Weezer’s sophomore album ‘Pinkerton’ was released on September 24, 1996


Release date: September 24, 1996

Credits: Rivers Cuomo (vocal, guitar); Brian Bell (guitar); Matt Sharp (bass); Patrick Wilson (drums)

Backstory: Weezer had become stars in late 1994 on the back of their multi-platinum, self-titled debut — recorded at Electric Lady Studios by none other than the Cars’ Ric Ocasek — and taught an entire generation of post-grunge adolescents to appreciate Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore, and unraveling wool sweaters. But the fame that came with it freaked out frontman Rivers Cuomo, and he decided to go back to school, enrolling at Harvard. The songs he wrote there were darker, and instead of the nostalgic, quirky voice of their debut, he created something that sounded much more autobiographical, the words of someone hurt, disappointed and retreating from life, all while wanting desperately to be accepted back into it. The result, Pinkerton, didn’t have the same success as the Blue Album, and only got as far as No. 19 on the Billboard charts. It did, however, quickly became a cult hit, and is now acknowledged to be one of the best albums of its decade. It also is credited with helping to set the stage for a new genre to enter the mainstream: Emo.

The Lost Album: When Cuomo originally sat down to write the album, he envisioned it as a rock opera. “There’s this crew — three guys and two girls and a mechanoid — that are on this mission in space to rescue somebody, or something,” he told Rolling Stone in 2007. “The whole thing was really an [analogy] for taking off, going out on the road and up the charts with a rock band, which is what was happening to me at the time I was writing this and feeling like I was lost in space.” But he couldn’t tell, objectively, whether or not it was any good, so he scrapped the project and went with Pinkerton instead.

Puccini’s Affect: Cuomo had been listening to a lot of the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, getting particularly into his opera Madame Butterfly in 1995. On Pinkerton, he explored those same Far East themes and even named the album after his favorite character. “He’s this American sailor that tours around the world and stops in a port in some exotic foreign country,” he later said to Rolling Stone. “And tries to find a temporary girlfriend and then gets back on his ship and heads to the next town, and it just occurred to me, like, ‘Wow, isn’t that the rock star dream right there?’”

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