Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weezer - "Pinkerton" (LP Review)

I'm a big fan of Weezer. Unfortunately, it is written somewhere that Weezer fans have to think Pinkerton is Weezer's greatest LP of all time, no discussion necessary. Problem is, I don't think this is their best LP. It might only be their third or fourth best LP. Those kinds of heretical statements will get you excommunicated from the Weezer fan club pretty quickly.

Released in 1996, Pinkerton is their second LP and represents a decided break from their first LP ("the blue album") with a heavier, darker sound. Pinkerton has none of the highly polished power pop songs (and Spike Jonez -directed "novelty" videos like "Undone - the Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly") that made their first LP such a popular and critical success. Where their first LP had the clean precision of Ric Ocasek as producer, Pinkerton is self-produced and, perhaps, more self-indulgent.

Two well-known facts about this LP should give you pause: 1) Pinkerton is the remnants of an unreleased concept LP "Songs from the Black Hole", which is described as a "space-themed rock opera" and whose legend inevitably invites comparisons to "Smile", The Beach Boys' mythic unreleased LP, and 2) Pinkerton is roughly inspired by Puccini's Madame Butterfly, but instead of being a Lieutenant in the US Navy, the character of Pinkerton is college-age rock star (in other words, Rivers Cuomo). That's an awful lot of "concept" for a college rock band ca. mid-90s.

But I'll forgive the Madame Butterfly inspiration (if you catch me on a good day I might admit to liking it), but what ultimately limits this LP is that the song writing is not up to their usual standards. Songs like "Tired of Sex", "Getchoo" and "Falling for You" are nearly brilliant, but are missing that undefinable something that typifies their earlier -- and later -- songs. Don't get me wrong, they're good songs, but they come across as incomplete demos and not fully polished. It is almost as if in their desire to make "heavier" songs, they've left something out. I can't exactly say what is missing, but it's missing.

Having said that, this LP does contain two of their best songs ever: "Good Life" and "Pink Triangle". The latter is a song of our main character's unrequited love for a woman who turns out to be lesbian and features two of the cleverest lyrics you'll ever hear: "We were good as married in my mind / But married in my mind's no good" and "Everyone's a little queer / Can't she be a little straight".

When you listen to the other songs on the LP in light of "Good Life" and "Pink Triangle", you can't help but feel a little disappointed and wonder how good this LP would truly have been if they had all been at that level.

Stand out tracks: "Good Life", "Pink Triangle", "Tired of Sex", "No Other One", "Why Bother"

Skip 'em tracks: "El Scorcho" (a fan favorite, but I can't get into it), "Butterfly" (not a bad song and it resolves the concept, but I often turn the LP off at this point).

Final score: 8/10 -- narrowly avoiding a 7/10 on the strength of "GL" & "PT".

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