The Get Up Kids | There Are Rules (Quality Hill Records)

“Tithe” could have been great if it didn’t sound like Pryor was singing through the back of a fan.
 

 

To promote the 10th anniversary edition of their breakout sophomore album Something to Write Home About, The Get Up Kids decided to briefly reunite (having called it quits in 2005) and play a handful of shows. These live performances ended up gluing the band back together, and they recorded There Are Rules, their first studio album since 2004’s Guilt Show.

The Get Up Kids we have come to know and love play smart, ever-maturing power pop consisting of full-throttle drumming and driving guitars, fleshed out by James Dewees’s light and gorgeous keyboards while Matt Pryor sings with scratchy triumph and a yearning charm. None of this can be found here. Wait, some of it can; it’s just been buried beneath mounds of pointless electronic dabbling and strange, industrial keyboards. Even Pryor’s instantly recognizable voice is fuzzed out beneath the production. “Tithe” could have been great if it didn’t sound like Pryor was singing through the back of a fan. “Rally ‘Round the Fool” never develops—it sounds like a song Trent Reznor crumpled up and threw in the wastebasket.

I didn’t think Pryor and crew were going to be writing more love letters to ex-girlfriends, but I thought they’d take a clearer direction. As it is, I’m left wondering what exactly it is they’re trying to do. It’s a great thing, though, that the band reunited and aren’t just rehashing safe material that worked years ago. The odd keyboards and Ed Rose’s production do strap an unnecessary anchor to the ankle of the album, but it works to an advantage on some winning tracks, such as “Automatic,” and “When it Dies,” where it doesn’t sound like the effects were just dumped on top of a good pop song (see: “Shatter Your Lungs,” “Rememorable”).

“Regent’s Court” is a fierce and straightforward rocker that is up to par with some of The Get Up Kids’ best work. The fast-paced pounding of the drums leads the song down a ruthlessly fun and dirty alley of mayhem, all the way to an abrupt ending. “Birmingham” could have been equally as rowdy if it weren’t for the strange sounds reminiscent of a helicopter spinning out of control (while carrying freaked-out passengers having a garbage can fight?) that appear halfway through the song.

On “Keith Case,” Pryor aggressively spits, “Turn away, turn away, from everything we once were.” This is precisely what they have done; at least they can’t be accused of dishonesty. As a matter of fact, the entire album is much more aggressive than anything the band has released before. If you thought On a Wire was too mellow (in which you’d be wrong, it’s fantastic), then this heavier and messier bunch of songs could be your bag.

There Are Rules brings to mind Brand New’s Daisy; the fuzzy guitars and the screeching vocals weren’t expected, but after a while the album grows on you. Eventually it’s hard to deny that another worthy addition to the band’s repertoire has been created, even if it is flawed. The Get Up Kids have taken a stylistic leap in a new direction, and while it doesn’t all work, it most certainly should be applauded for the parts that do. C+ | Alex Schreiber
       

RIYL: Brand New, Reggie and the Full Effect, The New Amsterdams
   

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