Girls and boys and Weezer.
Last weekend I was visiting some friends in a Major American City, and we were out back of their place swapping stories, and someone brought out a guitar. Once again, I found that “El Scorcho” and “The Sweater Song” are the singalong songs for twenty-somethings who grew up in the suburbs. What else could come close? These songs are stuck in our heads, and evidently we’re still processing them.
OK, so I know I’m courting disaster by linking to Sady Doyle on this blog, but I want to juxtapose something she wrote about Weezer with another little piece on “El Scorcho” from a defunct tumblr blog called PRE-DURST that I found, somehow, via Anti-Climacus.
PRE-DURST explains why so many guys find Pinkerton so appealing:
…And there, putting the Discman back on, feeling like an oily, hamfisted ape, simultaneously wishing for sex and death — that’s when I hit “El Scorcho.”
This is what “El Scorcho” and Pinkerton at large get right, moreso than any songs which have followed in their footsteps: They’re laments, and they’re a little whiny, but they’re also a little funny. Being a human being is a ridiculous proposition, and even when we want to lie down in traffic, we’re usually also laughing at ourselves a little. Excepting real tragedy, nothing is so bad when you’re fifteen that you can’t turn around and clown your friend a minute later, and having a narrative voice which acknowledges how bad it is not to kiss who you want to kiss as well as the patent humor of being alive and tender is far more useful than one which just amplifies the two poles of “horrible” and “wonderful.”…
But Sady, writing at The Awl, gets at the disturbing parts of Pinkerton in a long essay addressed to female Weezer fans. (I should mention now, for those of you not in the know, that Weezer’s songwriter and frontman is a guy named Rivers Cuomo.)
But “Pinkerton” just seems too self-absorbed—and invites too much self-absorption, apparently, from its male listeners—to notice who its real targets are. Of course, it reads as a profoundly unhappy statement from a profoundly unhappy man. But lots of unhappy people are dead set on taking their unhappiness out on someone—on finding someone to blame. Lots of unhappy people are jerks. And if you are a boy, a boy like Rivers Cuomo, who apparently cited as influences on this album both Howard Stern and Camille freaking Paglia, well: A girl is a safe target. Any girl, all girls, girls in general.
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 … 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.
Now, to get one thing out of the way, I think that Sady’s interpretation of “No One Else” from the Blue Album is just wrong: she takes it as a confession of what Rivers Cuomo really wants, whereas I take the fact that it leads straight into “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” with only the slightest pause between songs, to be evidence that Rivers thinks the messed-up desires of the narrator of “No Other One” will get said narrator dumped in a hurry.
That being said, both posts together give an appropriate perspective on Weezer: for a guy to take the Blue Album and Pinkerton as sad-funny soundtracks to the awkward years is not a bad thing to do, but to be an adult is, in part, to realize that there are real people out their beyond your emotions, and that your lusts and longings aren’t claims on their lives. I think this lesson can be generalized to a much larger sector of pop music, but it’s easiest with Weezer because Pinkerton is so upfront about the solipsism of the whole endeavor.
If you have any emotional connection to Pinkerton, you might want to help Nitsuh Abebe collect some data on who relates to the album how.