Rivers Hated It. So Did an Awful Lot of Music Critics: A Look Back at the First Wave of Pinkerton Reviews

11/11/2010 2:11 PM |


The months following the 1996 release of Pinkerton were not kind to Weezer. The making of the “El Scorcho” video was such a disaster that director Mark Romanek’s name was removed from the final product; subsequent singles “The Good Life” and “Pink Triangle” received little backing from Geffen after “El Scorcho” failed to gain any clout on MTV or modern-rock radio; rumors that bassist Matt Sharp was fleeing for The Rentals steamrolled. Before a generation of bands sang its praises, before last week’s Pitchfork-granted perfect 10.0, and before SPIN and Rolling Stone would include it among the “greatest albums of the decade” in some form or another, an awful lot of music writers said some really nasty things about Pinkerton. Music criticism, you know, can be a complicated thing. In a companion to our piece about its reissue, let’s take a look at some of the early reviews of what has become Weezer’s shining moment and wonder if this is what we’ll be writing about The Red Album in 15 years.

“As a songwriter, the band’s singer and guitarist, Rivers Cuomo, takes a juvenile tack on personal relationships. … Weezer over-rely on catchy tunes to heal all of Cuomo’s wounds. In ‘El Scorcho,’ the song’s infectious chorus proves to be slim reward. ‘Tired of Sex,’ a look at a brooding stud’s empty sex life, is as aimless as the subject’s nightly routine.”
—Rob O’Connor, Rolling Stone, September 1996

“[Its] lyrics make an Archie comic seem downright deep by comparison.”
—Craig Tomashoff, People, October 1996

“Named after one of the characters in Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, 1996’s Pinkerton is seething and self-indulgent. Cuomo seized control of the group and held it hostage to his muse, with songs about all-consuming possessiveness (‘No Other One,’ ‘Tired Of Sex’) and corresponding despair (‘Butterfly,’ ‘Why Bother?’). … Overrated and undercooked, Pinkerton sounds like the smell stink makes.”
—Corey duBrowa, “Sound Check: Sophomore Slumps,” Magnet, December 2007

“Hey boys and girls, can you say ‘one-hit wonders?’ If so, then follow it with Weezer. The band’s second release, Pinkerton , clearly shows Weezer is headed to the graveyard of forgettable bands. Pinkerton is 10 loud, grating songs that are supposed to pass as rock, but sound like trains going over rusty tracks. … Pinkerton fails miserably.
—Ray Marcano, Dayton Daily News, October 1996

“Weezer might rollick, Weezer might write thumpingly irresistible choruses ’til the mad cows come home, but you wouldn’t be alone in supposing Weezer make being young sound like f***ing weary hard work. … My advice is to ignore the lyrics entirely.”
Melody Maker, October 1996

“The bad news? The band bypassed Ric Ocasek — who gave Weezer its sparkle and punch — and produced the new album alone. As such, Pinkerton should please all those indie-rock purists who like their pop sloppy and raw, but it’ll disappoint anyone who prefers a candy coating on the bubblegum.”
—Jeff Gordinier, Entertainment Weekly, September 1996

“The melodies [on Pinkerton] have fallen prey to too great an onslaught of grungy guitars and bludgeoning power chords.”
—Steven Johnson, The Record, November 1996

“[Weezer is] either being consigned to oblivion or racing toward it.”
—Associated Press, February 1997