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Music / Pinkerton

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Goddamn, you half-Japanese girls
Do it to me everytime...

"Much like Hamlet is a young man’s play, I feel that Pinkerton is something of a young man’s album."
Teenage Victory Songs, "Why Bother?"

"A collection of get-down party anthems for agoraphobics."
Jeff Gordinier, Entertainment Weekly

Pinkerton is the second album by Alternative Rock band Weezer, released in 1996. The album was initially planned as a Rock Opera named Songs from the Black Hole, but the concept was eventually abandoned, and the final album combined songs that were discarded from Black Hole and new Creator Breakdown-influenced material. The title of the album comes from the character in Madame Butterflynote ; the Pinkerton security agency sued for trademark infringement right before its release, only to have their case thrown out almost instantly.

As mentioned above, frontman Rivers Cuomo's initial plan to follow their self-titled debut Weezer (The Blue Album) was to create an ambitious album that he described as "an analogy for taking off, going out on the road and up the charts with a rock band, which is what was happening to me at the time I was writing this and feeling like I was lost in space". The songs were also influenced by Cuomo's mental state, as he had undergone painful surgery to correct one of his legs being shorter than the other since birth, and was accepted to study at Harvard with a letter describing his disillusionment with the rock lifestyle but only found himself more isolated and lonely.

The album was recorded between late 1995 and mid-1996 at a variety of studiosnote  during Cuomo's breaks from Harvard, which left the other band members plenty of free time to indulge in their own projects.

Intending a rawer, Darker and Edgier sound, Cuomo chose to have the band self-produce the record with 12 engineers, replacing Ric Ocasek's earlier radio-friendly production with a pounding drum sound and vicious, aggressive guitar sounds accomplished by connecting them to multiple distortion pedals at once. Cuomo, bassist Matt Sharp and guitarist Brian Bell also eschewed overdubbing vocals like on their previous album, choosing instead to record them live around three microphones.

The album's first single, "El Scorcho", stiffed on MTV, possibly due to Cuomo's refusal to indulge in the Spike Jonze-esque videos that made "Buddy Holly" a success (which he grew to consider "gimmicky"), and despite subsequent singles "The Good Life" and "Pink Triangle", Pinkerton stalled at #19 on the Billboard charts. The additional mixed critical response the album received embarrassed Cuomo, drove Weezer into a hiatus for three years, and influenced the band's more traditional and less personal Lighter and Softer direction in future albums, starting with their next album, Weezer (The Green Album).

However, the album would eventually gain a cult following and significantly boosted reputation as soon as the Turn of the Millennium, going on to be deemed the band's magnum opus and an incredibly influential album for rock acts of future generations (particularly in the emo subgenre), and eventually being certified Platinum in 2016. Even Cuomo would come back around to it, stating in 2008 that he found the album "super-deep, brave, and authentic" and stating in 2010 that he considered the experience of playing the songs livenote  to an enthusiastic fan response to be "incredibly validating".


  1. "Tired of Sex" (3:01)
  2. "Getchoo" (2:52)
  3. "No Other One" (3:01)
  4. "Why Bother?" (2:08)
  5. "Across the Sea" (4:32)
  6. "The Good Life" (4:17)
  7. "El Scorcho" (4:03)
  8. "Pink Triangle" (3:58)
  9. "Falling for You" (3:47)
  10. "Butterfly" (2:53)

The deluxe version of the album featured, apart from live versions and remixes, the following tracks:

  1. "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" (1:57)
  2. "Devotion" (3:11)
  3. "Waiting on You" (4:13)
  4. "I Just Threw out the Love of My Dreams" (2:39)
  5. "I Swear It's True" (3:19)
  6. "You Won't Get With Me Tonight" (3:29)
  7. "Long Time Sunshine" (4:17)
  8. "Getting Up and Leaving" (3:28)
  9. "Tragic Girl" (5:26)

Pink Triangle Tropes:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: A huge theme on the album is the ordeal of falling in love with someone who you can never have a relationship with, because they're in a different country ("Across the Sea"), or have an Incompatible Orientation ("Pink Triangle"), or you Cannot Spit It Out ("El Scorcho").
    "Pink Triangle": We were good as married in my mind, but married in my mind's no good.
  • Author Appeal: "El Scorcho" outlines the very specific tastes of Rivers Cuomo, as he pines over a woman of partial Japanese ancestry who happens to play the cello and is also a fan of both ECW and Madame Butterfly.
  • Book Ends: As snarked in the Pitchfork review, Pinkerton begins with "Tired of Sex", where Rivers Cuomo rants about having meaningless sex and desiring true love, but ends with "Butterfly", where Rivers Cuomo abandons the newly-found true love in favour of more meaningless sex.
  • Careful with That Axe: Rivers lets out a few wordless screams between verses of "Tired of Sex", and the relatively soft "No Other One" starts with a burst of feedback and a scream. These instances mainly stand out because Weezer songs almost never include that style of vocal.
  • Changing Chorus: The chorus to "Tired Of Sex" changes with each repetition, with only the final line staying consistent:
    First chorus:
    Monday night, I'm makin' Jen
    Tuesday night, I'm makin' Lyn
    Wednesday night, I'm makin' Catherine
    Oh, why can't I be makin' love come true?

    Second chorus:
    Thursday night, I'm makin' Denise
    Friday night, I'm makin' Sharise
    Saturday night, I'm makin' Louise
    Oh, why can't I be makin' love come true?

    Third chorus:
    Tonight, I'm down on my knees
    Tonight, I'm begging you please
    Tonight, tonight, please
    Oh, why can't I be makin' love come true?
  • Concept Album: While the Rock Opera idea was scrapped, Pinkerton retains some elements of a concept album, chiefly due to its lyrical subject matter.
  • Continuity Nod: "Falling for you" gets mentioned in "El Scorcho", only for a song named "Falling for You" to appear shortly afterwards. "Falling for You" itself mentions "turning in my rockstar card", which is a nod to the lyrics of "The Good Life", and the aforementioned girl's cello from "El Scorcho" makes another appearance.
  • Darker and Edgier: Big time compared to The Blue Album, both in sound and subject matter. While The Blue Album dealt with themes such as failing relationships and alcoholism, Pinkerton takes it even further with songs about crippling isolation, sexual frustration, disillusions concerning the rock star life, and the Cuomo's own questionable (and sometimes disturbing) views of women at the time. In terms of a band following up a crowd-pleasing pop-oriented debut with a much more sophisticated, complex second album, it was like if The Beach Boys had immediately followed up Surfin' Safari with Pet Sounds, or The Beatles released Revolver right after Please Please Me.
  • Darkest Hour: "Across the Sea," which reveals the depth of Rivers' dysfunction for the first time on the album.
  • Deconstructed Trope: From Pitchfork's review: "'El Scorcho' reminds that fictional RomCom behavior is actually borderline sociopathic in real life."
  • Doo-Wop Progression: The chorus of "Why Bother?" and parts of "Butterfly".
  • Downer Ending: "Falling for You" is about Rivers finally finding love and sets up for an Earn Your Happy Ending moment. Then the next song (and the final song on the album) "Butterfly" reveals that, due to the faults in his own character, he ruined the relationship he so desperately sought out, hurting his lover in the process, and can only apologize for his own selfish behavior.
    I told you I would return when the robin makes his nest, but I ain't never coming back. I'm sorry.
  • Dreadful Musician: Alluded to in "Falling for You", where Rivers tries to play the cello but fails miserably ("I can't believe how bad I suck, it's true"). This could be more Self-Deprecation since he is a bit of a multi-instrumentalist, or simply a reflection of the fact that the cello is quite hard to play for beginners.
  • Emo Music: Pinkerton has commonly been cited as an influence not only on Alternative Rock in general but on emo specifically, possibly due to its raw production and the lyrics painting what Pitchfork called "an uncomfortably honest self-portrait" of Cuomo. However, unlike later Emo bands that cited it as an influence, Pinkerton contains a few songs where the band's Power Pop roots shine through ("The Good Life" and "Across The Sea"), some clearly less angsty moments ("Falling for You") as well as a sense of humour, chiefly in the self-mocking lyrics of "The Good Life" and "El Scorcho" as well as Matt Sharp's backing vocals and interjections ("I've HAD it!") and the videos for "El Scorcho" and "The Good Life".
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Pink Triangle" fades into "Falling For You".
  • Happy Ending Override: "Falling for You" is a song about Rivers finally finding his one true love. The very next song, "Butterfly" is about him having lost said love due to his own selfish behavior.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Considering some of the lyrics the "heroic" part may be in question, but on some songs Cuomo goes to worrying extremes with the self-criticism (see: "Why Bother?" and that lovely line about head-cracking, maybe "The Good Life").
  • Ignored Epiphany: Several songs have moments where Rivers acknowledges that his behaviour is wrong, like in "Tired of Sex" ("I know I'm a sinner"), "Getchoo" ("You know this is breaking me up/You think that I'm some kind of freak"), the chorus of "Across the Sea" ("I think it would be wrong"), "The Good Life" ("Excuse the bitching/I shouldn't complain" and "Who do I got to blame?/Nobody but me"), but it takes about a half-hour before "Butterfly" drops the self-pity and Playing the Victim Card. (Not that it helps, as the Book Ends entry shows...)
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Some of the lyrics enter this territory, especially "Tired of Sex" ("I'm sorry, here I go/I know I'm a sinner/But I can't say no!") and "Getchoo" ("But if you'd come back to me/Then you would surely see/That I'm just fooling around").
  • Loudness War: Played with; unlike their Ric Ocasek-produced debut album, which was mixed to sound good at lower volumes (like on the radio), Pinkerton was mixed to be cranked: all the vocals and instruments were pushed to the redline (without going over), and Patrick's drum fill at 1:15 in "Tired of Sex" (right before the second verse) actually clips, which is almost unheard of for drums.
  • Love Hurts: The general theme of Pinkerton is Cuomo's troubles with love and sex, in various forms.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Out of the two bounciest, most accessible tracks on Pinkerton, "The Good Life" is Rivers freaking out about What Have I Become?, and "El Scorcho" cheerfully mentions going into a girl's room and reading her diary.
  • Most Writers Are Male: The lyrics of Pinkerton are essentially a Too Much Information-sharing of Rivers Cuomo's romantic misadventures, so at some points they can come across as creepy or self-centered.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "Butterfly" is the aftermath of Rivers' selfish behavior demonstrated throughout the album, resulting in him hurting those who have mattered the most to him. An allegory for this as given in the song is Rivers catching a butterfly in a mason jar to have as a pet, only for it to die overnight, as Rivers apologizes and admits that he didn't realize his actions were hurting people.
  • The Not-Remix: The versions of "Pink Triangle" and "The Good Life" that were sent out to radio stations were slight remixes, meant to downplay the harsh production style of the album versions a bit. When it came time to remix "Pink Triangle", it was also decided the bass part should be altered, but Matt Sharp was unavailable due to working on the second Rentals album, so Letters To Cleo bassist Scott Riebling filled in.
  • Record Producer: The band self-produced the album, with engineering by Joe Barresi, Billy Bowers, Jim Champagne, David Dominguez, Greg Fidelman, Dave Fridmann, Rob Jacobs, Adam Kasper, Dan McLaughlin, Cliff Norrell, Jack Joseph Puig and Jim Rondinelli.
  • Self-Deprecation: "The Good Life" and "El Scorcho", while inspired by Cuomo's real life angst at being lonely, are mostly of the joking variety. "Falling for You" also contains the line "What could you possibly see in little ol' three-chord me?", coming right after one of the more complex chord progressions and solos of the album.
  • Shout-Out: The album's title comes from the main character of Madame Butterfly.
    • The album itself is loosely based on the same opera.
    • The opening piano and flute in "Across the Sea" apparently are quoting from The Beach Boys' "You Still Believe in Me".
    • "El Scorcho"'s title comes from a packet of Del Taco hot sauce named "Del Scorcho", it quotes from Public Enemy's "Don't Believe the Hype" ("I'm the epitome of public enemy") and an issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated ("watching Grunge legdrop New Jack through a press table"), the line about "listening to Cio-Cio San" was borrowed from an essay by one of Cuomo's classmates, and the line "I asked you to go to the Green Day concert" is a reference to how a lot of the female fans Cuomo met on tour were Green Day fans.
    • The line about "half-Japanese girls" at the start of "El Scorcho" was sometimes taken as a reference to prolific Art Punk band Half Japanese, but Cuomo confirmed that it wasn't actually the case.
  • Shrinking Violet: According to Word of God, "El Scorcho" was inspired by Cuomo's inability to say hello to a Harvard student he had a crush on, which is outright spelled out before the last chorus with "But that's just a stupid dream that I won't realize/Cos I can't even look in your eyes without shaking, and I ain't faking".
  • Studio Chatter: The beginning of "Across the Sea" consists of a door opening, Pat Wilson laughing and several random notes on piano and flute. The beginning of "Falling For You" features one of the band members' amps randomly picking up a Korean radio signal, specifically an advertisment saying "What company makes this product?".
    • A few songs on the deluxe edition contain audible studio chatter somewhere within the song. "Across The Sea Piano Noodles", "Butterfly (Alternate Take)", and "Longtime Sunshine" are notable examples.
    • At the very end of "The Good Life", there's what sounds like a very muted bit of random harmonica playing.
  • Stylistic Suck: The piano intro in "Across The Sea" is deliberately made to be as corny and sappy as possible, giving the admittedly melodramatic lyrics some much needed self awareness.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: On an album full of heavy emo songs, the closing track "Butterfly" is a soft piano rock number.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Played with - although the music sounds much more aggressive and punk-influenced, with much rawer and heavier production compared to the band's debut album, the compositions are also much more complex and technical. For example, the bridge from "Across the Sea" cycles through about four key signatures in thirty seconds while constantly shifting back and forth between the song's normal tempo and half-time.