You can never go home again; at least if you’re part of the seminal emo band The Get Up Kids. The reunited GUK’s newest release in three years, the reunited Kids try old things in new ways, bringing their signature bratty-post hardcore sound into the one-zeros…or maybe the 1980s.
It’s hard to tell; the Kids attempt to blend scratchy vocal, crunchy guitar and pre-adult angst with synth drum-lines and eighties dance-pop aspirations, what decade they were shooting for. Sure, it’s a solid effort, but most of the album sound like forgotten Duke outtakes.
An aside: If you were out of the blast-radius of Four Minute Mile, you know the Get Up Kids as one of the banner bands of mainstream Emo, standing beside groups like Saves the Day and Dashboard Confessional in the early 2000, and basically popularizing the sound that would be found in Hot Topic outlets across America. They were like the Midwestern version of the Smiths, their songs being almost a perfunctory part of any Texas A&M sophomores Napster playlist. No one captured the blithering melancholy, choking bile-fuel rage, and tangential sweetness of college life. Is there any wonder why I was (and still am) a fan?
(Alright, time to rope this wandering steer of a review before I start getting nostalgic about the start on the 2000. Is there anything more pretentious?)
Much like the Smiths, the band has gathered an ardent (if occasionally smug) following and has settled into more of a ballad-y mature fare with the melodic On the Wire and the tense Guilt Show, which is kind of surprise the direction this album has gone. These Are Rules heralds the return to the sound that made the Kids. But why does it sound so…forgettable? The Kids try to display their youthful, punkier side on this album, trying their best to call back the fast-and-loud style that appeared in Something to Write Home About and Woodson. While those albums were an honest extension of youth and young manhood, this album seems more like a scattered retread of halcyon days. It’s your older brother rocking his aviator jacket. Not as embarrassing as your Dad’s polyester button up with a popped collar, but still pretty disquieting. This album is comfortable but worn, like a dusty pair of shoes that you can’t throw out.
Bouncing around thorough the typical GUK staples of relationships, arguments, and snark, the Kids find nothing solid to hold onto. Synth warble abounds. Guitars wail with no real efforts. Fast song-slow song dynamic of prior work is eschewed for an “All Killer No Filler” attitude, but it’s for naught. Kids try to find inspirational in the retro, tapping vein of New Waves and 80s pop. More than once vocalist Matt Pryor tries his hand at pitch correction, leaving milquetoast slurry of sounds that would work better coming out of a speak and spell. It’s like if Peter Gabriel had a throat cold and decided to say “Screw it. Just press record.”
There a bright moments. Shatter Your Lungs is infectious. memorable comes together well, sounding more like classic GUK than anything else on the album. Automatic howl with echo-filter, doesn’t gel, but is palatable enough to be considered a success. Ultimately, however, this album is nothing special. A couple of mediocre songs from a band that have always been (and this is from a loyal fan here) pretty hit and miss but always interesting. Nothing that lines up with On the Wire or even the non-Kids stuff like The New Amsterdams or Reggie and the Full Effect, but nothing a die-hard would want to miss out on.
Now who wants to talk about 2002?
Written by Benel