Reunited after a six-year long heated break up, The Get Up Kids are back to the old playground. Did anyone else wax nostalgic upon hearing this, especially remembering Matt Pryor’s naturally nostalgic voice? They are one of those “second wave” emo bands of the 90s that countless teenagers listened to with runny noses after their first break up and then screamed to with angry contempt. Though they always had a sort of self-imposed distance from the genre label, they are contemporaries of Midtown, Taking Back Sunday and The Early November. Judging by the title of their fifth studio album, There are Rules, released January 2011, a listener familiar with Four Minute Mile or Something to Write Home About may wonder if these Kids-now-turned-adults will have changed their style.
Somehow, the Get Up Kids were able to retain their decades-honed sound while playing with techniques from the new era. The title of the album when paired with the album art is an emo rock tribute to the surrealist painter Rene Magritte, whose famous painting of a tobacco pipe reads, “This is not a pipe.” The album cover features a woman’s upper body with a Magritte-style cutout of natural scenery where her face should be and an abstract background. So they’re back, they’re turning things inside out.
These Kids are not out of the loop, incorporating many odd sounds and electric twangs to their instruments, while retaining the whiny, nasally vocals and sensitively wrathful rocking out that fans are used to. The first track opens with a little of both, filling the ears first with mumbly, distorted voices and long, drawn out electronic wails, moving into comfortable drums and a light guitar riff. While the layered, slightly offended vocals and melodic screaming of the emo sound is something familiar, the constant scratchiness of the background and screeching ghostlike effects are new territory for these Kids. As one band member said in a Fuse interview with Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, they “weren’t afraid to get weird with it.”
Number eight, “Keith Case,” is noteworthy for sounding somewhat like a battle with a raincloud, with foggy then clear vocals, squishy drums and eerie piano bits with bursts of supporting guitar. The middle of the album features prominent electro-drums and experimental electronic instrumentation. A ghostly background fuzz pairs with lines like “It’s all over” in the sixth song, “Rally ‘Round the Fool,” to present a wide, vacuous sort of sound, filling space with wisps of nostalgia. Lines like “I got the years’ experience, you got nothing” from “Pararelevant” is an example of their young and cheeky, slightly insolent attitude. The most mature song of the set is the third track, “Shatter Your Lungs,” which features a solid, dreamlike rhythm and surprisingly smooth, cultivated vocals amidst twangy drums and mostly funky beats, an upbeat dose of “good medicine” you can’t help but smile to.
This album could be a nostalgic Never Never Land-like testament to the value of remembering what it felt like to be an angsty teenager. “When It Dies” is a sad evocation of the powerful and tumultuous emotions that once may have shattered a teenage cocoon, and the acceptance that those passionate mood swings have mostly sloughed off into the abyss of adulthood. They croon their advice, “better days bet on these: the company that you keep.” The last two songs conjure up soul-crunching emotionally charged energy that may have been buried in the middling experimental songs. The album ends with a flashback to the angrily nostalgic sound, chaotic electric guitars and raging vocals slightly muffled, that made them popular and that squeezed their way into lost and forlorn teenage hearts of the 90s and early 2000s. Listen to this album to remind yourself what it feels like to harbor the ache of being the only misunderstood teenager in the world. Your own teenagers will thank you someday, most likely in a melancholy and unresponsive way.
Best Song: Shatter Your Lungs