How Pinkerton Defined Weezer

Second albums are hard. For every Nevermind or Led Zeppelin II, there’s dozens of follow-ups that did not have the same level of success of their debut. The term is “Sophomore Slump”. There are many reasons why a second album becomes an issue, and a shit-hot debut is top of that list. Public expectations that weren’t present on your first attempt become deafening. You have to get over the hurdle of creating something that people will love just as much as your earlier stuff, while conversely making it fresh and exciting enough that it doesn’t seem like a rehash. It’s a tricky balance, as many bands have found out. But today I will be talking about Weezer’s awkward, jarring and yet simply genius second album. This is How Pinkerton defined Weezer.

First a bit of preamble. In 1994 Weezer released their self-titled debut, known as the Blue Album. Alongside some day-glo punks from Berkeley called Green Day, Weezer became the biggest breakout rock act of that year. They had a triple-platinum hit on their hands with modern rock radio hits in the form of “The Sweater Song”, “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy-Fuckin-Holly”. The video for the latter was its own phenomenon both on MTV and elsewhere. A cutting edge quirky novelty directed by future Her director Spike Jonze, where the band were transported into an episode of TV’s “Happy Days”. It was so big that it was packaged with the Windows 95 installation disk. They were a pretty big deal. But how do you follow that up? With Pinkerton of course.

 “I don’t know if this is disillusioning at all, but I think some of the pain you hear in my voice [on ‘Pinkerton’] is actually physical…At that time I was going through this procedure on my leg where I had all these pins and spikes and wires going through my muscle and bone, and for a year and a half, and this is constant pain. And right in the middle of that, I went and recorded the vocals for the album.“

– Rivers Cuomo