Unfortunately, there is no substitute for early Weezer. Thanks to the songwriting chops and sheer kookiness of mastermind Rivers Cuomo—a Harvard-educated metal apologist with Rick Moranis style and Brian Wilson’s way with melody—no band has ever really copied their sound or general character. This is not for lack of effort. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, suburbs all across America shat out Weezer-influenced emo and pop-punk bands, and that meant lots and lots of harrowing songs about heartbreak set to heavy guitars and dressed up with radio-friendly melodies. Even at the time, you kind of hated yourself for liking it, and 10 or 15 years later, much of it sounds truly embarrassing. But there were some decent groups, and as we mark the 20th anniversary of Weezer’s self-titled debut, the super influential set known as the “Blue Album”, we’re celebrating seven emo bands you don’t have to hate yourself for digging. (If you’re still listening to this stuff, you presumably hate yourself for other reasons.)
Hot Rod Circuit
These Alabama-bred, Connecticut-based angst merchants didn’t have Weezer’s quirky flare, but on standouts “Two Hand Touch” and “Chinese Cuts”, they use touchstones of suburban adolescence—sandlot football and that old trick where you sneak your buddy into line behind you—as metaphors for their romantic misadventures. That’s a totally “Blue” move, and “Low”, the closing track on their 1999 debut, If I Knew Now What I Knew Then, is basically their “In the Garage”, though singer Andy Jackson is actually in communication with a member of the opposite sex. Even if the relationship fails, he’s one up on Rivers.
“She Don’t Even Know My Name”, from this Kansas trio’s 1999 sophomore effort, This Will Be Laughing Week, contains the line “she called me a four eyes and my glasses weren’t on,” and if that’s not some “Blue Album” business, check out how singer Bill McShane sums up the whole unrequited love thing: “And I will prove her wrong if it kills me, then so what/ At my funeral just play ‘Home sweet home’.” He’s a heartbroken nerd with a hair-metal jones, and had he and Rivers grown up together, they’d have swapped Kiss tapes and Kitty Pryde comics.
The Get Up Kids
Something to Write Home About, the third album from this beloved Kansas City emo foursome, opens with a song called “Holiday”, and while it’s way more histrionic than the “Blue Album” tune of the same name, it establishes singer Matt Pryor as a Cuomo-esque sensitive dude with a loud-ass guitar. Five years later, on 2004’s Guilt Show, the Kids kicked their Weezyness up a few notches, ditching their harder edges in favor of some straight-up power-pop.