I don't listen to their albums anymore, it doesn't take away from how much I enjoy what they did. Plus, "Pork and Beans" is good. Listen to it again. Loud. I swear.

Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
My favorite song must be "El Scorcho" for that was always the highlight of singalongs [with friends], that refrain being perfectly designed for an awkward teenage chorus to pour all of their angst and frustration into. Puberty was the gasoline, and Pinkerton was the match, know what I'm saying?

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I don't have specific memories tied to listening to Pinkerton, but rather large, vague ones; composite memories from innumerable repetitions of similar experiences. The first of these would be listening to the record alone as a teenage misanthrope, hiding away from a scary and confusing world and cursing all the high school girls who wouldn't give me the time of day. In a way, Weezer was to me what KISS was to Rivers in the narrative of "In the Garage." It was either that or being surrounded by all of my buddies, in advanced stages of giddiness and youthful abandon, singing the songs, all the songs, together at the very height of our still-unsure voices.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
If Weezer influenced our band, surely it was in showing us that spirit, that spirit which takes whatever pain you have in your life (in the case of this record, sexual frustration) and uses it to build solidarity and celebration.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
Discussing Weezer in modern times seems to be almost besides the point, in a way, since Rivers and the gang clearly don't have a ton invested in the external validation of the Pinkerton cult, and perhaps that's a good thing, even if you think that Weezer is just pandering to another demographic. Pinkerton will always be there for those that want it, and those people are free to take or leave Weezer's modern music as it comes.




David Crane of BOAT

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
My favorite song would have to be "Tired of Sex." Or wait; it's a tie with "The Good Life."

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I remember getting the album the day it came out, at Tower Records in the mighty Tacoma, Washington. I spent most of my year driving around in my mom's Toyota Previa listening to Pinkerton. I remember being obsessed with the girly backup vocals on "Tired of Sex."

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
That whole era of Weezer is so undeniable and fun. The distortion on the guitars and catchiness made me want to start a band, but, alas, my high school friends were more into rap music and marijuanaâ�‚�¦ so I spent a lot of time listening to this album by myself.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
I haven't really listened too much beyond Maladroit. It never connected with me the same way as I did with the first two albums. I listen to the first two records all the time. As tough as it is to get into Pat playing guitar and Rivers Cuomo as a two-armed singer, I kind of like that they are not trying to appease the cool indie people. They appear to be "just being themselves." I like that they seem a little deranged/misguided.

Peter Rynsky of Darlings

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
"Tired of Sex." The feedback that starts the song and the album can't be mistaken for anything else. [It] sets a tone for the entire record that says, "I'm an emotional teenager, and these songs make me feel cool about it."

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
Waiting for my friend Brad to get out of his first detention in sixth grade. After he got out, we walked across the street to CD Warehouse and bought [it] the day it came out. We listened to it all the time and tried to get our friends at school into it. I remember having lots of arguments over Blue Album vs. Pinkerton.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
Definitely. Solid melodies over distorted chord changes was Weezer's signature trait. They weren't the first band to do it, but they made it their own. We like to incorporate similar songwriting methods while trying to make it unique to us.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
I've been having this fantasy that everything Weezer has done in the 2000s is a big, decade-long prank. This whole time Rivers Cuomo and Matt Sharp have been writing a 100-song album that will be the spiritual successor to Pinkerton. Not likely right? Like any other Weezer fan, I wish they could get back on track and ditch that weird bass player, but with every new mall punk album they release, the hope dies down a little bit more.




Gareth of Los Campesinos!

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
"Across The Sea." I'm a big fan of songs mentioning female masturbation.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
Yes. In our first year of university, and indeed our first months of knowing each other, Neil (guitarist) and I would quite literally jump around his bedroom listening to the record, air guitaring and singing along. Never before has depression sounded so joyous.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
Pinkerton has. I admire Rivers' honesty on this record and his willingness to put himself out there. One of my proudest moments was when a bigshot webzine said my lyrics reminded them of Pinkerton.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
It seems like they're having a really good time.

Paul Sprangers of Free Energy

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
I used to listen to "Butterfly" over and over. And over. When he sings "I'm sorry," I could hear his heart, and that is so rare — especially from one of the coolest bands ever, you know? To hear and feel that vulnerability is completely striking.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
Well, for The Blue Album, I remember driving back to my high school parking lot from cross country practice. "The Sweater Song" was playing on the radio, and it blew my mind. My friend Carl told me they were called Weezer. It changed my life. I had never heard anything so melodic and heavy, but so loose and so smart. I remember buying Pinkerton as soon as it came out, taking it home and listening to it over and over again. I was confused by the tougher production at first, but quickly got into the melodies and big choruses. I understood they were pushing to try new things. I certainly didn't understand a lot of the lyrical content until I was older — being a nomad, tired of sex, etc.

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
Yeah, Pinkerton showed that Weezer was a real band attempting to grow and change. It was a more damaged record but just as special, ultimately. The fact that Weezer would take real creative risks after such success with The Blue Album was really very inspiring to my young self. [They were] just so obviously brilliant to me and my friends because they were unafraid to be funny. Like the Beastie Boys or Pavement, they weren't consumed with being taken seriously.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
Just heard a big anthem off Hurley and thought it was awesome. I'm a bit out of the loop as far as new music, but I saw Weezer at the Reading Festival in the UK when we played there and thought they were awesome!




Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb the Music Industry!

1. Which song from Pinkerton is your favorite?
My favorite song is "Falling for You," and that's probably the one we played the worst when we covered it [at Silent Barn last month]. The chord structure is so interesting and unique. That's one of my favorite songs of all-time. I guess I'm in a very specific subset of people who can identify with feeling bad about being in love while feeling bad about being a shitty musician.

2. Do you have a specific memory tied to listening to the album?
I remember thinking Weezer were totally "played out" and "poseurs" â�‚��œcause the cool punks in my junior high school said so and made fun of me for liking them. Then I heard "El Scorcho" on the radio, and when it went into the punk beat I was like, "Oh, fuck these kids, I'm getting this record." Then like every 13-year-old, I was confused. It sounded disgusting. It had the effect on me In Utero was supposed to have. I put it away but for some reason kept coming back to it. The more rejection and heartbreak I went through the more I started realizing that sometimes music isn't just hooks, and aggression can happen at any speed. Itâ�‚��„�s the first of my "favorite all-time records."

3. Has Pinkerton, or Weezer in general, influenced your band at all?
The sound of Pinkerton is a really big influence on what we do. There are a million melodies happening at once, and it's so big, chaotic and gnarly. The loud parts are so loud, the quiet parts are so quiet. It has an amazing constant intensity while remaining dynamic. I wish I could someday pull that off.

4. What are your thoughts on Weezer, circa 2010?
It's really not my thing, but I was one of those millions of people frothing at the mouth and pleading on message boards for more Weezer after Pinkerton so I really can't complain about their return. Besides, everything those dudes did before The Green Album was perfect and still enjoyable on a regular basis. Most bands never get that.

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