Following the release of their 2011 LP ‘There Are Rules’, pop punk band The Get Up Kids found that real life got in the way of art. Instead of continuing the never-ending cycle of recording and touring, band members took time out to raise families. Seven years is a long time in music – in any scene – but especially so when it comes to punk. One day you’re singing about skateboards and girls, then you’re in an adult world and somehow – unless you’re Joe Queer – those things that occupied teen and twenty something minds just don’t seem appropriate any more. Hell, on their self-titled album and ‘Neighbourhoods’ even blink-182 attempted to look at the world through maturer eyeballs. Some people didn’t like it…but at least they showed they could move on.
So, what of The Get Up Kids? They were arguably never as well known as blink-182 or some of their peers…and they’re not exactly kids any more. What do they have to offer the world in 2018? Their comeback EP straddles alt-rock, emo and pop-punk bringing guitar driven hooks that carry the weight of some reasonably enjoyable material. The vocals are an acquired taste – sometimes buried a little too much in studio filtering; sometimes seeming just too low in the overall mix – but there are a couple of decent hooks along the way. It would be fair to say that fans will be pleased the hiatus is over whatever the musical outcome, while the more casual observers will remain…well, casual to indifferent.
‘Maybe’ starts things with a huge intent as a beefy drum collides with a riff that echoes a very retro sound, somewhere between jukebox friendly power pop and light punk, before everything explodes with a joyous sound of rumbling basses and fractured vocals. The voice is at once scratchy and subjected to studio shine – not always the easiest to take in long bursts, but fans will be used to that – while a heavily distorted guitar throws out angular shapes in an almost wall of sound fashion. There’s a fine line between arty and ugly and at least half of the time the chosen style hear does little but mask what should be a great melody in the Weezer/Fountains of Wayne tradition, before a mid section pushes forth a stabbed keyboard and even more retro qualities. With a fantastic hook included, this should indeed be a fantastic alt-rock/punk track all round, but a few stylistic choices render it a bit of a mess… That said, it’s still one of the more interesting tracks this time out.
With a solid and buoyant drum part to lead the way, ‘Better This Way’ presents some emo-ish pop punk with another great hook, only this time a simpler approach makes everything more accessible albeit less interesting. There’s some decent bass work in a busy yet not flashy style, while various vocal melodies echo early eighties new wave and post punk acts. In fact, here, The Get Up Kids veer much closer to the red trouser wearing, skinny tie sporting brigade of 1982 than with the pop punk practitioners they’ve often toured. Again, the production isn’t the most sympathetic, but its obvious there’s a good song in here somewhere, before ‘I’m Sorry’ gives fans more of what they’ll be expecting with a slice of good old, no nonsense pop punk, driven by the kind of chorus you’d typically find on an early MxPx or Fenix TX LP. With no desire to be clever or somehow put their own stamp on a very 90s sound, the summery vibes and a harking back to the bands formative years truly win out, despite a fuzzy mix doing its best to smother everything. Last up, ‘My Own Reflection’ comes across quite strongly thanks to a full compliment of twin guitars, a slightly jarring new wave-ish keyboard and a punchy feel that injects a melodic punk edge into something that might otherwise sound like something by The Killers. The contrast between rough guitars and keys is the tune’s ultimate strength, especially considering a ragged vocal seems partially misjudged and eventually buries anything decent in its own wall of noise. While there are glimmers of something interesting, this almost represents almost everything that’s wrong with this release: something that should have been strong in its simplicity and offered a great chorus comes up a little short before eventually sounding like it’s trying to sabotage itself.
This is a frustrating release. There are lots of times when its possible to hear that The Get Up Kids are good musicians, but others where their desire to overplay things works to the material’s eventual detriment. There are times when the songs come through, but they never come through as strongly as they should – honestly, who signed off the final mix of this EP? It’s ugly at best. Between the pop punk of ‘I’m Sorry’ and the power pop menagerie of ‘Maybe’, ‘Kicker’ is worth hearing, but is unlikely to ever become a favourite listen or a cult classic.