Music Commentary


November 9, 2010

Ian Cohen of Pitchfork:

Pinkerton was poorly received by critics upon release and considered a flop after peaking at #19. Cuomo probably didn’t care about the critics, but he took the public indifference very personally, soon retreating from view. But the cult that adored and passionately identified with Pinkerton became hard to ignore by the turn of the century, with the commercial breakthrough of confessional emo seen as its ultimate vindication. The record that killed Weezer’s career ended up saving it. It’s a nice story, and one that’s integral and damn near necessary to protect Pinkerton‘s legend: a popular misconception is that a Rolling Stone readers’ poll named it the worst album of 1996 (it was actually third behind Bush and DJ Spooky) […].

Times have changed, and tastes have refined.

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  • Reply musingsofamusiclover November 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    I love Pinkerton. I think by now, everyone has pretty much accepted that it’s Weezer’s second-best album.
    (Second to Blue, of course.)

  • Reply Mario A. Munoz November 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Well, I think the term “refined” is a bit misleading. I loved the blue album when I was in high school. I used to listen to it on my walkman, knew all the words, expected the opening riff of each song just as the other ended. When my brother’s girlfriend (now my sister-in-law) gave me Pinkerton for my birthday, I was filled with anticipation and curiosity. Could they in any way match the tone and angst of their previous effort?

    To say I was a disappointed is probably a bit harsh. But I wasn’t blown away, either. I loved “Butterfly,” but every other track seemed like it was just barely under the quality of what I expected.

    I don’t believe it was because my tastes were unrefined. Instead, I think Pinkerton came at a time that, given the climate created by their previous effort (and by other outside social factors), could not do anything but fall short of expectations.

    Tastes, after all, are a mere representation of a collective current which is mostly uncontrollable. To say that, in modernity, we are able to appreciate art with much more refinement than, say, those critics of earlier years, would be a bit presumptuous. Of course, that doesn’t mean that earlier judgments are always inscrutable either.

    I am glad that Pinkerton did, finally, reach a level of critical acclaim, even posthumously (if I may say). I did end up appreciating that album and would also rate it as number 2 in their discography.

    • Reply Richard Sanchez November 11, 2010 at 7:49 pm

      Yes, I could have used the term “refined” with a lot more care, I think. I should have. Notwithstanding the greatness of the Blue album, though, Pinkerton reminds me of In Utero, which following the Nevermind album, was a rebellious counterpoise to the overly polished production of the breakthrough album that preceded it. A lot more raw. A lot more real. And about real feelings, particularly in the face of ridiculous fame, and how Rivers Cuomo dealt with that.

      Heresy caveat: I think I just may be one of the few Weezerheads out there that (due to how my tastes have evolved or changed — rather than “refined”) thinks Pinkerton is better than Blue. Still, before I get rotten salad items thrown at my face, I will say that this is primarily because of my present state of mind with music, not necessarily with how great and influential the Blue album was and is (to this day). Comparatively speaking, to me, In Utero is better than Nevermind (this belief of mine was unpopular in the 90s); as much as Pinkerton’s better than Blue. Again … it’s inextricably due to my present cadre of tastes, which can be rather defiant of overtly-polished productions, especially during the ’90s and the rise and decline of “Alternative Rock,” which it precisely never was (not during its hey-day, anyway).

      The use of the term refinement, however, reminds me a lot of the term “progress,” and if we were to discuss the Death of Radio, and subsequently, of Modern Rock, then I strongly believe that we have reached a higher level of maturation. In this digital age, we have ways to customize our listening experience, ways in which to build our own expertise in whatever particular genre we inherently prefer, rather than the total spoonfed brainwash that radio in the 90s was. I think we’ve moved forward, progressed, refined. Let’s not mistake nostalgia for greatness, either. If a band or album that we “used” to love feels more like an adolescent tryst now (deep down inside, that is), but still yields a sense of nostalgia, that doesn’t make that album or band any more relevant today. only a handful of bands from ’90s era modern rock truly matter now, anyway. Weezer being one of them (and narrowly too through Blue and Pinkerton). In short, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the “worth” of a music album or band is entirely subject to the culture and decade that surrounds it, because ultimately, an album like Kid A or OK Computer will ALWAYS be great, period, whereas an album by Bush? Not so much. Perhaps back then … but now? No.

      • Reply musingsofamusiclover November 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm

        Actually, many Weezer fans would probably agree that Pinkerton IS number 1, although I do not count myself among them. It is fantastic, of course, and will certainly live on when most other 90s acts have been seemingly wiped out of everyone’s memories. Part of the reason I think I love Blue best, however, is that I simply heard it first, and I heard it at a time when many of its themes were very relevant to me. I didn’t hear Pinkerton until years later, long after it had come out, and it just didn’t affect me in the same visceral way. Regardless, I love them both.

  • Reply Richard Sanchez November 11, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Very true, some great points that I haven’t considered. a milieu of idiosyncratic experiences, history, states of mind that surround one’s primal experience with an album’s inaugural listen (particularly at a young age where one’s emotions are fireworks, all over the place), and the residual affection that one has with that album as the years go by. All this talk has made wanna get my Blue on, again. Or, I can just go to the Quarry House Tavern since the Blue album seems to be on a jukebox loop there!

  • Reply Mario A. Munoz November 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Well, it could also be argued that something that makes a good album is how relevant it is to the times. This alone isn’t a good measure, mind you, but it does speak volumes about the people behind the art. I mean, sometimes, this can be achieved accidentally, but at the very least, it stirs something in the audience, and that alone is an achievement.

    I’m not entirely sure what to do with the “timeless” pieces which seem to climb over the wall of time-restricted, social relevance. I believe those pieces wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t “something else” to stand on, things which are better left unremembered. In that sense, everyone is a pioneer.

    This obviously deserves waaay more thought than what I am giving it now, but c’est le blog…

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