Where were The Get Up Kids at the start of the millennium? As a listener coming at their latest record, I heard a mash-up of sounds one wouldn’t immediately associate with the band – electro, funk and post-punk are some that spring to mind. Graphically speaking, the cover is sophisticated. The image on the front of the LP is of a woman holding a mirror to her face, where the mirror reflects the ocean to the viewer: a Lacanian articulation of femininity and its evolving self-reflexivity through the play of the gaze. The viewer gazes at the woman, who in return gazes into open space and vast water.
The Get Up Kids came onto the scene in the ’90s wake of Pavement, Weezer and Green Day. After splitting up in 2005, the band reassembled and began touring extensively throughout most of 2008 and 2009, developing an underground community with other bands such as Rocket Fuel is the Key, Coalesce and Braid. Their latest record, There Are Rules, is a departure from Vagrant Records – the album was released on their own label at Quality Hill Records. Mixed by Bob Weston and produced by Ed Rose, the sound retains the band’s early nineties garage aesthetic while adding the liberties of technological editing. When the Get Up Kids graced the ’90s, critics initially referred to them as an “emo band” however, the kids have fought with such branding since their inception. While they were influential to the Midwest emo movement of the early ’90s, they play with genre more than they identify with it.
The title track off There Are Rules, “Tithe,” features scalar electric riffs as sixteenth notes ‘disintegrate one by one’ into the sound image. The speaker addresses a regal queen figure, unresponsive to his ‘broken hands,’ who sports a golden throne. The call-and-response vocal structure pulled me back into those high school Blink 182 moments that were ashamedly formative to my teenage self.
It looks as though kids are maturing into adulthood. Their sound is sophisticated, especially with their use of chromatic scales. On the whole, the album vibrates with youthful energy and math rock. “Shatter Your Lungs” is the turning track on the album where all of a sudden, as a listener, you’re drawn in. Dirty synths, irregular beats and time signatures, and new wave punches come to life in this space-age song that is just plain cool; it could have been released in the ’70s or ’80s and still would have been equally catchy.
“Automatic” begins with another spacey interlude that crescendos into a full dance-hall bass, while the vocals quickly turn into Brandon Flowers-esque pop on the line ‘Tell me what you want to believe.’ Once the synths arrive, they pretty much station themselves by the pool and lay out their towels. It also looks as though Rob Pope’s Spoon influence carried its way on to this record, especially in the bass line on the closing track, “Rememberable.”
There Are Rules speaks the voice of a band aware of the nature of the industry. “Pararelevent” is an angst-ridden, intellectual criticism of ‘amateurs’ who pale in comparison to those with ‘years of experience.’ “Rally Round the Fool” hosts some of the grungier sounds on the record – high-pitched, screechy keypads, with some detectable influence of Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism. At moments, the new album also calls to mind Kaputt, the latest from Destroyer. “Birmingham” has an industrial feel to it that evokes traces of Never Mind the Bollocks. The influences are wide, and the kids are alright.
Score: 7.1 / 10
For more on The Get Up Kids: www.myspace.com/thegetupkids