It is a known fact that Pinkerton is the best Weezer album. It can’t be the Blue Album, because the possibility of a band’s first release being its best is too depressing to contemplate. Ask Rivers Cuomo. The Weezer frontman was crushed by Pinkerton’s commercial failure, and the personally crazy and artistically mediocre decade he entered afterward was made more awful by Pinkerton’s gradual ascent to cult classic. All Cuomo wanted was to make an album everybody loved. He somehow both failed to do that and established a standard that would make his future work disappointing.
So Alone III: The Pinkerton Years is a document. The collection of outtakes and personal recordings reveals a songwriter fixed on certain themes. “When You’re Alone,” “I’m So Lonely,” “I’m So Lonely On a Saturday Night” and—to a lesser extent—“Oh God I’m Hungry” belong recognizably to the Blue period. Others, particularly the multi-ironic “Money Makes Me Happy,” portend the bitterness that would define Cuomo’s later work. The tracks between document an artist in transition—talented, worried and way too aware of what he is doing. Sometimes he forgets, beautifully; other times he remembers, painfully. All of it seems important in retrospect.