Dan Caffrey (DC): Sorry, guys, coming kind of late to this, so I’ll give my general thoughts as opposed to responses to each different scenario.
Being someone who actually likes Weezer’s post-Pinkerton albums (except Make Believe…woof! But even that has some good tracks), Cuomo has always appealed to me because of his sincerity. As easy as it is to throw rocks at records like “The Green Album” and Raditude, they—along with everything else Weezer has ever recorded—are nothing if not sincere. Cuomo always writes about exactly what he wants to write about.
With that in mind, I propose something that’s hard to imagine. If Pinkerton had been an initial success, we would have gotten to the more positive, mall-cruising vibes of Raditude way earlier than we did. I actually think the Weezer backlash would have started sooner. People rag on “The Green Album”, but from what I remember, it was pretty well received when it came out—sort of the opposite of Pinkerton in that people dug it initially, but now kind of hate it. It feels like “The Red Album” offered some nuggets of hope for old-school fans, and that Raditude was the final nail in the coffin for many of them.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that Cuomo had a lot of anxiety/depression as a result of Pinkerton‘s initial failure. That’s why there was such a long gap before the next record (although five years really doesn’t feel that long anymore). So without any failure to be upset about, he would have been truly happier earlier, and thus, we would have gotten something like Raditude earlier. And so, fans would have hated him earlier. He would have been a younger man then, and perhaps not well equipped to handle such backlash (as Pinkerton proves). Wow, even in a hypothetical sense, it seems like Weezer can’t catch a break, at least as long as Cuomo writes what he wants to write and not what fans want to hear.
JG: The next question is: Would the band still be around now? I think they would have called it a day halfway through the last decade. After releasing an album every couple of years in our alternate reality, the returns would gradually diminish both critically and commercially. These issues would lead to an inevitable dissolution of the band, but more likely due to burning out, not because they grew to hate working together.
Cuomo/Bell/Wilson seem to get along with the understanding that Cuomo is the leader, so “artistic differences” never spring up. Wilson and Bell have had side projects (Space Twin and The Special Goodness, respectively) for their other creative endeavors, and Scott Shriner is, well, Scott Shriner. Funny enough, no matter what alternate version of events we create post-Pinkerton, the exact same number of humans will say the band was never the same when Matt Sharp left. It’s like The Butterfly Effect, only worse (just kidding, nothing is worse than The Butterfly Effect).
So, ultimately, if we’re getting specific, Weezer would have made four more records after Pinkerton and broken up in 2006. They definitely would have won a Best Rock Grammy in 2002 for whatever they put out that year, and Rivers would end up too overwhelmed by a decade-plus of success with no break. He would go on to work with Broadway producers on a stage version of Songs from the Black Hole in 2010.
NF: I could definitely get on board with the band break-up scenario. If one album tanking in the real world was enough to push Cuomo to the brink, then four successful ones would’ve been the same. They break up in 2006. Bell and Wilson move on to more work with their respective bands. Cuomo releases a couple solo works, and reunites with Sharp on a few tracks, much to the delight of us thirtysomething fans. Then the festivals come calling in the early teens, and a Weezer reunion occurs in a headlining slot at Coachella and Lollapalooza. Sharp joins them on stage for the hits, and he and Shriner share bass duties on some new cuts. Shortly after the festivals, they record some new songs for a short EP, then tour mid-range rooms in support (a la Dismemberment Plan).
DC: Black Hole finally seeing the light of day? Maybe things won’t be so bad after all. So are we in agreement that a more initially well-received Pinkerton would have gotten us to Weezer’s career endgame, whatever that may be? It’s weird to think about. Also, would we have still had the Weezer Cruise?
MR: I don’t believe a Weezer Cruise would have happened. Over the last decade, it’s seemingly been Cuomo’s mantra to just get more and more ridiculous, as if that’s always been their thing. I don’t think it has. I feel the clumsy, reckless antics have tarnished what was a respectable and honest outfit. So, I would hope that if Pinkerton found success, they would have eschewed the parody and kept things, at most, tongue-in-cheek. Really, what does this all say about Weezer today?
NF: To me it seems that, after thinking about all of this, looking at those years after Pinkerton with Cuomo’s behavior, etc., the band, or at least Cuomo, have become almost so sardonic and jaded that they’ve moved into a relentlessly upbeat attitude. Cuomo opened his heart to write Pinkerton, and critics shat all over him. It’s as if he took those years to build up such a “fuck ’em all” attitude that these albums have all been as devoid of emotion as possible to counteract that one album that had all the emotion. Cuomo is subconsciously, or consciously, so jaded that to “get back” at the haters he has removed himself from everything, and removed any personal attachment to any of the music.
Now maybe that is a ridiculous assertion, and at this point he is over it (he has started embracing the album somewhat), but with the focus of the albums he does make sense.
JG: Long story short: Everything Cuomo has done post-Pinkerton was in reaction to that 1996 album. Whether consciously or subconsciously, he has reverted back to the glasses-wearing “nerd” persona we all know today. The “safe” persona. That Weezer remains as popular today as they ever were is remarkable, considering their five-year hiatus during which many of their original fans grew up and moved on. If Pinkerton succeeded, it would have been less about the kids and more about the feels, for however they would have lasted.
Strangely enough, I do believe Weezer still records and tours today solely due to the failure of Pinkerton. It just took this exchange between the four of us to wrap my head around it. Long live Blue and Pinkerton, amirite?
DC: I’ll even say long live “The Green Album”, Maladroit, “The Red Album”, and Hurley. And hey, what about Death To False Metal? No one ever talks about that one. Not a bad little collection of songs, even if the album art makes no effing sense. Then again, I think that ties to Cuomo’s M.O. as an artist. He’s flippant, sure. But he’s sincerely flippant, which is easy to be when you’re happy. I think he likes not putting too much stock into things. Caffrey out.
NF: I agree with Justin. I believe their touring today is all in reaction to Pinkerton. Which is sad on one hand, and damn admirable on another. Either way, Dan’s own happy-go-lucky attitude has a soft spot for Cuomo’s happy-go-fuck-yourself attitude. I for one think, save a song here and there, most of the post-Pinkerton output is garbage.
And, back to reality…