Album Review: The Get Up Kids – There Are Rules

Legend has it that the Get Up Kids broke up in 2005. Fans savored The Guilt Show as the band’s final album, the last taste of all things Get Up. Then came 2009’s reunion tour for the 10-year anniversary of Something to Write Home About, and anyone who saw one of those shows can attest to the joy on the faces of both the band and the fans. It seemed inevitable, then, that at some point we would be graced with some new material. The Get Up Kids have delivered, and 2011’s early release There Are Rules is evidence that the Kids are still all right.

This album could have been the last gasp of a has-been band, but There Are Rules stands on its own two legs from the first. Beginning with a woman’s distorted voice speaking unintelligibly over a synth line, first track “Tithe” catches your attention immediately. It’s still got lead singer Matt Pryor’s distinctive voice, but nearly everything else is different: The tempo is quite fast, the vocal line rises and falls in unexpected places, there are off-key twangs every now and again in the background to remind us that this musical world is unstable; the walls could all come down, Inception-style. But maybe the biggest change is that Pryor’s vocals don’t sound so desperate. There’s no “Anne Arbour” on this album, no “Don’t Hate Me”. And why should there be? These Kids are a full-fledged adult band now, inspiring other acts who’ve already gone on to inspire new bands. They’ve written those raw, youthful emotions before; now they’re expressing themselves with an appropriate maturity.

By track three, we understand we’re going somewhere different, but the off-beat melody and vocal line of “Shatter Your Lungs” is still ear-catching. This leads neatly into the frantic, insistent keyboards of “Automatic”. Both songs share a very modern attention to beat and slightly one-off vocals, creating a tension between the two lines that makes the songs endlessly repeatable. This is like nothing the Get Up Kids have done before, and it’s great.

Some songs do retain qualities of their older sound. “Pararelevant” shares some synth distortion with the previous tracks, but contains the most traditional Get Up Kids-sounding guitar and vocals of the album, with Pryor shouting above the melody. Again, though, there’s a control here that’s not present in some of their previous work. Back in the day, that was what made the band so great, but there’s something disingenuous about a grown-up who cannot stop crying out in adolescent pain. By writing in a more measured, controlled way, the Get Up Kids avoid that effect nicely, creating some of their most textured work to date.

The only bad news is that around the halfway point, There Are Rules starts to run together. The innovations of the earlier tracks get lost as the album carries on. It’s not that it’s not worth listening to; it’s just that even after a few listens, it’s easy to stop paying attention by the second half. The Get Up Kids tend to sparkle on tour, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with this material live. In the mean time, There Are Rules represents experimentation and growth from a talented, maturing band, and it’s a worthy addition to the music collection of any ardent emo fan.


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