In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking some of our favorite songs from 1996.
Longtime Weezer fans probably remember 1996 as the year of the great schism. The band repulsed devotees and critics by following up the clever, cuddly pop of its debut—the self-titled Weezer that usually goes by The Blue Album—with the cringe-inducing imagery of Pinkerton. The music hadn’t really changed—there was still plenty of crunchy guitars and distortion, falsettos, and rousing choruses. And the guys looked the same, as ungainly and unassuming as ever. But frontman Rivers Cuomo had paired off-putting lyrics about Japanese girls and the copious amounts of rock-star sex he was having (the latter of which he admitted had grown tedious) with the band’s hallmarks, and that combination was not to be borne in 1996.
And look, I get it—the themes are disconcerting, to say the least, and I’m still not entirely certain how I feel about the album 20 years later. But at the time, the purported dissonance as well as creepiness was lost on my teenage ears. In 1996, Pinkerton felt like a natural progression to the Blue Album. The lovelornness was there in ’94, as were some of the less appealing emotional states. When I first heard “No One Else,” it reminded me of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” dripping with jealousy as it was. And it couldn’t have been lost on anyone else that the song had a Pinkerton counterpart and counterpoint in “No Other One,” right?
Of course, these musings are all old hat to anyone who didn’t reject Pinkerton on arrival, and/or echoed these sentiments on Weezer message boards. But even those fans who were clamoring for a Spike Jonze-directed video for one of the new singles should have felt that “El Scorcho” was a bridge for whatever quality gap had been carved out. The song’s considered classic Weezer now, but it was very much in keeping with the band’s ethos even 20 years ago.
Setting aside that awful opening line, “El Scorcho” is your standard Weezer fare. It’s the seventh track on the album, but it’s probably the best entry point. Soon-to-be-Rental Matt Sharp plucks the bass line as Cuomo riffs on his guitar as well as his hopes and fears about his latest love interest. His ill-gotten information about her interests (he read her journal!) doesn’t do much other than heighten his own. When he realizes that all this reconnaissance is just silly, that he should just tell her he likes her, it dawns on him that she could be feeling the same way at that exact moment. That serendipitous coda closes that chapter in Cuomo’s romantic history, but it also sums up Pinkerton’s appeal.