WEEZER: Heart Songs

True enough, and each time he withdrew from the music scene, Cuomo eventually felt the tug that drew him back. One of the reasons that the band’s sophomore album, Pinkerton, is held in such high esteem by fans is that it was made during a period when it wasn’t at all clear that Cuomo would even release anymore Weezer music; he was at Harvard for his first semester during part of the recording, and in his application letter, he wrote about how disillusioned he was with the rock and roll lifestyle.

Videos by American Songwriter

Another reason is that Pinkerton, like classics such as Tommy, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and The Dark Side of the Moon before it, is a concept album that offers endless threads to follow and mysteries to unravel. Loosely based on Madame Butterfly, its title is inspired by Puccini’s character B.F. Pinkerton. But the biggest reason the album connects so undisputedly is that the lyrics seem to be coming from such an unguarded and personal place.

“In 1996, it was something of a shock to see Weezer jump from the sun-gazing confines of ‘the Blue Album’ to a stalker-heavy concept album about blue balls… modern emo may have sprung from Pinkerton‘s Asian art loins, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t the catchiest LiveJournal blog I’ve ever heard,” a Pitchfork writer proclaimed when the influential indie-rock webzine proclaimed the disc one of the 100 Best Albums of the ‘90s. A commercial disappointment upon its release, Pinkerton would soon develop a devoted cult following, something Cuomo regretted for a time-“It’s a hideous record… It was such a hugely painful mistake,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2001-but has since come to accept. “Many fans do say that it does something for them that none of our albums do, and yet it didn’t have a [bigger] widespread audience,” he tells me.

To some extent, Weezer fans have been waiting for Pinkerton, Part II ever since. “The Green Album” was a more straightforward pop-rock effort (the gleefully goofy hit “Hash Pipe” and the elegiac “Island in the Sun” are the stand-out tracks), Maladroit was a slightly more experimental and harder-edged outing, and the Rick Rubin-produced Make Believe was a commercial success that nevertheless rang a bit hollow; songs such as the big hit “Beverly Hills” seemed just a little predictable and a bit too easy for a band like Weezer. Whether or not the band agreed, it had some new goals going into the making of “the Red Album,” which was produced by Rubin (though he played much less of a role than before), Jacknife Lee (the Irishman whose other credits include Green Day, U2 and R.E.M.) and the band itself.

“I think there was one overarching value that remained pretty consistent from the beginning [through] the end of this pretty long album-making process, and that [was] the challenge for each of us-to recommit again and again to what makes us excited about music,” Cuomo says, “to try to stick to that and not sell out, give in, or say, ‘Let’s just do it Rivers’ way,’ or not to give in and say, ‘Let’s do what our fans want’…to keep asking ourselves again and again: ‘What way feels most exciting to me?’ That was a real challenge, both to focus on that excitement within each one of us, but then to also move forward with four different people in a group. That stayed pretty consistent.”

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

RIDIN’ WITH DENZEL: Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?