eezers self-titled debut and second release, Pinkerton (1996), collect some of the best power pop/alternative rock of the 1990s. Taking a cue from '70s groups like Cheap Trick more than the heavy metal of the '80s or the just-emerging grunge of the '90s, Weezer preferred loud guitars, memorable melodies and clear vocals to deliberate distortion and posturing. Weezer, also known as The Blue Album, was multi-platinum in both the US and Canada and deservedly appears on many "best of" lists. Pinkerton, named for a character from Puccinis Madame Butterfly, did not meet the same initial critical and commercial success but has more recently become a cult classic.
Weezer is a masterpiece. The guitars can be delicate or aggressive, the drums forceful and the interplay of vocals at times recalling a barbershop quartet. The songwriting is accomplished and suggests a more seasoned band. The lyrics are clever, thoughtful and display geek chic, with references to Dungeons & Dragons and X-Men comics. The songs flow almost nonstop from the beginning to the end of each side, which produces, intentionally or not, the impression of a suite of songs rather than individual tracks. With the Mobile Fidelity version, on some songs I was able to discern distinct voices in noisy sections that fall flat on CD. The guitar and bass on Undone-The Sweater Song sound more alive and separated than with any previous version Ive heard. I loved this record when it was first released and with this new vinyl edition I hear greater detail and more accurate tonality. Mobile Fidelitys careful production provided beautiful guitar tones (both acoustic and electric) and enhanced vocal clarity.
Pinkerton is a very good record, but it does not display the same consistency in songwriting as Weezer. I cant help but think that some of the more recent praise of the album is hipster historical revisionism, because in some ways this album sounds more like a debut record -- uneven and incomplete. There are some great songs, El Scorcho and Tired of Sex especially, but most of the album is simply good rather than equaling Weezers overwhelming greatness. Pink Triangle and Butterfly have lyrics that seem more sophomoric than anything on Weezer. The Mobile Fidelity pressing shares the clear sonics of the earlier album. Some of the commercial shine of Weezer is gone with Pinkerton, and some of the songwriting and production move away from the pop sensibilities of the debut record to a noisier, more aggressive sound. Even if it falls short of being a masterpiece, Pinkerton is an enjoyable encore after listening to the debut album.
Mobile Fidelitys GAIN 2 remastering relies on the use of original master tapes, a proprietary cutting system and a strictly limited number of pressings in order to ensure uniform quality of each finished record. Both of Weezers albums deserve and benefit from that meticulous attention to detail. Weezer is an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys youthful, upbeat rock. There is a deluxe CD edition that includes an extra disc of outtakes, demos and live material that is much less compelling than the album itself. Pinkerton deserves recommendation as well, but owning it without the debut seems like reading book two of Lord of the Rings before book one. Sure, it will be fun, but you might wonder how the characters got there and what all the fuss is about. Together the two albums are eighty minutes of power-pop gold that reward with repeat listenings.
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