An analysis of Rivers Cuomo on ‘Pinkerton’: a series of updated works

Something I enjoy practicing is listening to the opening tracks of an album exclusively. Of course, I more often than not venture onto the rest of the tracks, but I find that the first ones are arguably the most important. For someone not acquainted with the band, to the most prestigious Weezer scholars, the first impression is an art that can only be performed once. Whether in the context of a debut or this monster of a sophomore record (interpret as desired), there is little disappointment to be found in the Weezer discography prior to the 2000’s.

What sounds like the malignant development of tinnitus festering itself in the listeners left ear turns into an ecosystem of a vile soundscape in just two seconds. The band continues to use abrasive noise better than I can use a thesaurus. This feedback of an electric guitar alone is enough to set the stage for the entirety of Pinkerton. Contrast to the friendly finger-picked introduction to My Name Is Jonas, Cuomo’s intentions here fly high and cut deep. The electric buzz of a Stratocaster rings after a countdown of three clashing cymbals. I picture a curtain creeping open, stagelights flashing and cutting though thick smoke as the silhouette of Cuomo leaning back on his shorter, unoperated leg makes himself seen. Disheveled and in all it’s brutal, pure, and raw physique, the song is soaked in the angst of a celibate Harvard student as he loathes in thought, “I’m tired…”

“...so tired,” he proceeds. Some of Wilson’s most prestigious drumming efforts are heard, as they mirror the haunting bassline that truly gives Tired Of Sex it’s identity. “I’m tired of having sex,” croons Cuomo in a fever-dreamlike state. I would say that this punchline hits the ground running, but it’s moreso shoved through a doorway and hunched over. It’s embarrassing in nature, but eerily integrated into Cuomo’s life so that he conveys it almost monotonously. It’s a phrase that, if not immersed, can certainly be perceived comically. No sane person would unironically say that. No sane person.

That’s what Pinkerton is: the dark days of Cuomo. His famous rockstar card following the success of The Blue Album brought him far, but if you told bowl-cut era Rivers that he’d one day be plagued by over engaging in these relations – let alone writing a song about the exhaustion of them – something tells me he wouldn’t believe you.

The ambient creaking of distortion wallows in it’s own pain and regret as the verse evolves. The monster inside this song is a carefully presented through various teasers and glimpses. Much like that distant silhouette of our subject to this misery, the pre-chorus is an enigmatic rundown of Cuomo’s weekly schedule. All over Pat’s anxious tempo, it is learned that Monday’s special is Jen, Tuesday’s is Lynn, and on Wednesday we have Catherine.

The women in question have more in common than names that rhyme, however. “Why can’t I be making love come true?” wails an inherently incoherent Cuomo, but you know what he means. Accented with Wilson’s acute fill, Tired Of Sex leaves the introductory stage, as Rivers advances upon his own, an unwanted spotlight being shined on him as he removes himself from the shadows.

A minute moment it most certainly is, but the scream that Cuomo produces  is one I would argue to be a genre-defining trait of alternative rock of the 90’s; one of the best, at that. Lead and rhythm guitars clash over distraught, chainsaw-like tones. The bass line holds its ground, now hosted center stage in congruence with all other members’ musical contributions, played to the same degree of frustration. I picture a man much like Cuomo, of small stature and weight, stomping down a grocery aisle, tearing down the assortment of products and structures to present them, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. He feels trapped and can’t find help for the situation he is in. The damage he deals above all is done to himself. His wound has been exposed, but over the course of a few more howls, nothing but salt has made it’s way in.

Though the grocery store is no place for a mental breakdown (depending on who you ask), it certainly found a home on Pinkerton. “I’m beat! Beet red!” On paper, this cry is nothing more than a clever application of elementary wordplay, but it often comes first to mind for a favorite Weezer lyric. Perhaps no pair of lines better captures the energy of a song – let alone album as perfect as the aforementioned. When did you first hear Tired Of Sex? The title carries lots of weight, both good and bad. I surely wouldn’t want a stranger to know I’m listening to a song with such a name, yet here I am writing about it on a website I update once a month. On the other side, we have Cuomo, who isn’t writing about the song like I am, for he has written it to begin with. Insult to injury comes to no halt, because we are forgetting that he has instructed and orchestrated his other three band members to aid in the production of this story. Cuomo’s world helped create it. The rest of the world was later exposed to it. And in 1996, they hated it. 

The strain found in Cuomo’s vocals are pretty much exclusive to the identity of Pinkerton, a once-in-a-discography happening. Brian Bell and Matt Sharps’ somber backing vocals reiterates our victim’s cries in a reminiscing manner, a parenthesized anecdote to Cuomo’s suffering. 

To be continued

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