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“Pinkerton” And Getting Emotional About Girls

In order to create the sound of punk the powers that be took the Velvet Underground, the Stooges and the New york Dolls and put them in a blender. In order to create “Emo” they took Weezer’s second album “Pinkerton,” watched Weezer’s concerts and called it Emo.
Weezer were coming off their very pretty, very strange first album known as “The Blue Album” which generated three hit songs, “They Call Me Jonah,” “Undone” and “Buddy Holly”. Lead singer River Cuomo was a weirdo in ways you can’t fake: there have been a lot of nerds in rock but not quite like this, Cuomo seemed disconnected from the world around him, inapprioriate and socially ungraceful and stories abounded as to his hermetic, celibate lifestyle. Cuomo wasn’t a nerd, he was an idiot savant: genius songwriter, hard rock aficiando, whack case.
The followup was “Pinkerton,” hated upon release but leading a midnight movie type second life with everybody who heard it forming a band or so it seemed. Nine songs in length “Pinkerton” is beyond bizarre: a mash letter to teenage Japanese girls lead by hard Bonhamy drums that pushed every song though the rest of the band were less likely to let lose. Everybody was staring at River who seemed so damaged by love it was hard to figure out what the emotional wreck wanted.
Charged with very memorable hooks, Cuomo seemed to be rummaging around his heart, raking the coals of desire, of love, of being serious about love not as a macho guy but a nutjob uncompromised by his job. In “No Other One” he stakes his claim for a love so overwhelming he is impotent with other women and for a love dangerous in extremities because he is fooling himself about her. The love is based mostly on a supreme need not to be alone though the girl lies to him and ignores him. On the very next song Cuomo is paralyzed by fear of love, on the sexy come on “El Scorcho” his come is “I think I’ll be good for you and you’ll be good for me” though she doesn’t want to go to the Green Day concert. On perhaps the weirdest sex song every written, “Across the Sea,” Cuomo gets a fan letter from an eighteen year old girl from a small city in Japan and obsesses about her, “I need help and you’re across the sea” till he reaches the chorus “I would never touch you, I think it would be wrong…” and imagines her masturbating. Creepy but beautiful, it is the best song on an album that never waivers for a moment.
And it is rock, hard rock as opposed to alternative rock, though the constant high level melodies and hooks make it feel like something else: it feels like a singer-songwriter having a nervous breakdown: he doesn’t know what he wants but he knows what he wants is to talk to the deepest levels of love, to reach some place where you love so much you become the person you’re loving and he isn’t finding it anywhere but in the harmolodic joints he nails down. He claims he is tired of sex in the first song but it isn’t sex he is tired of, it is his complete lostness when it comes to women because what he wants and what he gets is not the same and this difference has him leaving the girl and being dropped by the girl. He isn’t an early Costello loser, River has broken through the way he feels for her, but he is not satisfied: nothing is enough on “Pinkerton”.
I saw Weezer in 96 at Roseland on the “Pinkerton” tour and nearly got killed in the mosh pit. I don’t go into mosh pits ever and it just seemed to appear out of nowhere and I was surprised because although I had Weezer pegged as an indie lo-fiy type of band with a real good drummer even if the music rocked hard then expected still it was power pop by definition but live they are a metaly hard rock band who roar through their material at odds with the recorded songs. It is a neat trick by, in 96, a band in the process of losing their fanbase. I loved “Pinkerton” from the very beginning because I love melody to the exclusion of many things and every single song is a hummable hit, but it took awhile to find its audience. Anyway, at Roseland that day a thousand emo bands began to rise and this was the one album above all others pointing the way. Bands like The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional, Hot Rod Circuit -tons of others. And “Pinkerton” so strange and so lost in emotions, was the template.
Maybe ten years ago I was back at Roseland to watch Coheed and Cambria, Hot Rod Circuit, and The Get Up Kids” at an Emo coming out party. It never really happened -too many people were uncomfortable with the term, it felt uncool, and the pity is it was a fabulous concert. It would take Fall Out Boys and My Chemical Romance to leave behind the vernacular and find their own success.

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