I entered this article about Rivers Cuomo
skeptical, but I caught up with the author on about the second page, when she started writing about Pinkerton:
Then, "Pinkerton" came out. "Pinkerton" is the Weezer album that dudes like; or, in our current discourse, “the best Weezer album.”
Oh, otherwise-unknown-music-writer, how did you know?Pinkerton
always gave me trouble as a Weezer fan, though I loved it in its way just as much as the others.* I remember adoring "Pink Triangle", a song I interpreted as being about female unavailability, or the pipe dream about having the trump of all get-out-of-macking-free cards (I realize lesbianism doesn't work this way in the real world). "Tired" was funny, and "Getchoo" and "Why Bother" I could relate to on a level of generalized angst.
But it's what the author refers to as Japonisme
that kept me from holding it dear. "El Scorcho" is a song I usually skipped, but "Across the Sea" was worse, nauseatingly so. Many of the other songs just left an unsettling feeling: "Butterfly" is such a pretty song on one level, but on another, what exactly are the lyrics doing? Probably didn't help that I came to this album at a moment when I was seriously fed up with the othering Japan fetish going on in my periphery. Scratch that: still there, still gross.
The difficulty with an album like this, or perhaps an artist like this, is that it's not always clear how you're supposed to see the music. Think of the subject of the songs like the narrator of a novel: it's not always clear when you're supposed to find the character understandable - when you're supposed to empathize - and when you're supposed to find the character flawed - when you're supposed to pity. Or scorn. Or whatever.
Like, I think that's what's going on with "No One Else." The author rightly rips this song apart, but I never took it literally. How could I? That song is... kinda crazy. I used to work evenings with a guy who liked that song. He defended it something like, "yeah I know it's totally not okay and unreasonable, but, sometimes you just feel like that." Fair enough; sometimes women imagine they want an Edward Cullen i.e. a guy who lives for No One Else. Common fantasy, still makes for uneasy listening. But that's where the author leaves you, so I guess I left the article skeptical as well?
But oh, the middle. I think she made me understand that all that goopy personal stuff, everything that made you feel like you walked in on a guy in his underwear, and that underwear is stained
—all that stuff I worked to see past so I could listen—that stuff was part of the appeal for his devoutest dude adherents. What I took in as generalized angst was somebody's specific angst; Pinkerton
's vaunted truth was just that.
As a woman, hearing the word "you" repeated so many times over the course of an album primarily about how terrible and hurtful and disastrous it is to interact with any woman, anywhere, ever, induces a deep and primal irritation. But maybe you have to be a girl to notice it. Because the vast majority of the men I have spoken to, about the album, are under the impression that it is about them.
And see, it's moments like these that make me think longer about things like the Bechdel Test: it's realizing that the extra work I spend interpreting stuff to make it seem less nauseating and more relatable—some people aren't doing that work. Some people actually find a bounty of stuff like this written about people like them, just for
them, validating their tastes and expectations. It's like when you're in college and you're contorting your brain to understand some symbolism
, some deep metaphor
, only to discover hey, he's not being poetic, the guy's simply into horses. Or, you know, whatever.*The others constitute the blue and green albums.