Although some of the nation’s snootier critics don’t know it yet, Weezer’s first album will go down as one of the great guilty pleasures of the ’90s. True, Weezer’s fluffy odes to surf wax, sweaters, and Buddy Holly never amounted to more than cotton candy — but just try to stop nibbling. Stirring his alienation into one sticky melody after another, frontman Rivers Cuomo burst into the Buzz Bin two years ago like a trash-culture troubadour — Brian Wilson suckled on a steady diet of hair metal and ’70s sitcoms. Then he trundled off to Harvard, presumably to feed his brain more nourishing fare than Mary Tyler Moore and Kiss.

Sadly, academic life has turned Cuomo into even more of a hermit; Pinkerton sounds like a collection of get-down party anthems for agoraphobics. At various points in its sustained aria of disengagement, Cuomo chides himself for staying in all the time; falls for women he can’t have, including a Japanese pen pal and a lesbian (”Everyone’s a little queer/Oh, can’t she be a little straight”); and decides to climb back into his shell after all (”Why bother/It’s gonna hurt me/It’s gonna kill when you desert me”).

Actually, this is good news. Cuomo’s at his best when he’s pathetic. The bad news? The band bypassed Ric Ocasek — who gave Weezer its sparkle and punch — and produced the new album alone. As such, Pinkerton should please all those indie-rock purists who like their pop sloppy and raw, but it’ll disappoint anyone who prefers a candy coating on the bubblegum. B

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