I've come undooooone!
April 28, 2010 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Rivers Cuomo Messes You Up Forever: The six stages of breaking up with an ideal.
posted by oinopaponton (101 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Borked even before the first comment. Without having read the link I can nevertheless offer that I've always thought that Rivers Cuomo was the worst kind of weasly little reverse-nerd that has actually become more awkward and creepy as an adult. I remember feeling uncomfortable (and a little embarrassed for him) over some of the songs about underage Japanese girls on Pinkerton - even more so when I watched his fan interaction songwriting process where he pretty much revealed how much of a shallow commercially-oriented dickwad he really is. It's as if he was attempting to be commercially creepy.

Throw this all together and you get: shallow creepy dickwaddy nerd. I'll always like the Blue Album, but his music lately is horrifically bad.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:27 AM on April 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sorry, I was trying to link to the all-on-one-page version. Here's the original URL, which is loading for me, albeit slowly.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:28 AM on April 28, 2010


ahh damn. you beat me to it. I guess I'll have to put my associated links for context into a later comment. It's a great article, though, and well worth the read.
posted by revmitcz at 11:31 AM on April 28, 2010


I couldn't get it to load from the link, but it did eventually load from the Coral Cache.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:33 AM on April 28, 2010


I'm unable to get to any of the offered links. The original URL from oinopaponton loaded plain text briefly before crashing.
posted by Eicats at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2010


I guess this is what I get for stealing revmitcz's thunder. It is a great read; hopefully the Awl's back to normal soon.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:44 AM on April 28, 2010


But at the time this song was released, Rivers Cuomo was a massively successful pop star, with an Ivy League education, receiving all the not inconsiderable social benefits of being young, white, straight, and male. I mean, what was he missing?

Uh... the ability to do anything but be in pain and lie in bed? He'd had surgery to, I think, lengthen one of his legs and wrote the album while recuperating. He still seems like kind of a weird creep, but come on, at least do your homework.

Also: they're just pop songs. Jesus H.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:46 AM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


jimmythefish: I don't have anything really to contribute to this conversation, I just want to say I'm glad there's someone else who feels the same way about that guy as I do.
posted by Dreamcast at 11:52 AM on April 28, 2010


It's interesting to read someone else who listens to the more subtle messages contained within the pop culture that surrounds us and maybe reads too much into what they find. I have to admit, I found the article somewhat alienating... but I'm not sure if that's because I'm not a Weezer fan, or because I'm not female, or what. And the author really seems to have felt letdown / betrayed by that one Weezer album.
posted by hippybear at 11:54 AM on April 28, 2010


Rivers Cuomo is creepy as shit and hasn't put out anything decent in, what? 13 or 14 years now?

Still, Pinkerton is amazing because it's such a raw-nerve statement of everything creepy and flawed about him. You don't have to like Jake LaMotta to like Raging Bull.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:00 PM on April 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


That Weezer were ever considered a legitimate rock band is a historical accident that is in the process of being corrected. They can now be comfortably situated alongside such luminaries as the Barenaked Ladies and Bowling for Soup. I'm certain that their earlier work, lacking as it is in simpering juvenility and precisely calibrated top-40 texturing, is nothing but an embarassment to them at this point.
posted by anazgnos at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Great article, thanks.

The first time I heard Pinkerton I was so uncomfortable I almost turned it off. The stalker creepiness was so strong that I seriously thought he was apologizing for raping the girl in "Butterfly", not cheating on her. In the end I couldn't resist the catchiness and the amazing guitar sounds (I wish there were more power pop albums with that amount of sheer noise!), but man, he really sounds like a creep on that album.

A while back my sister hinted that Pinkerton would be a good birthday present. I almost got her something else--I was like, "oh God, not that guy!"

I'm still not sure exactly how much of it was his real personality coming through, and how much was him exorcising his inner Nice Guy. I can appreciate the album as an exploration of dark, private, selfish feelings--the kind of ugly, nasty thoughts that we have to struggle with in dark moments--but it makes me shudder to think of people taking that album at face value and identifying with it. It's a great album, but not in a role-model type of way.
posted by equalpants at 12:08 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if that's because I'm not a Weezer fan, or because I'm not female, or what.

Just as a datapoint, I'm a 20-something female who loooooooved The Blue Album and Pinkerton in high school, and I was kind of creeped out reading the article because so much of it rang so true for me.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:11 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I seriously thought he was apologizing for raping the girl in "Butterfly", not cheating on her.

It always came across as an apology for a one-night-stand to me. It's far-and-away my least favorite track on the album.

I wish there were more power pop albums with that amount of sheer noise!

This, exactly. On top of the just-heavy-enough guitars, the nasty room mic on the drums is fucking killer. There's nothing pretty about it, and it's just so good.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:15 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


The blue album came out when I was in my early 20s, and I liked it a lot, and at the time I thought "No One Else" was meant to be satire. Then Pinkerton came out. And the writer here is spot-on about Pinkerton: It's a dude's album. Every guy I know loves the shit out of that record, but it made my skin crawl on first listen and it has only gotten worse. My feelings are most definitely amplified by the way Rivers Cuomo is either completely incompetent at handling his image in the media, or actively seeks to promote himself as a creepy sleaze.

Lately I've been really feeling the man-child GRAR in general though. I don't even like it when my husband wears shorts anymore.
posted by padraigin at 12:20 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Weezer's favor, they've worked with the Muppets.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:21 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a guy, and I've never really gotten Weezer. They've always been very hit and miss for me, with a lot more miss than hit. I've liked a few of their singles; I've been really annoyed by more of them. I've never listened to Pinkerton, as far as I can tell, though I seem to have a copy of the album on my computer. I don't think I like it, as far as a random sampling of its songs go.

I think I like a couple of songs off the Blue album? Not really sure.
posted by Caduceus at 12:30 PM on April 28, 2010


My 2¢:
I liked the first album when it came out, I thought it was chock full of some pretty solid pop tunes that were refreshing to me amongst the sea of boring grunge photocopy bands. And then Pinkerton was a great departure; "Pink Triangle" was one of the standout songs, I thought. Kind of funny and touching. On the 3rd album, even "Hash Pipe" was a pretty good single, what a great riff, one of those summer songs. But they lost me after that.
I was never one for obsessing over someone's lyrics and persona to such a huge degree, so I got about 2 pages into this article before I felt a bit bored by it. It's a bit sad really, and more creepy than any song Rivers Cuomo ever wrote.
posted by chococat at 12:31 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Me too, oinopaponton.

The romantic narrative that I was most attached to in adolescence was the one that you get in Weezer songs, the one where you have a vulnerable, nerdy kid with problems that you can fix.

This part particularly rang true for me: "The moment you, the female listener, break up with your internal Rivers Cuomo, the moment you renounce this particular mode of male expression and declare it no longer desirable or cute, the moment you no longer confuse the feeling of wanting to take a boy home and make him soup and somehow fix all his problems via blow job with love, is the moment that you're free. Because, at that point, you no longer care so much about his feelings. You still care, of course, about those. But never more than you care about your own."

That was a moment I had in late high school/early college, and it's both what makes a lot of the music I listened to then (Something Corporate, Saves the Day, etc.) a bit trite, because I was in love with the idea that you can fix people by loving them, and I figured out the long way around that all of my favorite music from age 16 was wrong about that.
posted by NoraReed at 12:33 PM on April 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


I loled:

THE BODY OF RIVERS CUOMO: Rivers Cuomo, I have some bad news. You are now going to cheat on your special lady.

RIVERS CUOMO: What?! But I couldn't possibly! I love her! Nothing must harm our sacred bond!

THE BODY OF RIVERS CUOMO: It's too late, Rivers. I'm in control now.

RIVERS CUOMO: Noooooooooooooooooooo! DAMN YOU, BODY OF RIVERS CUOMO!

posted by symbollocks at 12:33 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


It always came across as an apology for a one-night-stand to me.
Yeah, looking at the lyrics, it's obviously something like this and not cheating on a girlfriend. Which makes me wonder what other misinterpretations might be lurking in this article.
posted by revfitz at 12:36 PM on April 28, 2010


I found this article fascinating, however it annoys me for two reasons:

1. Weezer sucked when the blue album came out and they still suck now

2. I had MAD problems in high school, but no girls wanted to 'fix' my problems or cheer me up. I guess one has to be 'cute' for that to work.

So in conclusion, fuck everyone involved, up to and including all members of Weezer past and present, the entire female student body of my High School between 95-99, the entire male student body too, the author of this essay, everyone who reads it, everyone who reads this comment, this page, you, and me (but mostly you.)

God damn I hated high school.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:41 PM on April 28, 2010 [17 favorites]


I never knew Weezer was that popular! And I don't know much about Rivers Cuomo, but I do know that Pinkerton > Blue Album. Also, I saw Weezer for $1 with The Figgs in 1994. TRUE STORY.

I think the author is conflating the work of an artist with the artist himself. Or drooling.

I've heard that Pinkerton was a re-interpretation of Madame Butterfly. If so, "Tired of Sex" and "Across the Sea" and, duh, "Butterfly" make more sense when considered in relation to Pinkerton the American and not Rivers Cuomo the geek rockstar.

six of the ten songs on "Pinkerton" are sung to a "you," a female "you," who would appear to be in just such a situation.

Yeah, Cio-Cio San. IANAOF, but the whole opera is basically about an American man destroying a Japanese woman for sex, right?

It is a great read

Empathy is hard—especially, sad to say, when you are fucking someone and it's not going quite so well as you'd planned. If you add in the whole gender thing, it gets even harder. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together. They do. And then they call each other bitches and cunts and dumb motherfuckers, assholes and alcoholics and overprivileged Ivy League elitist shits, failed writers, failed people, people with daddy issues and mommy issues and control issues and abandonment issues, just Issues, horrible Issues, Issues that cannot be forgiven; they accuse each other of crimes against God and nature and political engagement; they accuse each other of being just like their mothers (never satisfied) and their fathers (2 bold). And some of them have recording careers, so they take it public. Is that so wrong?


I found the whole article juvenile and poorly written, like I'd snuck into a teenage girl's room and read her diary and was extremely disappointed.

Pinkerton (my picks starred)

Tired of Sex
* Getchoo
No Other One
* Why Bother? (Brian on vocals!)
Across the Sea
* The Good Life
* El Scorcho
Pink Triangle
Falling for You
* Butterfly

I don't think I like it, as far as a random sampling of its songs go.

Yeah, that's the best way to decide if an album is any good. GARDENBURGER.

Which makes me wonder what other misinterpretations might be lurking in this article.

Lurking?! LURKING?! They're pulling out their collective Unit and slapping you in the face with it.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:42 PM on April 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


For people who don't like his work, a lot of you sure seem to have bought (or at least listened to) a lot of his albums and learned a lot about him. Is it a uniquely pop-star thing, to be intellectually stalked by people who profess to not like you?

Anyway, I dig some of his songs, and noticing that Weezer and Jonatha Brooke using the same basic drumbeat in drastically different songs -- where Jonatha's sounded slower but was actually a bit faster -- really helped me improve my arrangements recently. So, uh, thanks.
posted by davejay at 12:45 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't get the article to load past the first page, so I'll have to read the rest later. But Pinkerton and the blue album are both fantastic albums. Pinkerton in particular has some really sophisticated composition. Both albums continue to be highly influential on lots of bands -- for better or for worse.

As far as I'm concerned, weezer died sometime in the late 90s. Personally, I couldn't care less about Rivers Cuomo as a person, and I'm puzzled by some of the reactions to his songs in this thread. Who says all his lyrics are strictly autobiographical? You know Pinkerton was partially based on Puccini's Madama Butterfly, right?
posted by ludwig_van at 12:45 PM on April 28, 2010


Page 1: Read. The rest won't load.
Summary of this page: I liked Weezer when I was 12. Rivers was 24 at the time. How creepy does that make him?
posted by battlebison at 12:51 PM on April 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Who says all his lyrics are strictly autobiographical? You know Pinkerton was partially based on Puccini's Madama Butterfly, right?

strongly recommend reading the article, man, if you can. the link seems mildly borked at the moment, but if you can read it, do so.

1. yes, the article in fact mentions this very thing, BUT...
2. the offending passages are specifically mentioned by cuomo, in interviews, as being autobiographical, at least according to the article.
posted by shmegegge at 1:05 PM on April 28, 2010


Sex Offender Week

what
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:09 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


if you can read it, do so

Again, one vote of disagreement. Read it if it loads, but it's not worth waiting for The Awl to get its servers' shit together.

1. yes, the article in fact mentions this very thing, BUT...

Extremely briefly and dismissively. Not that it even matters, but it reveals the strong bias of the author. I'm still not even sure what she's so mad about.

The most interesting thing to come out of this article (for me) is that The Rentals got back together and released an album, the deluxe version of which is selling for $275 (!!) on pre-order (even though it was supposed to be released 3/15).
posted by mrgrimm at 1:15 PM on April 28, 2010


The romantic narrative that I was most attached to in adolescence was the one that you get in Weezer songs, the one where you have a vulnerable, nerdy kid with problems that you can fix.

Relatedly, I've heard that Spock is overall very attractive to some women for similar reasons. I assume they want to believe that they could break through his logic and make him feel human emotions or something along those lines. Anecdotally, some of my male friends seem to have much stronger attachments to Data than to Spock. As long as I'm shooting from the hip already, I'd say that's because they genuinely envy his total lack of emotion, or at least his ability to turn his emotions off by taking out a chip.

I would guess that particular gender gap mirrors the Love Weezer/Hate Weezer gender gap mentioned here.

As far as the article goes, I think it's a little uncharitable to interpret intense, self-consciously teenage-style angst (which is pretty much Weezer's whole gig) as literally as she does. It's true, these emotions are repellant (this goes both for crying in his room over Kitty Pryde and whining about how much sex he's having), but that's kind of the point, both of the music and of learning to be not a teenager anymore. Anyone who interprets them as good, healthy, positive things to feel or ways to be is probably 12 years old themselves.
posted by Copronymus at 1:17 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Without wading into the post-Pinkerton quality debate (or the topic of the link, I know, I know) I just wanted to thank you for posting this because the essay reminded me to track down that video they did with the Muppets. If you haven't seen it lately or ever, watch it again: Rivers (indeed, all the guys, but especially Rivers) can't stop smiling the entire time. For all his transgressions (artistic and personal), I connected with him re-watching that video because, dammit, here he was playing on the Muppet Show, right down to Statler and Waldorf snarking at them in the end. He was clearly having the time of his life, and I know I would too.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:17 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Props to Faint of Butt for linking it, above.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:18 PM on April 28, 2010


I hope this author never listens to death metal. Otherwise she'll be reporting every band to the cops for mass murder. It's music; it's not 100% literal.
posted by toekneebullard at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


2. the offending passages are specifically mentioned by cuomo, in interviews, as being autobiographical, at least according to the article.

Yeah, but once the artist is done making the art, the audience gets to interpret it. "No One Else" can be creeptastic, or hilarious, or reallyreallysad, depending on how you listen to it. Same goes for every Weezer song, and really for every song ever.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:29 PM on April 28, 2010


In Weezer's favor, they've worked with the Muppets.

*sigh* drummers.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:32 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


This article was great, and is well worth the full read-through. I think she really nails a certain subset of the female population. That included, at least, me.
posted by lunit at 1:33 PM on April 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


davejay- I think it's that a lot of us loved Weezer in adolescence and are now having a hard time with the concepts in the pieces we loved, with the fetishization, the occasional misogyny, and other themes. That seemed like, well. The point. Of the article.
posted by NoraReed at 1:34 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I think a lot of what makes Pinkerton "a dude's album" is musical, not lyrical. I thought it was one of their stronger albums, musically, but I always had Weezer pegged as one of those "other" bands - insofar as friends of mine just loved them but I never really understood the appeal. Pinkerton kinda changed that, and it might be on account of a girlfriend I had years ago who used to put the album on repeat when we were sleeping.

That being said, this article made me put the album on and pay attention to the lyrics more than I had in the past. Coming away from it, given the lyrical context and this article, I feel like the author isn't realizing the self-loathing that's practically overwhelming throughout the whole thing. Maybe I'm reading into it the wrong way entirely, but here's what I take away from it (minus Pink Triangle, which I loathe and lambast at the end) :

"Tired of Sex"
If you look at this song from the standpoint of a high-point rocker guy, it sounds like he's lamenting the fact that women are sleeping with him because of his status, not because of the things that us mortals are appreciated for in a standard sense. It sounds like he's flattered by the offer, but upset at himself for being too weak to say no because of his history of being a nerd/geek/loser who was having trouble getting women prior to his elevated status ("I'm sorry, here I go. I know I'm a sinner but I can't say no"). I think most "dudes" relate to this because, as younger men, we're often passed over for some older, cooler, or richer man. Then one day we become that man, and it's hard to differentiate whether we've grown into the role or had it thrust upon us.

Getchoo
Your standard self-loathing track apologizing for being a dickhead boyfriend.

No Other One
Sounds to me like something we've all been through (male or female). You hang onto someone that makes you feel like shit, and you'd kinda prefer to be with someone else, but this person - despite their faults - at least makes you feel like you're not completely alone. I have a handful of friends (again, both male and female) that are going through this very thing right now.

Why Bother?
Again, pretty universal. If you're convinced that you keep making bad decisions in love, you get into this feeling of avoiding anything "real", and stick to people/situations that ostensibly don't require emotional involvement.

Across the Sea
Uhh.. I got nothin'. This shit's creepy.

The Good Life
Sounds like he's saying "yeah, yeah, I'm a rich rockstar with indie cred and groupies galore, but damnit... I still have my low days" and he sort of longs for the days when he was an unknown loser so he could have "normal people" problems. We might not relate, but he's at least trying to give context to the album.

El Scorcho
He loves the nerdy girls who know about Cio Cio San and keep hand-written journals about the minutiae of their lives; Since he's all famous and shit now, he's lost all that neat indie cred he could've used for getting that kind of girl.

Falling For You
He's all freaked out cause he met someone who challenges his pre-conceived notions he's built up throughout the album about everyone being a faker and/or shaming him for his success.

Butterfly
One of two things : either it's supposed to be semi-ironic and he's insulting those who defend their cheating ways with these trite one-liners OR... he's actually using them himself. I'd really like to think it's the former, but a case could still be made for the latter because.....

Pink Triangle
(I realize this is out of order, but there's a reason)

This song's always bothered me, and it kind of fucks up the whole album's theme. One could make the argument that it's a song about the only girl who he DOESN'T think is just some mindless groupie, and who also actually gives him the time of day to talk about nerdy shit (only to turn out to be completely uninterested in anyone of his gender) being the very reason this entire album was ever conceived. Which is to say - if he's downplaying everyone else, but sleeping with them anyway, he's also conveniently avoiding trying to think of them as a person worthy of his time / respect / love. He finally finds ONE girl who "gets him" but.... damnit all, she's not into him! She must be a lesbian!

Frankly, if you took this song out, the whole album is really self-loathing and introspective. With it, however, you come away thinking "jesus, this dude's a total chauvanist fuck-up who just doesn't get it".

My take on all the other songs' lyrics are how I like to think of the songs and how I feel I can relate to them, despite what Cuomo might ultimately mean. Pink Triangle, however, almost makes me embarrassed for doing so.

So, now, given this completely over-the-top rant... is it fair to say the author of this blog let Pink Triangle taint her opinion of the entire album, if not Cuomo's entire career?
posted by revmitcz at 1:35 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


davejay- I think it's that a lot of us loved Weezer in adolescence and are now having a hard time with the concepts in the pieces we loved, with the fetishization, the occasional misogyny, and other themes.

What has changed between adolescence and now? i.e. why is it creepy now and it wasn't creepy then? I guess I was older when it came out, but the "creepiness" is front and center, no? How did you all miss it the first time?

I can relate to being "unsettled" by this album when it came out and I listened to the lyrics. I guess I'm not sure why "unsettling" is a bad thing.

He finally finds ONE girl who "gets him" but.... damnit all, she's not into him! She must be a lesbian!

I thought it was more about completely misreading a woman, i.e. thinking that she might be sexually attracted you and then it becomes clear she's not interested in the slightest. More disappointing than that one woman rejecting you is that your romantic radar is seriously fucked up. Great song, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:44 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the writer here is spot-on about Pinkerton: It's a dude's album. Every guy I know loves the shit out of that record, but it made my skin crawl on first listen and it has only gotten worse.

Hey, I love Pinkerton. A somewhat creepy narrator definitely doesn't ruin my enjoyment of an album (or a movie or a book).
posted by palliser at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2010


Ok, three pages in and I give up. This is terrible. It fails to be interesting as a lyrical analysis, or a feminist critique, or in any way whatsoever. It's just inane ranting by somebody who takes a painfully literal approach to song lyrics and either failed to do sufficient research on the band/albums in question or just didn't want to let facts get in the way of a good rant.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:57 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Copronymous My wife has the Spock crush bad, she practically sighs when he comes on screen in the TOS.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 2:05 PM on April 28, 2010


I'm usually bigger than this, but I had to hear all about how Weezer is so great all the time while growing up, and reading all this near-universal derision of Weezer is making the ghost of my teen self laugh in triumph.

First, the death of ska, now this! SLAYER!
posted by ignignokt at 2:08 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


A somewhat creepy narrator definitely doesn't ruin my enjoyment of an album (or a movie or a book).

See: Humbert Humbert, Ian Wharton, Bruce Robertson, William Kohler, or even Ignatius P. Reilly. Or Dexter.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:10 PM on April 28, 2010


mrgrimm- By being like 14? I mean, I bought Pinkerton around then, and I didn't think about it analytically. Because I was 14 and I did not know how to think about things analytically. I got that Cuomo was this sweet vulnerable dude and I was sort of uncomfortable with most of the tracks and skipped them but at the time I totally thought "Across The Sea" was sweet.

I was not a child who was gifted enough to notice the ridiculous patriarchal narratives in Disney princess movies, or that Barbie was inexplicably skinny, or many of the other creepy things that are parroted at children and adolescents. I notice those now, why am I not allowed to notice the same stuff with Weezer?
posted by NoraReed at 2:11 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


What has changed between adolescence and now? i.e. why is it creepy now and it wasn't creepy then?

It might be pointless to try to explain this to someone who I'm guessing has never been a teenage girl (not that there's anything wrong with that, obviously. It's just a totally different frame of experience), but: the author at one point compares Pinkerton to Twilight, which I think is totally apt, even if Weezer has always been way cooler than sparkly vampires. Maybe it's culture, maybe it's something deeper, but the idea of fixing someone totally fucked up with your loooove is something very powerful for many teenage girls. Rivers was really easy to fixate on because, while he was obviously disturbed, he wasn't really scary like adult men tend to be to young girls. He's dorky and skinny and he looks adorable in his glasses and sweaters. So when he moans about how he just needs YOU to save him from his misery, you (you being a teenage girl of the Weezer generation) are like, "Hey, I'm capable of love! I can save this guy, or one very much like him!"

And then you fall in love with some moody, offbeat, totally dreamy and smart guy, and he's like "I love you and you've fixed me," then it's amazing and you're in love, except after a while you realize that, no matter what he said at the beginning, your love doesn't change him, and if he's ever going to deal with his communication issues or his budding drinking problem or his cheating or whatever, it's not going to be because of you, it's going to be because he wants to change. And he doesn't, at least not yet. And then you have to just walk away.

That's, I think, why some of us identify with the article.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:21 PM on April 28, 2010 [13 favorites]


davejay- I think it's that a lot of us loved Weezer in adolescence and are now having a hard time with the concepts in the pieces we loved, with the fetishization, the occasional misogyny, and other themes. That seemed like, well. The point. Of the article.

I was speaking to the number of comments in this thread addressing him, and the band, in the context of music. Like:

That Weezer were ever considered a legitimate rock band is a historical accident...

Weezer sucked when the blue album came out and they still suck now...

Rivers Cuomo is creepy as shit and hasn't put out anything decent in, what? 13 or 14 years now?

So more in the context of pop stars in general, not this one, where people say "oh hai he sucks like this album I heard and after the release of whatever album he sucked even worse" -- so much time and energy spent obtaining the information needed to attack something they despise. Kind of like censors, who pore over every word of a book looking for prurient, sexual things to "protect" other people from.

In the context of what you're talking about -- yeah, I get that, although personally (maybe as a musician I just have a different view of it) I don't understand how hearing someone's music gets you attached to the person so strongly (versus the music and the message.) Like, if you really connected with the Breakfast Club, and later the actors/writer/director go off and do things that you don't like, or the Breakfast Club is viewed by older-you as something that makes you uncomfortable, is the way you feel a reflection of those people/the movie, or of you?

Maybe there's a certain amount of discomfort with recognizing that you connected so deeply (and, arguably, foolishly) with an image of a person who was never actually anything like that image. I dunno.
posted by davejay at 2:33 PM on April 28, 2010


So she's most squicked out by the song "Across the Sea" because she thinks it reveals his inner pedo tendencies, but for some reason she ignores, even while confirming for us, that the woman described in the song is an adult. WTF?

Also, is there some reason Sady Doyle constantly refers to him as Rivers Cuomo throughout the essay rather than simply Cuomo? Why does Sady Doyle do this? It reads like a childish affection on Sady Doyle's part. Seems to me that Sady Doyle's the one who needs to grow up a little.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:48 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife has the Spock crush bad, she practically sighs when he comes on screen in the TOS.

I call bullshit! I watched all of the TOS episodes at least five times each when I was a kid, I would think that I'd remember a money shot.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:50 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


padraigin: “The blue album came out when I was in my early 20s, and I liked it a lot, and at the time I thought "No One Else" was meant to be satire. Then Pinkerton came out. And the writer here is spot-on about Pinkerton: It's a dude's album. Every guy I know loves the shit out of that record, but it made my skin crawl on first listen and it has only gotten worse. My feelings are most definitely amplified by the way Rivers Cuomo is either completely incompetent at handling his image in the media, or actively seeks to promote himself as a creepy sleaze. ”

Pinkerton is sort of a "dude's album," in the sense that it tends to cater to the sensitivities of 16-year-olds boys: self-destructive, just learning sexual freedom, confused about the sort of meaning behind it and behind love, and sort of bitter and pissed off for no apparent reason beyond imagined slights the world has committed against one.
posted by koeselitz at 3:03 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


davejay- That makes more sense. Sorry about the hostility.
posted by NoraReed at 3:05 PM on April 28, 2010


And - as far as the meaning of "Butterfly" goes, the only thing we know about the song that the lyrics give us is: "you want something permanent, but I'm not. We had sex 'cuz it was an impulse, and I totally liked it, but it was kind totally gross to me, too, 'cuz that's how sex is: just a dirty bodily function. (This is probably because I'm a guy, and us guys tend to feel this way.) Bye."

That song highlights the utterly and completely offensive undercurrent running through the whole record. It's really quite disgusting when you think about it.
posted by koeselitz at 3:11 PM on April 28, 2010


I like how the second half of Page 4 makes Rivers sound like the Kwisatz Haderach of 90s emo. He is in that creepy place women dare not look, staring back at us.
posted by eagle-bear at 3:14 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


What has changed between adolescence and now? i.e. why is it creepy now and it wasn't creepy then?

I didn't really like it "then," but heard it many, many times throughout high school and never picked up on the creepy. A lot of that (from the male point of view) is that teenaged boys are often kind of creepy due to immaturity, chemistry and for any number of other reasons, and Rivers Cuomo was singing about things we thought only we felt.

Looking back on Weezer as an adult now, I thought it was just some catchy tunes. To be honest, until I read this article and thread I thought he was either being "ironic" or pandering to his teen audience rather than being an earnest, emotionally stunted adult.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2010


The mistake people seem to be making is thinking that identifying with lyrics that express uncomfortable thoughts mean that one enjoys having those thoughts. Comiseration is why people love dreary pop music.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


And - as far as the meaning of "Butterfly" goes, the only thing we know about the song that the lyrics give us is: "you want something permanent, but I'm not. We had sex 'cuz it was an impulse, and I totally liked it, but it was kind totally gross to me, too, 'cuz that's how sex is: just a dirty bodily function. (This is probably because I'm a guy, and us guys tend to feel this way.) Bye."

That song highlights the utterly and completely
offensive undercurrent running through the whole record. It's really quite disgusting when you think about it.

Oh, please. First, I think that's a pretty poor reading of Butterfly if you're being serious. I'm not sure where you're getting some of that from the song, and I think there's more to it that you're missing. Again, this is a song called "Butterfly" on an album called "Pinkerton," which also contains references to "Cio-Cio San," etc. It's in dialogue with another work, and you're missing out on a good deal of subtext by not reading it that way.

And I just don't see what's so offensive about it. Is the narrator self-centered, pathetic, and misogynistic? Yes -- just like the narrators in tons of other pop songs, except few of those portrayals are as textured or three-dimensional or self-aware as Pinkerton. The narrator is also isolated, lonely, crippled, and full of regret. If a boy heard Pinkerton, decided it was a relationship how-to manual, and then went out in the world and interacted with women on that basis, I could imagine that his behavior would be offensive. But I think as a work of art, Pinkerton is much more tragic and Romantic and beautiful than it is offensive and disgusting.

I'm sure there's plenty of interesting writing out there about the lyrical themes of the pop canon as a whole, and what political and cultural assumptions they perpetuate, and so on. But I'm not seeing that in this thread, and I'm not convinced that Pinkerton is a good example of the sundry things the author of the article is railing against. There's a lot more that's interesting about the lyrics on that record than the very obvious flaws of its narrator. It's like reading an essay about Lolita that's primarily concerned with telling us how evil pedophiles are.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:41 PM on April 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Space Coyote: “The mistake people seem to be making is thinking that identifying with lyrics that express uncomfortable thoughts mean that one enjoys having those thoughts. Comiseration is why people love dreary pop music.”

Commiseration is one thing. Celebration is entirely different. Pinkerton isn't about dealing with the fact that we all have sort of uncomfortable, weird feelings; it's a celebration of the fact, a sort of "I'm so fucked up, look how cool I am being fucked up" adolescent gag. When it comes down to it on the last song, Rivers doesn't hesitate: he ain't never coming back, partially because it didn't mean anything to him, partially because he'd rather apologize for leaving than for whatever else it was he did, partially just because that's just who he is: he flits about like a butterfly.

I like dreary pop music. I'm listening to Pulp right now; they can be dreary enough. But it's not a dreary that's tied to this teenage self-pitying (sexist) mire of emotions.
posted by koeselitz at 3:49 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


ludwig_van: “But I think as a work of art, Pinkerton is much more tragic and Romantic and beautiful than it is offensive and disgusting.”

I take your point - at least about the tragic and Romantic bit. I don't know how much I can hold to the beautiful part, but I'll say this: Pinkerton does vaguely remind me of The Sorrows of Young Werther, though that's not exactly a good thing in my mind.

It's fair to say we haven't taken apart the lyrics sufficiently; and I appreciate that it's supposed to be in some ways a reaction to Madama Butterfly. That connection has always seemed rather thin to me, though I guess I'll accept the 'subtext' you're talking about and try to see it.

I've got more to say in a bit.
posted by koeselitz at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2010


few of those portrayals are as textured or three-dimensional or self-aware as Pinkerton

I don't know, man--I think Cuomo the songwriter is probably aware of how fucked up the narrator is, and it is a good portrayal, but I don't think the narrator is all that self-aware. I think that dramatic irony is one of the major strengths of the album, actually.

The narrator certainly has self-loathing, and he has some vague guilt ("ashamed of what I said", "I'm sorry for what I did", "I think it would be wrong"), but he doesn't make a connection between the fetishization/objectification of "El Scorcho" and "Across the Sea" and the heartbreak of "Why Bother?" or "Pink Triangle". His whole problem is that he doesn't really see women except in terms of what they can do for him, and he never realizes this.

And this is as it should be, I think. "I realize that I need to start seeing women as actual people" wouldn't make a very catchy pop song. Better to have an unreliable narrator.

But that's also why it gets a little creepier once you've read about Cuomo's intensely embarrassed reaction to the album's success. Maybe it was a little closer to home for him than we'd like to think. Could you listen to Steve Albini the same way if he'd actually murdered a woman with a shoe?
posted by equalpants at 4:39 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading this I am pretty glad to see the conversation tilt the way it did: Pinkerton is a good but really creepy record, No One Else took it to Under My Thumb levels – but there's this tendency for internet people to want good art to espouse virtue, mostly because that's a simple enough equation to make in a paragraph-long internet comment. It is also tempting to seal things off neatly by saying, this art is creepy, but the artist is self-aware about the creepiness, so it's all ok... that's not always quite true either. Good art can be very messy. The artist may not be as self-aware about the distastefulness as he thinks he is. The artist may grow less self-aware with time. But one of the things that's really inspiring about art, to my eye, is the ability for the art, if it's honest and engaging enough, to transcend the artist and his origins.

Though actually I have not listened to Pinkerton in a few years – I think it's in a valley of relevance at the moment – but at its best I think it did some of this. It is dude rock and it's also an encapsulation of the whole Nice Guy thing feminist bloggers talk about, which I think is why it's in that valley.

Ok, here is where I am an internet douchebag and a cranky Gen-Xer. I just gotta vent here.

I keep reading these Gen-Y retrospectives about 90's alternative rock for some reason, and it's like, DUDE. You don't get to own this shit! You were twelve years old! That makes you, at absolute best, a fucking scene kid. Like, we'd see you jumping into the mosh pit (the presence of a mosh pit being a prerequisite for the presence of 12-year-old scene kids) and go, welp, this band's basically shot. When you talk about stuff that you were too young to really get at the time, like say in my case the Dead Kennedys or something, what you do is you shut the fuck up, listen to people who were old enough to understand what was going on, and refer to them in respectful tones, meanwhile making sure to say, "I was 12 at the time so I didn't really know what was going on, but it was neat and my older sister was into it." I mean, any music can be yours in time but if you are 12 you aren't really there yet and so many of these articles are written as if they got it all, right then.

On the other hand... I can't blame them, because 1994-1996 or 7 was really the nadir of the teen pop band, the era where making music for young teens was at its most deprecated. If there's a generalization to be made about alternative rock vs. the music it displaced, it's that it was about making pop music aimed at a slightly older audience. I would peg that age at 20 years old. Weezer definitely included. One of the commenters at the Awl compares Weezer unfavorably to Duran Duran, and I agree: Duran Duran was a much better band for 12-14 year olds, partially because they were more aware they were making music for younger kids. But a 12-year-old girl in the mid-nineties has to glom onto something, and there just weren't a lot of good options. Weezer was more clean-cut & non-threatening than most other available bands except maybe fucking Hanson. So I can see why it messed 'em up that way. Totally understandable how that could happen to girls in the '90s. It sucks, you know?
posted by furiousthought at 4:48 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Change "Rivers Cuomo" to "Billy Corgan" and that article was written about me.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think I like it, as far as a random sampling of its songs go.

Yeah, that's the best way to decide if an album is any good. GARDENBURGER.


Shit, I'm really sorry I don't have time to listen to an entire album by a band that annoys me more often than not. Also, the best tack to take when you're trying to get someone to reevaluate an album is to be an asshole about it. It definitely won't result in them mentally labeling you an asshole and mentally labeling the music you're talking about "the music that asshole liked." That would never happen.
posted by Caduceus at 5:24 PM on April 28, 2010


furiousthought: “Though actually I have not listened to Pinkerton in a few years – I think it's in a valley of relevance at the moment – but at its best I think it did some of this. It is dude rock and it's also an encapsulation of the whole Nice Guy thing feminist bloggers talk about, which I think is why it's in that valley.”

This is actually the closest anybody's come to articulating what I loathe so much about Pinkerton. That record is a perfect distillation of all the most hideous and vile traits of the young men of my (sub-gen-Y) generation: casual, subtle sexism; narcissistic self-involvement; a weirdly unhealthy shame about sex coupled with a self-loathing lust; a complete and total lack of perspective about the effects of one's actions on other people, actual honest-to-god other people. Seriously, it was as if no one else existed for Rivers Cuomo - and I know that the album is meant to respond to Puccini in some way, and I know he's playing the character, but he honestly doesn't seem to have enough self-reflection to appreciate just how fucked up he's being. And in the end, it really doesn't matter; because this album is to me the zeitgeist, the absolute cultural representation of an approach to the world that I've seen over and over and over again in the last ten years. Ask me, and I can rattle off verbatim the names of a dozen, probably two dozen guys I've known personally in that time who have lived precisely the way the character on the album lives: manipulating through self-loathing, getting laid for the sake of getting laid and then hating themselves for it, and then in turn taking it out on the women they've slept with - and taking full advantage of any and all attention they get from anyone.

So: honestly, yes, ludwig_van, there's supposed to be a Puccini subtext. Maybe you can point it out to me. Is there seriously anything beyond the fact that the "story" of the record vaguely resembles Madama Butterfly, and takes its name from the character it seems to represent? Because it doesn't feel like there is. I don't know that opera as well as you might, I guess, though I've heard it once or twice; but in Rivers' hands it becomes thematically something entirely different, a paean to the age and to the lives of young men living in it. And it's not a good one. It's portraying something that I think is particularly awful, and it doesn't seem to have any compunction in embracing it.

And that's not how art should be. furiousthought, you seem to have the interesting idea that something can make you feel like shit and be really ugly and you can totally dislike it, but it's still "great art." I don't harbor any such illusions, maybe because I doubt that there's some standard in the sky for art. Punk rock taught us (I think) that complete novices can make incredible and compelling art; this means that there's not really a standard of facility, or skill, or quality that we can attach to art that really has any meaning in the end. It's either good... or it's not. And Pinkerton isn't, because it makes people worse as human beings, and because it encourages all kinds of stuff about my generation that is quite tragic.
posted by koeselitz at 6:36 PM on April 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


damn, I've never heard this stuff*, but the first page of that article really makes me want to listen to it.

*take that, author generalising about all teenage heterosexual girls in the '90s!
posted by jacalata at 7:45 PM on April 28, 2010


Didn't read the comments. But you just know you're getting old when you think "River Phoenix" and "Mario Cuomo"
posted by swooz at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a great article, by the way. And it's true, though I never realized it (I haven't listened to the blue album all the way through in many, many years) - "No One Else" is one of the most fantastically sexist songs anybody's ever written, and infinitely creepy.

Also, maybe someone can clear this up for me: are Weezer actually ripping off The Feelies on their first album cover? Or were they just oblivious? I'm guessing it was obliviousness. Which is sad, because The Feelies are a much, much, much better band.
posted by koeselitz at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2010


much
posted by koeselitz at 8:10 PM on April 28, 2010


This whole thread is very interesting. I like Weezer a lot, but their songs to me are pieces of sound stuck together, nothing more. Cuomo sings lyrics, but I always took these to be produced in the same way as early REM or late Talking Heads lyrics -- syllables made up to sound good with the music, then retrofitted semi-arbitrarily into words that end up cohering impressionistically and sonically. The idea that their songs have characters or are in any way about anything is totally novel to me.

But I'm wrong, obviously, and have always been wrong, is my point.
posted by escabeche at 8:25 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: And that's not how art should be. furiousthought, you seem to have the interesting idea that something can make you feel like shit and be really ugly and you can totally dislike it, but it's still "great art." I don't harbor any such illusions, maybe because I doubt that there's some standard in the sky for art.

There's this Icelandic singer-songwriter called Megas who's plunged such deep pits of depravity that even Mark E. Smith looks up to him. He's written what has to be the most misogynistic song of all times, the name of which translates to Little, Cute Boys, and argues the thesis that women are so horrible that men should turn to little boys instead. This isn't the only morally horrifying song he's written either. But the point is that his command of language is such that his lyrics are near-universally considered one of the greatest body of poetic work in Icelandic. I mean, considering that at one point or another he's stabbed every sacred cow of the Icelandic nation (and doesn't exactly have a mellifluous singing voice, especially these days) it's a testament to his artistry that the Icelandic state pays him a yearly salary pretty much for just existing. And it's not like his personal life has been beyond reproach. He's now so dependent on drugs that the national healthcare system keeps him supplied with what he needs to survive. Sometimes art can transcend its content, at which point the question becomes whether the art is good enough to do so, and somewhat unfortunately, devolves into an argument about taste (of which one can't dispute)

In case you were wondering, Icelanders were shocked when Little, Cute Boys came out, back in 1988. Megas wasn't officially banned from the radio or polite company, but he became very much an artist of the fringe, an outlaw. It took at least a decade before he was accepted into mainstream society.
posted by Kattullus at 8:29 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: "Pinkerton is sort of a "dude's album," in the sense that it tends to cater to the sensitivities of 16-year-olds boys: self-destructive, just learning sexual freedom, confused about the sort of meaning behind it and behind love, and sort of bitter and pissed off for no apparent reason beyond imagined slights the world has committed against one."

This probably best articulates why I love this album. It's the perfect high school album. I mean yeah, it's creepy and naive but so were we in high school. I never thought the narrator had a girlfriend— it just seemed like a 16-year-old boy's views of what relationships and having sex would be like.
posted by yaymukund at 8:36 PM on April 28, 2010


I enjoy the sound of Weezer's songs, and some of the lyrics too, and it's clear that Weezer, at least as of a few years ago, was Rivers Cuomo's vehicle.

Rivers has never seemed, in the interviews I've heard (including the one he did on NPR), to be particularly emotional or empathetic. He has said that he approaches music as an empiricist, and breaks down previous successful songs along various dimensions in an attempt to come up with the perfect pop song.

I do get the impression that his lyrics are intensely personal, and that he's most at ease drawing on intense experiences from his own life.

So when he writes a song about a guy's experiences, I've always assumed that he's writing about a real experience from his life.
posted by zippy at 8:44 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know, man--I think Cuomo the songwriter is probably aware of how fucked up the narrator is, and it is a good portrayal, but I don't think the narrator is all that self-aware. I think that dramatic irony is one of the major strengths of the album, actually.

Well, I guess I'm saying I see the narrator of Pinkerton as a different, more complex type of character from the narrator of e.g. Run For Your Life or Hey Joe or something.

But that's also why it gets a little creepier once you've read about Cuomo's intensely embarrassed reaction to the album's success.

Huh? Pinkerton was a critical and commercial failure, to which Cuomo reacted by turning into a recluse and not releasing music for 5 years.

koselitz: I don't want to make too much of the Puccini thing. There isn't some great multi-layered subtext. My point is just that Pinkerton shares a spiritual connection with the sort of tragic love story found in e.g. Romantic operas, and I think it's best understood in that context. Sure, it's very single-minded and navel-gazey and fixated on sex and love, but it's part of a certain song tradition where that type of story dominates, and I think it bends and tweaks the conventions of that genre in an interesting and pleasing way.

But I guess I find this whole offended reaction really strange because the entire idea of evaluating music based on the perceived worldview or personality of the singer seems strange to me. I think Pinkerton is a little like Catcher in the Rye -- it's told from a somewhat idiosyncratic, richly-developed, very teenaged point of view. I know some people find Holden Caulfield to be insufferable, and so they hate the book. I like the book a lot because I think it's a good story well-told, whether or not I personally identify with Holden in an immediate way, or think that he's someone I want to hang out with. It doesn't bother me that JD Salinger wasn't a teenager when he wrote it, and I don't assume that his personality was like Holden's.

And that's how I feel about Pinkerton. I think it's got some excellent, deceptively-complex tunes that reward close attention and repeated listening. I love the way it's recorded, and the power of the performances in the recording. I will say that I've found less to like in the lyrics of Pinkerton as time has gone on and my tastes have matured a little -- but that's almost entirely an aesthetic judgment, not a moral one.

So, anyhow, to each his own, you don't have to like it. I still think it's a great album (and I still think everything weezer has done since is terrible and not worth discussing at all) and all this talking about it has made me want to hear it again.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:55 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's fair to say we haven't taken apart the lyrics sufficiently; and I appreciate that it's supposed to be in some ways a reaction to Madama Butterfly. That connection has always seemed rather thin to me

Dude, the last line of the song that so offends you:
I told you I would return
When the robin makes his nest
But I ain't never coming back
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry
In the first scene of Act 2 of Madama Butterfly, Butterfly tells Suzuki that Pinkerton told here:
Oh, Butterfly, my little wife, I shall return with the roses, when the earth is full of joy, when the robin makes his nest.
So Cuomo supposedly had a bad experience with a woman in Tokyo, where he felt he betrayed her. So he compares himself to Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. Pinkerton is quite an odious character, from what I can tell. So what's the problem here again?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:18 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh? Pinkerton was a critical and commercial failure, to which Cuomo reacted by turning into a recluse and not releasing music for 5 years.

Dude, Pinkerton has been a massively influential cult success. Surely you know this.

Anyway, if Catcher in the Rye had been written by a teenager who had little awareness of exactly how teenaged he was being, would you feel the same way? It'd still be a good book, but wouldn't you be a little embarrassed for the author? I think that's the point about Cuomo and his creepiness--hearing about his real-life behavior, and observing how much less personal his work has been since Pinkerton, you get the impression that maybe he wasn't writing from an older and wiser place, but was still living those feelings. It's still a great album, but you can't help being a little squicked out.
posted by equalpants at 10:00 PM on April 28, 2010


mrgrimm: “So Cuomo supposedly had a bad experience with a woman in Tokyo, where he felt he betrayed her. So he compares himself to Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. Pinkerton is quite an odious character, from what I can tell. So what's the problem here again?”

Well, first of all, the last line certainly isn't the part that bugs me. And what bothers me isn't (as far as I can tell) a theme Rivers is drawing from Puccini, either. There are certainly some corkers which, depending on your perspective, are either offensive or just really honest portrayals of fucked-up-ed-ness; but the worst couplet on the disk, in my mind, is
Smell you on my hand for days
I can't wash away your scent
I'm a dog then you're a bitch

I guess you're as real as me
Maybe I can live with that
Maybe I need fantasy
Life of chasing butterfly...
You know why this bothers me so much? Because I've been there – I've smelled women on my hand for days, and it hasn't washed off. And you know what? It was fucking awesome. And I wouldn't trade it back for the world. It was enjoyable, it was fun, it was part of growing up, it made me feel good. And it took me a long, long time to learn how to say that, because I'd been trained to think that such things were simply shameful, that the haggard reality would be dirty and filthy, that I would be a gross person for enjoying sex. That's the American trope – one-night stands are tragic, sex is never something you can look back on with pleasure the morning after, and you just end up resenting the people you sleep with.

And then, in the midst of all this, something occurs to Cuomo/Pinkerton – that one moment when he realizes that she might be "as real as me," the moment when the thoughts and feelings and sensitivities of another human being suddenly seem as though they might just matter to him – and that moment lasts for all of one line! Then it's right back to the same thing – probably he just needs a life of fantasy, you're just too real for me, blah blah blah.

Second of all, yes, I know he's playing a character. That's what people always say, anyway. But I honestly am not convinced it's an act. Seriously, Sady Doyle was terribly correct near the end of the fantastic essay linked here; "No One Else," from Weezer's first disk, is far, far worse than anything on Pinkerton. Think about these lyrics for a moment, honestly:
My girl's got a big mouth
With which she babbles a lot.
She laughs at most everything
Whether it's funny or not.
And if you see her,
Tell her it's over now

I want a girl who will laugh for no one else
When I'm away she puts her makeup on the shelf
When I'm away she never leaves the house
I want a girl who laughs for no one else
Seriously, it's hard to believe that anybody who is conscious and breathing wouldn't find this offensive. You honestly want a girl who won't leave the house when you're not around? That's not tapping into some deeper motivation; it's just fucked up. Sorry. And is Rivers Cuomo supposed to be playing a character on the first album, too? I'm pretty convinced that Rivers feels most of the worst things on Pinkerton quite personally; they are his sentiments, not those of a character he's playing.

me: “Pinkerton is sort of a "dude's album," in the sense that it tends to cater to the sensitivities of 16-year-olds boys: self-destructive, just learning sexual freedom, confused about the sort of meaning behind it and behind love, and sort of bitter and pissed off for no apparent reason beyond imagined slights the world has committed against one.”

yaymukund: “This probably best articulates why I love this album. It's the perfect high school album. I mean yeah, it's creepy and naive but so were we in high school. I never thought the narrator had a girlfriend— it just seemed like a 16-year-old boy's views of what relationships and having sex would be like.”

Well, for one thing, we don't all have to be that way in high school. And I don't think we were. Some were, some weren't. I think the kids that were happier weren't. I honestly don't think the album works as a portrayal of universal growing-up experiences. But I guess part of what's keeping me from enjoying it is that it's just far too familiar to me. I still know half a dozen guys who are living like this into their thirties. And about half of them have girlfriends. Those poor, poor women.

What I'm saying is that I can't take this record because I'm taking it so personally. It means a lot to me because it's something I see all around me, something I can't stand. And when those guys hear Pinkerton, they love it, because Cuomo is in some ways their hero: "yeah, it's fucked up," they say, "but we're all fucked up like that, right?" No. I won't be. Sorry.

Am I supposed to take it so personally?

And Kattullus: ever since I read a little more about "Iceland," I've wanted to try to dig into Megas. I had no idea he was so... er. That's very interesting. It's strange, because I've had some very good discussions recently here (mostly with grumblebee) about what art is and what it means. At this point, I don't think I can say at all that there's such a thing as an aesthetic standard by which I can judge art. But where I don't agree with grumblebee is this: I believe that there's such a thing as good for human beings, maybe a kind of justice, whether it's achievable in the real world or not. As such, the only standard I can imagine for art is the good it does.

But even that's a pretty broad category to use. This is a tension in Plato - the tension between art that's good for the one and art that's good for the many. Stendhal (who I think would've been intrigued and amused by the lyrics of Rivers Cuomo) used to say that he wrote for "the happy few," that tiny portion of mankind that understood love, and that the mass of human beings would never appreciate what he was writing about. Maybe art that does a tiny amount of harm to many, but much good to even one person, is worth it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


You honestly want a girl who won't leave the house when you're not around?

This is just typical Weezeresque lyrical absurdism; if anything, it's self-deprecating. Don't take them too seriously.
posted by jeremy b at 10:37 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


You honestly want a girl who won't leave the house when you're not around?

I don't remember where to find it (and unfortunately it's bedtime, so maybe someone else will know), but I've seen him talking about that song specifically, and yeah, he's deliberately playing the villain there. The guy may have had some issues, but he wasn't quite that bad.

If there's a scale from asshole --> "Nice Guy" --> actual nice guy, then I think he was at "Nice Guy", looking down at the assholes.
posted by equalpants at 10:54 PM on April 28, 2010


Saying Pinkerton has a feeling of self-loathing throughout is apt to the point of understatement. What separates it from "emo" is, for one thing, the musical arrangements, but also that the entire thing comes across as being Cuomo's own fault. The whole album is about how horribly fucked up he is, and how he can't handle romance on any level, and he never blames anyone but himself for that, really (except possibly in "No Other One," but not even really there.)

To me, "Across the Sea" is the best song on an album with basically nothing but best songs on it. It is the pinnacle of fearlessly honest self-hatred perfectly scored. Damn straight it's creepy - it's a four minute breakdown of a man surrounded by meaningless adoration, festering an infatuation with a faceless Japanese schoolgirl who wrote him a letter which seems to be a place apart from all of that, but which he know isn't really, at all. He knows that he knows nothing about her, that this letter is as meaningless as the screaming fans, and that he's letting himself sexualize some anonymous innocent youngster. And he hates himself for doing it. But he does it anyway because this girl unknowingly let herself become a flawless ideal in his mind.

(For a much less creepy version of this same sort of thing, check out The Cure's "Strange Attraction," wherein a fan writes tons of letters to Robert Smith and then gets over it once she meets him in the flesh)

"So you send me
your love
from all around the world
As if I could live on words and dreams and a million screams
oh, how I need a hand in mine to feel."

And there it is. The song doesn't make a lot of sense out of context from the rest of the album, but essentially he's so stunted and hopeless that obsessing about some poor girl half a world away who probably just wrote him the letter as part of a class assignment is easier and less frightening than actually relating to the women in front of him.

As has been said, it's creepy. It's also an astoundingly good song.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:31 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, "Butterfly" is easily the most unsettling song on the record, because it comes after ten songs of noisy and explicit detail about things no other rock star would ever cop to, and here's a "pretty" arrangement, with the only cryptic lyrics on the album, except that he's clearly apologizing for doing something awful.

I read it as the counterpoint to "Tired of Sex," where he's realizing that his "meaningless" partners are actual flesh-and-blood women who he used as something disposable, but he knows that at the time that it happened, with all of them, he was at least trying to feel something about them. That's probably the most charitable possible reading of that song, however. It could very easily be about much worse matters.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:43 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was nine when the Blue Album came out and I've always loved every bit of it. I wonder if my mom knew what was up? She's always been down with letting me figure stuff out for myself. I like this thread; at first I worried that it would ruin Weezer for me, but it's just bringing to light the full meaning of these albums. I realize now that I mostly got it in my teens, but simply enjoying the music kept the creepiness under wraps. Now that I can peel it back and really look at it, I can appreciate it even more. Writing, recording, and *deep breath* actually releasing Pinkerton was a gutsy move, and I think that raises its stature somewhat.
posted by randomyahoo at 3:03 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading the rest of this (couldn't get past page 3 yesterday) it seems she's almost doing the exact thing that she's blaming cuomo for doing: blaming her problems on him (as he's blaming his problems on girls). But maybe she's just making light of what she had been doing. But damn is she angry if that's all she's doing.

Also I love how at the beginning she's all like "We're talking about the Cuomo in your head" and then goes on to specifically quote him and blatantly conflate the two. Confusing at the least.
posted by symbollocks at 5:24 AM on April 29, 2010


We speak, now, of the Platonic ideal of a Rivers Cuomo

Oh god. I recently read on the internet that Marilyn Manson didn't actually eat babies and now I just don't know what to think. Stupid unreliable narrators. But let's get to the important stuff: Jack Joseph Puig is responsible for the records with the two best kick drum sounds ever recorded - Pinkerton and Jellyfish's Spilt Milk. So here's to you, JJP - somehow you found it in your soul to craft those tasty, tasty sounds while Jellyfish had a nonstop thrift-store tea party and Rivers Cuomo shoved sparkly gel pens up his nose because lyrics and press releases and band photos are always 100% accurate and speak directly to how the authors and musicians actually feel about life.

The linked article is every bit as bad as "Beverly Hills." The rock star mythos is a lie. Let the dream die.
posted by mintcake! at 6:06 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


And not one word about how half of Pinkerton was leftovers from a never-realized "rock opera" about outer space.

Maybe reading into lyrics -- half of which might have something to do with the PLOT OF ANOTHER STORY ALTOGETHER -- seems, well, dumb.
posted by grubi at 6:57 AM on April 29, 2010


Dude, Pinkerton has been a massively influential cult success. Surely you know this.

It was a success eventually, but a major failure at first, which is all laid out in the wikipedia article. The point is it's stupid when the article talks about Pinkerton having sold 850,000 copies but doesn't mention that it took 14 years from its release to do so. Cuomo's embarrassed reaction and subsequent withdrawal from music was a response to the fact that the album flopped upon release. The utter lack of personality on the green album also makes a lot more sense when understood in this context.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:00 AM on April 29, 2010


Maybe reading into lyrics -- half of which might have something to do with the PLOT OF ANOTHER STORY ALTOGETHER -- seems, well, dumb.

Or not:
In the words of Cuomo, taken from an interview in the November 15, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, "There's this crew - three guys and two girls and a mechanoid - that are on this mission in space to rescue somebody, or something. The whole thing was really 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."

Over the course of writing the album, Cuomo, who had enrolled at Harvard in the fall of 1995, changed his focus from the space rock opera theme of SFTBH to the Madama Butterfly theme of Pinkerton. Pinkerton was released on September 24, 1996 and included the songs "Tired of Sex", "Getchoo", "No Other One", and "Why Bother?". These four songs had been written prior to the conception of SFTBH but reshaped for SFTBH, then changed again for inclusion on Pinkerton.
But anyway, sure let's talk about Songs From the Black Hole, because it's fucking awesome. God, I need to go listen to Blast Off right now.

Also, I meant to say that Navelgazer is so right about Across the Sea. The climax on the "words and dreams and a million screams" line just kills me every time. And I love the multiple modulations in the guitar solo and the breakdown. Although the last few times I've listened to the album I've felt like Falling for You just might be an even more amazing tune than Across the Sea, although it took me a long time to fully appreciate it.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:10 AM on April 29, 2010


What gets me is that people who don't care for Weezer tend to be VEHEMENT about it, as if Rivers & the Gang broke into their houses and pissed on their rugs. Makes me want to find these people, grab them, shake them hard, and scream "WE GET IT. YOUR PREFERENCE IS DIFFERENT. YOU DON'T WIN THE PREFERENCE GAME. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PREFERENCE GAME."

I like Weezer. I'm a fan. My preference FOR Weezer doesn't grant me any moral superiority over others, nor does their preference grant them moral superiority over me. Substitute any band: Rush, Zeppelin, ABBA, the Jackson Five... preference is just preference. (Although if you choose Creed? You ARE morally inferior to me in that case.)

And paranoid delusions about Rivers Cuomo as a date rapist? Come the fuck on.
posted by grubi at 7:24 AM on April 29, 2010


I can't believe many of you think the article was about Weezer and Rivers Cuomo. Did you notice how the writing style changes from stage (page) to stage (page)? And what do you think teenage girls do with songs and their lyrics anyway?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cuomo's embarrassed reaction and subsequent withdrawal from music was a response to the fact that the album flopped upon release.

Ah, I should've been clearer, sorry. I wasn't talking about that reaction; I was talking about his reaction to the fans who've embraced it:

''['Pinkerton' is a] hideous record,'' Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo says. ''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.''
posted by equalpants at 9:59 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mmmmm, Haricots a la Metafilter, done just the way I like 'em. You guys rock!
posted by everichon at 10:01 AM on April 29, 2010


Although the last few times I've listened to the album I've felt like Falling for You just might be an even more amazing tune than Across the Sea

Agreed. Those changes in the chorus of "Falling For You" come way out of left field, and work so perfectly.
posted by equalpants at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2010


I was talking about his reaction to the fans who've embraced it

Yeah, well that was unfortunate, just like pretty much everything he and the band have done since Pinkerton, although I'm pretty sure he's come around on the subject since that interview in 2001. I think his reaction is easy to understand, though -- dude poured himself into his art and got burned for it. People hated the record when it came out. I imagine anyone would be bummed to face that, whether or not they were writing emotional songs about their loneliness and isolation and sexual yearnings, etc.

Those changes in the chorus of "Falling For You" come way out of left field, and work so perfectly.

For sure -- I also really deepened my appreciation of the whole album when I started to pick up on all of the rhythmic twists to it. Not just the drums, with all of the cool triplets and breakdowns and tempo changes, but also the unexpectedly twisted rhythms in a lot of the vocals -- "what could you possibly see in / little old three chord me" is a favorite of mine, for the neat phrasing, the surface-level cleverness of the text, and of course the irony of having that line in such a harmonically complex song. And there's also the lovely yearning dissonant quality that so thoroughly infuses the melodies on the record, with all those piquant non-harmonic tones and such -- "When I'm stable long enoooough" from Pink Triangle, or "I admired the glowing stars / and tried to play a tune" from Falling For You, and so on. The blue album is hooky and tight and excellent, but it's much more straightforward, both harmonically and rhythmically.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:48 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think some commenters above are missing the point. It's not that we now take Weezer's lyrics literally. It's that when we (and I am including myself in the group of people who loved weezer as teenage girls) used to listen to these songs, we didn't think about the literal meaning of the words at all. We fell for the fragile, sensitive vibe and completely missed the creepiness.

And then men came along with that sensitive vibe and we were in denial about their real-life creepiness. By analyzing the songs now we can see how so much of that glasses-boy ideal was predicated on the self-centeredness of the boy - someone self-involved enough to consistently put his feelings over yours. Many men have I pined over because they seemed "complicated," or "tortured," only to find that they were incapable of caring for me in a decent way.

I almost cried at this essay because it touched such a nerve with me. Thanks for posting.
posted by mai at 11:57 AM on April 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think his reaction is easy to understand, though -- dude poured himself into his art and got burned for it. People hated the record when it came out. I imagine anyone would be bummed to face that, whether or not they were writing emotional songs about their loneliness and isolation and sexual yearnings, etc.

Fair enough. I think I read that quote a little differently, though--to me, it seems like he was horrified to find that he agreed with the rejection. That he realized, "Oh my god, I really was a creep. And now I've become the poster boy for all these other creeps!"
posted by equalpants at 12:04 PM on April 29, 2010


You know, if anything, this thread has made me have more compassion for Rivers, despite the suckitude he's been churning out for the past 14 years -- I never realized that he had to shoulder the collective guilt of horn-rimmed heartbreakers the world over.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:06 PM on April 29, 2010


Another thing that bothered me about this piece -- in addition to what I felt was hyper-literalism and the tendency to assume that every lyric had some concrete flesh-and-blood counterpart, like all the girls he slept with in one week happened to have rhyming names -- was that she completely absolves herself of her own particular narcissism: the belief that through her own specialness, she will save a tortured soul. In my reading of her perspective as a young woman, her message to her Cuomo-alike love interests was: all those other women you've been with have not been special enough, but I am. Your problems will never withstand the healing powers of my love.

It's just as dismissive of her romantic partners and the realness of their perspectives, if you think about it.
posted by palliser at 1:44 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My girl's got a big mouth
With which she babbles a lot.
She laughs at most everything
Whether it's funny or not.
And if you see her,
Tell her it's over now


Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men good! but thanked
Somehow I know not how as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech which I have not to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
"Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
"Or there exceed the mark" and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,
E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.
posted by kenko at 5:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a story, probably apocryphal, about Bono meeting The Killers after Hot Fuss became a hit, and congratulating them, ending with, "spare us your 'interesting' second album."

I, for one, adore second albums.

I don't know if Siamese Dream counts, for hipster purposes, but it was the soundtrack of my adolescence. As was the cranberries' No Need to Argue. Last Splash? Hell yeah. I like King more than Star. I'm also dating myself in a horrible way.

But the pinnacle of this (even moreso than Pinkerton) is with Counting Crows, a band I will defend to this day. To my stupid taste-o-meter, if Recovering the Satellites isn't your favorite album of theirs, then you are simply not a fan. It covers much the same ground as Pinkerton, of a newly famous rock star unable to deal with that. And yeah, not everybody's going to relate to that. But I think second albums capture artists when they're most cocky and most vulnerable, and as such, at their most spontaneously honest.

And I love that.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:57 PM on April 29, 2010



In my reading of her perspective as a young woman, her message to her Cuomo-alike love interests was: all those other women you've been with have not been special enough, but I am. Your problems will never withstand the healing powers of my love.

That's the other side of the coin. Most women who went through that "I can fix your problems" phase probably feel just as embarrassed over their own self-centeredness. It's all part of the messy "two become one" romantic myth that prevents many people from forming relationships as two distinct individuals, each with a healthy amount of both empathy and self-preservation.
posted by little_c at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this is an interesting postscript to anyone else, but Sady Doyle seems to still have a big ol' Rivers Cuomo crush.

Make of that what you will; I, for one, thought it was interesting and worth a mention.
posted by revmitcz at 11:23 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


grubi: “I like Weezer. I'm a fan. My preference FOR Weezer doesn't grant me any moral superiority over others, nor does their preference grant them moral superiority over me.”

Nobody said it did. You inferred that that's what we meant when we indicated that the music had a particular moral value. This is the problem with these sort of discussions so many times: people personalize things so very much. "I like this band, so if you disagree with it on some level, you're saying I am a bad person." Not necessarily.

The thing is: music has a moral and political value. That's what this article was about: the moral and political value it had to Sady Doyle at one particular moment in time. And I can say that Pinkerton has had a real moral and political value to me in the past - it meant something to me; I remember months when I'd listen to it every day, when it was my soundtrack, when it was a companion that carried through difficult times and good times. When I talk about music, that's what I'm talking about: its effect on my life, whether good or bad. I can't ignore that, and I can't pretend it didn't happen when I'm talking with other people, any more than anybody else can.

I ended up putting Pinkerton behind me, mostly because I thought it represented something low and base in my past, and because I associate it with my own bad habits. It reminds me of the women I might have not treated very well, and the relationships I fucked up because I insisted on clinging to my own self-loathing and shame. Oddly enough, Rivers Cuomo seems to feel the same way about it.

And so did Sady Doyle, in her way. So it's oddly fitting that she still has some friendliness toward Rivers in the end, because I think people here have seen the article as a bit more negative than it really was.

Everybody is obsessed with whether they like or dislike a thing, with what side they're on. The thing is: in actually going deeper, I think you have to drop all that and pay close attention to experience. If you silence the voice in the back of your mind that says "...but I love Weezer!" or "...but I hate Weezer!" and just take the article for what it is - a description of one girl's experience experience with the group, her gradual confrontation with their records, what they meant within her spiritual existence - it's a lot more rewarding. For one thing, I really like reading first-hand accounts from women about when they were growing up, what influenced them, what directed their ways of thinking. What I notice is that we get this sort of account all the time from men, but not so much from women, partially I think because it opens a vein of vulnerability that women who want to be taken seriously can't afford to touch most of the time.
posted by koeselitz at 12:18 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


-- I also wanted to say: I think I feel about Rivers Cuomo the same way I feel about David Byrne and Lou Reed. Everybody bangs on about that famous early work, the soul-bearing raw youthful stuff - for Lou and David, the times when they were with their bands, the times when they were rocking hard and pulling no punches whatsoever. I think Pinkerton is quite popular chiefly because it's so raw, direct, muscularly emotional. But, like David Byrne and Lou Reed, Rivers Cuomo insists that the early period of angst was largely a mistake, and that he's glad he grew past it. I actually prefer the music Lou Reed made after he left the Velvet Underground, and while I guess I can't say I prefer Rivers' later stuff, at the very least I'm glad that he appears to be much happier.
posted by koeselitz at 12:25 AM on May 1, 2010


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