I’m just going to warn you now: I’m going to be talking about The Get Up Kids for the next thousand words or so. Please refrain from making any snarky comments until you’ve finished reading the entire post.
The Get Up Kids are/were an influential post-hardcore/ pop-punk/ emo/ indie band from Kansas City, Missouri. I say that they were influential not just because of their assumed musical influence on a future generation of bands, but also for their influence on their fans.
The four-or-five-piece band grew organically out of the post-punk/emo scene of the early 90’s. Their debut record, 1997’s Four Minute Mile, made them an underground sensation and caught the attention of some bigger labels. Their mixture of post-hardcore music with their impeccable pop-punk precision and youthful angst created a sound that was fresh, intelligent and instantly likable.
Following Four Minute Mile, the band warded off multiple major label suitors before settling with blossoming indie label Vagrant. The move to Vagrant was a wise one because, along with later signings like Alkaline Trio, Saves The Day and, dare I say, Dashboard Confessional, TGUK helped Vagrant define late-90’s/early-2000’s ‘emo’ and pop-punk.
With the Vagrant roster gaining more and more notoriety, TGUK became their flag ship. The first record for the label was the more mature but no less well received Something To Write Home About in 1999.
To say that the band blew up following the release of Something To Write Home About would be an understatement. They were an undeniable force in both underground and popular music, scoring spots on several high-profile tours. With their success coinciding with the rise of digital music, their music was able to reach a much wider audience. But as the audience grew and the money rolled in, the pressure mounted for the band to follow up Something To Write Home About with something impressive.
After relentless touring, the band settled down and wrote their third record, On A Wire. Upon it’s release in 2002, most of the band’s fans cried foul in response to its much softer, more thoughtful approach. There wasn’t a trace of hardcore or punk on the record, but the songwriting was just as solid as before. Ironically, if the album had been released five years later, it probably would have been well-received as an indie-folk rock record. Regardless, the fickle fans of underground music had abandoned TGUK. They were no longer viewed as leaders of a movement. The ‘emo’ flag was handed on to newer (and arguably lesser) bands. The burgeoning world of internet message boards seethed with new found scorn for TGUK.
Shortly after the release of their fourth album, Guilt Show, in 2004, the band called it quits. The members dispersed and worked on various side-projects and joined new bands including Reggie And The Full Effect, Spoon and The New Amsterdams.
With the band over, the world of music moved on with out them. The word ‘emo’ became even more distorted and confusing (I think Brokencyde are considered emo now).
This past week, the recently re-united TGUK (with all original members) released their first new album since 2004. There Are Rules (which you can stream HERE) is miles away from ‘emo’ or any other monikers that the band abandoned (or that abandoned them). The opening song, “Tithe”, is as energetic as anything off of Something To Write Home About, but the sound is a great leap forward for the band. Frontman Matt Pryor’s voice is noticeably distorted on the track (and remains so throughout most of the record) but his is a voice so distinct that it is impossible to mistake for any other.
It seems that all the influences that went into crafting their earlier work are all in place (listen for Fugazi, Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, Drive Like Jehu, etc), but they are implored in a much more original way than before. There is, however, evidence of more varied influences this time around. The keyboard sounds, for instance, are used in a much more ‘new-wavey’ way.
Songs like “Shatter Your Lungs” or “Automatic” sound like the band spent its time apart listening to a shit-ton of The Cure and The Cars and maybe even some Soft Cell or New Order. A few songs, such as “Better Lie” and “Regent’s Court” sound like they wouldn’t be out of place on a Strokes’ record. The most nostalgic song on the record is the noisy closer, “Rememorable”, which mixes the new TGUK sound with that of the old. The driving final minute of the song, with its repeated chorus of “why don’t you go away?”, hints at the band’s louder, more angst-driven days.
While the band shows off their new sound with grace and maturity, it always feels like a TGUK record. Some bands change their sound so drastically that they would be better off changing their name (hello, AFI!). But despite all the progress that the band has made in the past seven years, There Are Rules can easily hold its own against Four Minute Mile. Their sound has finally caught up with their fans. Welcome back, Get Up Kids. We Missed you.
Okay, NOW you can make snarky comments.