|Studio album by Weezer|
|Released||September 24, 1996
November 2, 2010 (Deluxe Edition)
|Recorded||September 1995, January–June 1996 at Sound City, Los Angeles; Fort Apache Studios, Boston; Hollywood Sound Recorders, Los Angeles; Rumbo Recorders, Canoga Park; Electric Lady Studios, New York Mixed at Ocean Way Recording,|
|Genre||Alternative rock, emo|
|Singles from Pinkerton|
Cover of 2010 double-CD deluxe edition
Pinkerton is the second studio album by the American alternative rock band Weezer, released on September 24, 1996. Rivers Cuomo, the band's lead singer and guitarist, wrote many of its songs after a painful leg surgery.
Pinkerton is named after the character B.F. Pinkerton from Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly, and the album plays as a concept album based loosely around the opera. Like the Puccini opera, the album includes other references to Japan, Japanese people, and Japanese culture from the perspective of an outsider who considers Japan fragile and sensual. It was originally planned as Songs from the Black Hole, which Cuomo deemed a "space opera." The initial concept was scrapped, but the band incorporated several of the songs into Pinkerton. The artwork on the album's cover is Kambara yoru no yuki ("Night Snow at Kambara"), a print by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige.
The album was seen as a departure from the band's original power pop sound for a much darker and more abrasive sound. Upon its release in 1996, the album was considered a critical and commercial failure. However, Pinkerton has risen in stature to become one of the most highly-regarded albums of the 1990s, receiving much critical acclaim and is considered one of the most important emo albums of the nineties having introduced the genre to a wider and more mainstream audience. The album was certified gold in 2001 and platinum in 2016. As of September 2016, Pinkerton has amassed U.S. sales of over 1,000,000. It was the last Weezer album to feature bassist Matt Sharp.
After the multi-platinum success of their debut album Weezer (The Blue Album), in late December 1994, Weezer took a break from touring for the Christmas holidays. Cuomo traveled back east to his home state of Connecticut, and using an eight-track recorder, he began piecing together demo material for Weezer's next album. Cuomo's original concept for Weezer's second album was to be a space-themed rock opera, Songs from the Black Hole. The album was intended to feature songs that flowed together seamlessly and end with a special coda that briefly revisited the major musical elements of the piece. The band began demoing and working on Cuomo's concept through intermittent recording sessions in the spring and summer of 1995. During this time, Cuomo, who was born with one leg shorter than the other, received leg surgery intended to stretch out his right leg. This would impact his songwriting for the album because he would be under the influence of painkillers. Sometime during this period Cuomo applied to study at Harvard University with an application letter describing how disillusioned he was with the rock lifestyle.
Ultimately, the Songs from the Black Hole album concept was dropped. The album would instead feature songs composed before their first album (which had briefly been incorporated into the space-opera) as well as some new ones written while Cuomo was at Harvard.
After touring for their debut album wrapped up in August 1995, the band took a seven-day break. Just a few days before Rivers Cuomo was set to travel to study at Harvard University, the band gathered for two weeks of recording at Electric Lady Studios, the same studio where they recorded their debut. Guitarist Brian Bell commented "We're going for the deeper, darker, more experimental stuff,' but assured fans, 'but we'll always be the Weezer you know and love." In these very early sessions, the band would attempt to record a "special coda" of several overlapping songs. It would be from these sessions that Songs from the Black Hole would come to fruition. The songs "Why Bother?," "Getchoo," "No Other One," and "Tired of Sex" would be tracked.
For the album, the band decided against hiring a producer. Cuomo felt it was "the best way for us to sound like ourselves is to record on our own." The intention of the band was to make a raw record, which would better resemble the band's live sound. The main goal was to achieve a big drum sound and abrasive guitar sounds. This was accomplished by connecting multiple distortion pedals. At just under thirty-five minutes, Pinkerton was according to Cuomo, "short by design." In recording the album over four respective sessions, the band would usually spend two days on rehearsals and then head into the studio to record the tracks. To give the album a live feel, members of the band would record the vocals in tandem around three microphones. According to Brian Bell, the band used so much tremolo picking during the recording process that they began to refer to it as "butterfly picking."
While Cuomo was at Harvard, his busy schedule left his fellow band members with copious amounts of free time. Cuomo himself, while at Harvard, would focus his attention on textbooks about music theory. Various members of the band used this time to work on their respective side-projects. Matt Sharp would work to promote his side-band The Rentals' debut album, while Patrick Wilson and Brian Bell worked on material for their side-bands The Special Goodness and Space Twins, respectively. The band regrouped in January 1996, during Cuomo's winter break, for a two-week recording session at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, with an intent on wrapping up the songs they had previously worked on at Electric Lady Studios from last August. As well as recording new songs, "El Scorcho", and "Pink Triangle", before the band went their separate ways, once again, while Cuomo returned to Harvard. The other members of the band went back to work on their various projects.
During a week-long break, in the spring of 1996, the band regrouped, once again, at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California to continue work on the album. During this break, the band recorded three new songs, "The Good Life," "Across the Sea," and "Falling for You," before Cuomo returned to Cambridge for the remaining weeks of his second semester at Harvard and his university finals.
The band put the finishing touches on the album in the early summer of 1996 in Los Angeles. During this time, Cuomo would be without a permanent L.A. residence, and stayed at Le Parc Suites in West Hollywood. At this point, he worried about the transition from the academic lifestyle to the rock lifestyle. In the final Pinkerton session, two additional tracks, "I Swear It's True" and "Getting Up and Leaving" (originally written for the band's debut album but not recorded) were attempted and nearly finished, but were left incomplete just prior to the mixing process.
Writing and composition
Much of the album's content was written by Rivers Cuomo while studying at Harvard. Cuomo strived to write from a more direct and personal stand point. The album touched upon various life experiences of Cuomo and included subjects like groupies, dysfunctional relationships, a fan letter, identity and former girlfriends. Due to his painful surgery to elongate his leg, many of the songs were written in first-position on his guitar's fretboard so that Cuomo would not have to move too much to play them.
The inspiration for the lead single "El Scorcho" came from Cuomo's shyness and inability to say "hello" to a crush of his while at Harvard. Cuomo revealed that the song "is more about me, because at that point I hadn't even talked to the girl, I didn't really know much about her." For the single, Cuomo refused to make any "Buddy Holly"-like videos explaining "I really don't want the songs to come across untainted this time around...I really want to communicate my feelings directly and because I was so careful in writing that way. I'd hate for the video to kinda misrepresent the song, or exaggerate certain aspects." The final video featured the band playing in an assembly hall in Los Angeles, surrounded by light fixtures of diverse origin, flashing in time to the music.
The song "Tired of Sex" was written on an 8-track, prior to the release of the The Blue Album. Cuomo rants about meaningless groupie sex encounters, reciting his list of conquests, and wondering why true love eludes him.
The second single from Pinkerton, "The Good Life", chronicles the rebirth of Cuomo after an identity crisis as an Ivy League Loner. Cuomo, who had been isolated while at Harvard, wrote it after "becoming frustrated with that hermit's life I was leading, the ascetic life. And I think I was starting to become frustrated with my whole dream about purifying myself and trying to live like a monk or an intellectual and going to school and holding out for this perfect, ideal woman. And so I wrote the song. And I started to turn around and come back the other way."
Another song, "Across the Sea" whose inspiration came from a letter he received from a Japanese fan during a lonely winter at Harvard University. Cuomo remarked: "When I got the letter, I fell in love with her. It was such a great letter. I was very lonely at the time, but at the same time I was very depressed that I would never meet her. Even if I did see her, she was probably some fourteen-year-old girl, who didn't speak English."
The final single, "Pink Triangle", was released to radio on May 20, 1997 in a last ditch effort to boost sales for the album. The song describes a man who falls in love and wants to get married, but soon discovers the object of his devotion is a lesbian.
Pinkerton is named after the character B.F. Pinkerton from Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly, and the album plays as a concept album based loosely around the opera. Like the Puccini opera, the album includes references to Japan, its people, and their culture from the perspective of an outsider who considers Japan fragile but sensual. The album's lyrical themes infuse the Japanese allusions with its first-person narrator's romantic disappointments and sexual frustration, the latter at times visceral and graphic. Due to the cohesion of the narrative themes, the album plays as a concept album about sexual longing and lost love, and because of its first-person voice, many consider Cuomo's songs autobiographical - something he has all but confirmed. Cuomo has stated that "the ten songs are sequenced in the order in which I wrote them (with two minor exceptions). So as a whole, the album kind of tells the story of my struggle with my inner Pinkerton."
|I chose this woodblock print because....it was on a postcard sent to me by my 'gf' Chiba and it captured the feeling of winter loneliness that I was feeling in Cambridge.|
The artwork on the album's cover is "Kambara yoru no yuki" ("Night Snow at Kambara"), a print by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige. Cuomo confirmed in a 2020 entry on his personal website that he learned of the artwork from Jennifer Chiba.
There are other references to Japanese culture and Puccini as well throughout the packaging. In some pressings, when viewed at an angle, the back of the album's jewel case has an opaque image of a Japanese woman. A more direct reference to Puccini may be found on the CD itself; text inscribed along the edge of the disc reflect lyrics from Puccini's opera in their original Italian. The words translate to English as: "Everywhere in the world, the roving Yankee takes his pleasure and his profit, indifferent to all risks. He drops anchor at random…"
Behind the album's CD tray is a map with the title "Isol Della Farfalla e Penisola Di Cane." which is Italian for "Island of the Butterfly and Peninsula of Dog." Also on the map are a ship named U.S.S. Pinkerton and "Mykel and Carli Island," an allusion to Weezer's fan club founders, as well as more references to Madama Butterfly (Don Giovanni, Sharpless, Cio Cio San Island). In a 2005 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Rivers Cuomo said that the names listed on the map are those who influenced him during the writing and recording of the album, with Howard Stern being one of those influences. Other names include Yngwie Malmsteen, Brian Wilson, Lou Barlow, Joe Matt, Camille Paglia and Ace Frehley.
After finishing the record, the label's fear was put to rest that the band would be a flash in the pan after the success of the "Buddy Holly" video. Geffen A&R rep, Todd Sullivan described Pinkerton as a "very brave record,' but worried "what sort of light does this put the band in? I could have been interpreted as them being a disposable pop band.'" The label overall was pleased with the record and felt "no one's going to be disappointed" with the album.
Cuomo was intent on the album being received in the way he had devised it: as the serious work of a serious artist. This approach created tension within the band in regard to their music videos, as Cuomo wanted to avoid the "gimmicky" nature of the "Buddy Holly" video and keep focus on the music itself. The first music video shot for album was "El Scorcho." Despite Matt Sharp pushing for it, the band would pass on a video treatment proposed by Spike Jonze, who had previously helped raise the band's status to platinum sales with the help of his "Buddy Holly" video. Cuomo wanted to take a straight approach to video making because he was against doing any big-budget videos since he felt the videos would "taint" his songs. Mark Romanek, the director of the video would eventually quit the video after numerous verbal arguments with Cuomo, leaving Cuomo to edit the video himself. The final video featured the band playing in an assembly hall in Los Angeles, surrounded by light fixtures of diverse origin, flashing in time to the music. It debuted on MTV's program 120 Minutes and only received moderate airplay on the channel.
Weird Al approached the band during the Pinkerton era, asking to use a snippet of "Buddy Holly" in "The Alternative Polka." Cuomo turned Yankovic down, though he would eventually grant permission for use of "Beverly Hills" in "Polkarama."
Just as "El Scorcho" was gaining momentum on the radio, - and at MTV and a day before the album was to be released for public sale on September 24, 1996, - a restraining order was obtained against the band and Geffen by Encino, California-based security firm, Pinkerton's Inc. The company sued the band and Geffen for alleged federal trademark infringement, claiming that Weezer was trying to capitalize on the company's reputation. Under the terms of the restraining order, which had Pinkerton's Inc seeking two million dollars in damages, Weezer would be kept from "selling, distributing, or advertising an album with the name Pinkerton." Geffen spokesman Dennis Dennehy, defended the title stating "to Weezer, Pinkerton is a character in Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly... It was not meant to be aimed at any sort of corporate entity." Cuomo wrote up a six-page paper defending his choice of the title. He described what the papers entailed, it "explain[ed] why [he] chose it, and how it works for the album, and how it's essential." Although a federal court hearing had been initially set for October 3, the seriousness of the legal and financial ramifications surrounding the album forced the case to be expedited to September 26. Due to the cover art which was akin to the Puccini's opera, the case was thrown out-of-court, after the judge dissolved the previous court order to have the CDs pulled after determining "that the hardship of not issuing the Pinkerton disc would be greater for Geffen than any hardship Pinkerton's Inc or its shareholders might incur from consumers who mistakenly presume the company has anything to do with the album."
The second single fared much worse than the first single. Noticing the commercial failure of the album, the band had to compromise to make the video more to the liking of MTV. The music video for "The Good Life", was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, features a pizza delivery girl (played by Mary Lynn Rajskub) on her route, highlighting the monotony of her job. The music video is noted for its use of simultaneous camera angles appearing on screen as a fractured full image. The video was rush-released by the record company to try to save the commercially-failing album, but was not successful.
In October 1996, the band toured the Far East with concert appearances in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. After wrapping up the tour of the Pacific Rim, the band flew home to Los Angeles. Wilson and Sharp did a promotional appearance on the nationally syndicated radio show "Modern Rock Live", in an attempt to improve the album's standing on the U.S. album charts. A few days later, on November 1, Weezer launched its tour of North America at the Ventura Theatre in Ventura, California. On November 6, Weezer performed an acoustic set at Shorecrest High School in Seattle due to a contest won by a student. A few of the songs performed at the acoustic set would later appear on the The Good Life OZ EP. The band would continue to tour up until just before Christmas. They wrapped up the tour with a performance at "The Palace" in Los Angeles. Overall, the Pinkerton Tour was largely successful, bringing the band to mid-size venues around the globe.
Rumors of the release of a Pinkerton Deluxe Edition, similar to that of The Blue Album, began floating around Weezer message boards, and Karl Koch confirmed that it would be released during a chat on Albumsix.com. On August 26, Karl posted a blog on the Weezer official site providing more details on Pinkerton's Deluxe Edition, stating that it and Death to False Metal would share a release date of November 2, 2010. He went on to say "Pinkerton Deluxe will be comprised of 2 discs and a thick photo and text stuffed booklet in a deluxe dual gatefold digipak, and maybe a surprise or two."
Track listingAll songs written and composed by Rivers Cuomo.
|Original album track listing|
|1.||"Tired of Sex"||3:01|
|3.||"No Other One"||3:01|
|5.||"Across the Sea"||4:32|
|6.||"The Good Life"||4:17|
|9.||"Falling for You"||3:47|
Deluxe edition track listing
|1.||"Tired of Sex"||3:01|
|3.||"No Other One"||3:01|
|5.||"Across the Sea"||4:32|
|6.||"The Good Life"||4:17|
|9.||"Falling for You"||3:47|
|11.||"You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" (B-Side)||1:57|
|13.||"The Good Life" (Radio Remix)||4:08|
|14.||"Waiting on You" (B-Side)||4:13|
|15.||"I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" (B-Side)||2:39|
|16.||"The Good Life" (Live Acoustic B-Side)||4:40|
|17.||"Pink Triangle" (Radio Remix)||4:02|
|18.||"I Swear It's True"||3:19|
|19.||"Pink Triangle" (Live Acoustic B-Side)||4:18|
|20.||"Interview – 107.7 The End – Blue vs. Pinkerton" (Hidden Track)||1:32|
|1.||"You Won't Get With Me Tonight"||3:29|
|2.||"The Good Life" (Live at Y100 Sonic Session)||4:37|
|3.||"El Scorcho" (Live at Y100 Sonic Session)||4:07|
|4.||"Pink Triangle" (Live at Y100 Sonic Session)||4:10|
|5.||"Why Bother?" (Live at Reading Festival 1996)||2:18|
|6.||"El Scorcho" (Live at Reading Festival 1996)||4:09|
|7.||"Pink Triangle" (Live at Reading Festival 1996)||4:52|
|8.||"The Good Life" (Live Acoustic at X96)||4:13|
|9.||"El Scorcho" (Live Acoustic)||4:26|
|10.||"Across the Sea" (Piano noodles)||0:38|
|11.||"Butterfly" (Alternate take)||2:48|
|12.||"Long Time Sunshine"||4:17|
|13.||"Getting Up and Leaving"||Cuomo/Patrick Wilson||3:28|
|14.||"Tired of Sex" (Tracking rough)||2:58|
|15.||"Getchoo" (Tracking rough)||2:57|
|Allmusic||(5/5)||Not listed||Stephen Thomas Erlewine|
|Amazon||Not given||Not listed||Robert Burrow|
|CDUniverse||Not given||Not listed||Unsigned|
|IGN||(9.5/10)||December 21, 2007||"JR"|
|Los Angeles Times||(3.0/5)||Unknown||Unknown|
|The Onion A.V. Club||Not given||November 30, 2009||Josh Modell|
|Pitchfork Media||(7.5/10)||September, 1996||Ryan Schreiber|
|Pitchfork Media (Deluxe)||(10.0/10)||November 3, 2010||Ian Cohen|
|Rolling Stone (1996)||(3.0/5)||1996||Rob O'Conner|
|Rolling Stone (2004)||(5.0/5)||December 9, 2004||Gavin Edwards|
|Tiny Mix Tapes||(5.0/5)||Not listed||"cowboy dan"|
|Dayton Daily News||(1.0/5)||October 11, 1996||Ray Marcano|
|Stereogum||No rating given||April 21, 2016||Tom Breihan|
|"Butterfly" (Teenage Victory Songs)||Positive - The Very Best||December 20, 2010||Teenage Victory Songs|
As Pinkerton was released during the height of the third wave ska movement, it was considered a very different album from what was being released at the time. When it was released, it was considered a critical and commercial failure, however in the years following the release of the album, it would gain a much more positive reputation due to word-of-mouth over the internet. Eventually, the album would be considered among the band's very best work, by both fans and critics alike. In addition, Pinkerton has been influential on alternative rock, and the emerging emo music scene. In 2001, Cuomo later commented on his influence on the Emo scene, "I don’t really know what emo means. But apparently I had something to do with it."
Several mainstream rock bands which later became popular, ranging from Saves the Day, Taking Back Sunday, Deftones, The Ataris, Thursday, the Used to Dashboard Confessional, consider the album to be an influence on them. As well as mainstream bands, several underground rock bands also consider the album to be an influence as well, including The Promise Ring and David Leto of the indie rock band Rye Coalition who called the album the "rocker's album of choice."
Pinkerton went platinum in the US on September 16th, 2016.
Although he was initially quite proud of the record, the perceived failure of Pinkerton caused Cuomo to distance himself from it for quite some time. This has become an integral part of its legacy. Recently his views have changed and he has expressed a growing appreciation for the album. The following quotes trace Cuomo's thoughts on the record chronologically:
|Year unknown; officially released radio interview on 107.7 The End||When we went to make our first album...we were nervous and we wanted it to sound good. So I think we were in the wrong frame of mind. We were making sure everything was perfect, and it came out sounding a bit sterile I think...[The spirit of the second album] was 'be ourselves, be natural'.|
|1996 Addicted to Noise interview||...the second album feels much more like us. And it feels much more like me, which is really important for an album that's so personal. It sounds more like the recordings that I would make in our garage...I really like the sound of this record. I like that it sounds so natural. Maybe my taste will change by the time I have another 10 songs. But I think my tastes are kind of leveling off and becoming more consistent so maybe the next record would sound similar. I never have any idea.|
|1997 Homie performance||[Before playing "The Good Life"]: We’re going to play an old Weezer song. I heard this song on the radio today and I was struck by how pathetic I sound. I think I was really bummed out when I wrote it.|
|2001 Rolling Stone article||The most painful thing in my life these days is the cult around Pinkerton. It's just a sick album, sick in a diseased sort of way. It's such a source of anxiety because all the fans we have right now have stuck around because of that album. But, honestly, I never want to play those songs again; I never want to hear them again.|
|2001 Entertainment Weekly piece|| [Pinkerton is a] hideous record... It was such a hugely painful mistake that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people and continues to happen on a grander and grander scale and just won’t go away. It’s like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself|
I got very sad... I became very unsure of my instincts.
|2002 Kerrang article||I don’t like Pinkerton. [Expletive] it’s a [expletive] album! I wish people would leave it alone.|
|2005 L.A. Weekly interview||Then I went back to Boston and wrote Pinkerton, which didn’t have as broad an appeal. It has the sound of someone who’s not really in touch with other people, and I don’t know if that’s good. It also sounds very much like a winter album, which I don’t know if I would make in L.A. So I like L.A.|
|2008 Pitchfork Media interview||Pinkerton's great. It's super-deep, brave, and authentic. Listening to it, I can tell that I was really going for it when I wrote and recorded a lot of those songs.|
|2010 Exclaim piece||Right around 2001, when we put out the Green Album, I said a lot of negative, inflammatory things about Pinkerton and about a lot of things. I said a lot of crazy stuff. And those quotes have lived on for the last nine years. And people get confused and they think I still feel that way even though it was something I said in an off-handed way nine years ago. But ever since I've been trying to make it clear that, of course, I think it's a brilliant album. I love it. I love the songs and I love playing those songs and I hope the positive message gets through.|
|2010 Rolling Stone interview||Our first two records feel like classic rock records now, especially for this generation.|
All information is taken from the CD (Pinkerton booklet and liner notes).
- Rivers Cuomo–lead guitar, lead vocals
- Patrick Wilson–percussion
- Brian Bell–rhythm guitar
- Matt Sharp–bass guitar
- Joe Barresi–engineer
- Billy Bowers–engineer
- Jim Champagne–engineer
- David Dominguez–engineer
- Greg Fidelman–engineer
- Dave Fridmann–engineer
- Hiroshige–cover art
- Rob Jacobs–engineer
- Spike Jonze–photography
- Adam Kasper–engineer
- George Marino–mastering
- Dan McLaughlin–engineer
- Clif Norrell–engineer
- Jack Joseph Puig–engineer, mixing
- Jim Rondinelli–engineer
- Janet Wolsborn–art assistant
- Karl Koch–Karl Koch
- Songs from the Black Hole
- The Howard Stern Show
- Pinkerton Tour
- Rivers Cuomo letter to the Weezer Fan Club, July 10, 1996
- "Making of Pinkerton: Dave Fridmann Details Working On Weezer’s Cult Classic" The Future Heart. 22 July 2011. https://thefutureheart.com/2011/07/22/pinkerton/
- File:Brian Bell Instagram Falling for You caption - 08-25-22.png