photo & text by nacrowe
as a music fan i find it compelling to consider the extent to which i project my emotions and psychic energy into the art created by total strangers. maybe that is just the reciprocal nation of art in general. in my experience there is an inherent expectation or sense of trust in the artist to not let the listener down by being inauthentic or explicitly market driven. it is my opinion that WEEZER's second album PINKERTON (DGC, 1996) is one of those select few recordings which collapses that notion in on itself, since many ALTERNATIVE ROCK fans probably wish songwriter RIVERS CUOMO would have been a little more guarded with his lyrics at the time. listening to it today still feels a bit cringe-y and most definitely TMI.
considered by many to be a landmark album that was an inspiration for the EMO movement a decade later, PINKERTON is renowned for CUOMO's diatribes about his DISSATISFACTION with life, specifically the SEXUAL ISOLATION of being frontman for a successful band. himself an object of desire, in a strange inversion he projects his own obsessed sexual ideations on young letter-writing female fans in JAPAN in his lyrics. that interpersonal DISCONNECT and overall DISSATISFACTION with the ALIENATING NATURE OF FAME, in which one becomes a caricature of themselves and lose their IDENTITY to a PUBLIC PERSONA, is all over this record and at times CUOMO seems to be losing that battle for control. his honesty regarding his SEXUAL PREDILECTIONS is maybe a vehicle for reestablishing such IDENTITY from a rabid fanbase that feels they know him, but obviously dont. its a very interesting dynamic and a subject that comes up from time to time, mostly in concept records by the likes of prog-rockers like PINK FLOYD or GENESIS. but not INDIE ROCK bands with no artifice or concept shielding them from criticism. PINKERTON is bare and brutally honest in its execution, especially in songs like "ACROSS THE SEA," "PINK TRIANGLE," "TIRED OF SEX," "THE GOOD LIFE" and "EL SCORCHO." the fact that these songs are ultra-catchy (thanks in no small part to the back-up vocals of bassist MATT SHARP - his last with the group), only makes the vinegar with the sugar that much more potent.
i should mention that the title is a reference to the AMERICAN naval officer in the opera MADAME BUTTERFLY. the character of PINKERTON has a JAPANESE wife while stationed on the island and then promptly abandons her when recalled back home. the opera is about her extreme torment and ritual suicide after being shamed by the relationship and her pregnancy. its a very curious allusion for an album dealing with obsession, mainly because the plot of said opera is rather racist and anti-female. is CUOMO idealizing that level of loyalty from his fans or objects of affection? who is PINKERTON and who is MADAME BUTTERFLY in this scenario?
having lived in JAPAN, i will say that CUOMO was correct in his observation about half-JAPANESE girls being gorgeous. i only bring that up since there is a major cultural taboo about NATIONAL IDENTITY only being recognized in those who parents are both JAPANESE. those that are half something else are often culturally looked down upon and even harassed. its one aspect of their CULTURE i never understood since objectively women that were half JAPANESE and half KENYAN or TURKISH or FRENCH or CHILEAN where absolutely stunning. but such is their CULTURE that anything deviating from the norm is discarded and effectively shunned. case in point was a MISS JAPAN a few years back that was half BLACK, who was brutally harassed online.
i dont know if id recommend PINKERTON to the uninitiated. its a very idiosyncratic record that followed-up a universally praised modern ALTERNATIVE ROCK classic. it makes perfect sense that this record marked an end to his oversharing on record and marked the end of the beginning of their career that brought on a years-long sabbatical in which he re-enrolled in college and rediscovered himself. i support the dude and his efforts, but this record marks the end of WEEZER's time as a cutting-edge band. subsequent efforts seemed to be highly derivative of the sonic template of the first two records.