January 24, 2011

Album Reviews: The Get Up Kids' There Are Rules

One thing you have to give The Get Up Kids credit for over the past decade is the way they've managed to proudly flip the bird to an entire faction of fans who grew up on a steady diet of their music. Since their premature reunion in 2008, they've been honest and blunt on their intent to disassociate themselves with a music scene they helped mold. After their experience at the 2008 Bamboozle Festival, guitarist James Suptic apologized for helping create that particular scene, citing poor music and glamorized fashion as things they never intended on happening. Then again, are they really to blame? The Get Up Kids haven't sounded like the power chord pop punk band many fell in love with on Four Minute Mile or Something to Write Home About since 2002. There's two albums since then that some fans would rather forget which steered the Get Up Kids into more mature, indie rock-friendly territory. With the arrival of the band's first album in 7 years, it's evident that the only era fans need to forget about is everything before On a Wire changed their impression of the Kansas City quintet forever. There Are Rules is self-produced, self-released and if the title is indicative of anything, it's that the only rules The Get Up Kids are playing by these days are their own.

A progress report leading up to the completion of this album called it the "most futuristic" and "weirdest" of their career, and at first, you may think this to be misleading. Opening tracks, "Tithe" and "Regent's Court" are as aggressive and spunky as any of The Get Up Kids early songs, demonstrating the band's comfort in arranging melody around Matt Pryor as their driving vocalist and songwriter. In the background you however hear the subtle electro-synths peaking through which will soon engulf the remainder of There Are Rules. The style shifts as soon as "Automatic" rolls in, which AwkwardSound previously said was a wake-up call to anyone holding out for vintage TGUK. More instances than not, The Get Up Kids have no shame flaunting this pronounced electronic-experimental side in your ears as Pryor and Suptic trade vocals that dissipate into a sea of synths and staticy distortion ("Better Lie," "Keith Case," "Birmingham.")

The change is admirable, but not always put to use wisely. Album centerpiece, "Rally Round the Fool," finds itself navigating through an eerie, space atmosphere that at times feels like The Get Up Kids are losing control of the music. This misstep results in the few dead spots on There Are Rules where experimental audacity gets the better of the band and as a listener, your attention begins to wander ("The Widow Paris," "When It Dies".) In the end, understanding There Are Rules probably has more to do with band's decision to reform after a short break-up for the fun of it and not so much to reclaim old glory. This album only shares few overlaps with The Get Up Kids previous material and certainly isn't trying to bring back old fans clinging onto nostalgia despite the writing being on the wall for years. If anything, There Are Rules is an open invitation to anyone who is more interested in a fresh start.

The Get Up Kids' There Are Rules will be released January 25, 2011 on Quality Hill Records.

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