The Get Up Kids are a band probably best known for bringing emo music to the nauseating forefront of mainstream rock in the early 2000s. Whatever your opinions are on the merits of emo or the bands that identify themselves as such, you can probably acknowledge that the Get Up Kids have for a long time been considered the spokesmen for the genre as a whole.
Odd then, is their understated return to the game after a seven-year hiatus. The Get Up Kids appear to have come back not to reestablish their supremacy over the legions of eyeglassed imitators and straight-haired clones that followed them, but rather to simply try out some new sounds.
This makes some sense with some context. Though broken up, the members of the Get Up Kids haven’t spent their off time casually gloating about how cool Fall Out Boy thinks they are; quite the opposite actually. Lead singer Matt Pryor did what lead singers do, and embarked on a solo career; the Pope brothers spent time as rhythm section mercenaries, lending their touch to bands like Koufax and Spoon; guitarist Jim Suptic started bands, record labels, recording studios, and everything in between; and keyboardist James Dewees went to rehab a bunch of times and wrote some very puzzling yet sincere music under his solo moniker Reggie and The Full Effect.
Also, they disowned the entire modern emo movement, going on record as apologizing to the American public for any headache or inconvenience their influence on music may have caused. Unfortunately, that association isn’t entirely unavoidable: There Are Rules is still very clearly the Get Up Kids. For better or worse, they have a connection to emo that they’ll never be able to fully downplay, no matter how much shit they talk about Cobra Starship.
There is good news for the band though: There Are Rules is very good – much better than even they themselves probably could have anticipated. For possibly the first time in their recording history, the Get Up Kids have the benefit of nuance. Recorded entirely analog by longtime producer Ed Rose and mixed by Steve Albini’s Shellac buddy Bob Weston (Who also had the board on 1997’s Four Minute Mile), there’s an astounding depth to the entire affair.
On “Pararelevant”, for instance, the recording preserves an astoundingly three-dimensional drum ambiance and prevents Pryor’s nasally voice from overpowering the guitars and the much-more-present-than-usual keyboards. “Kieth Case”, a track carried over (for good reason) from their 2010 EP Simple Science, takes a driving mid-paced drum beat and lets it build with a bass/synthesizer rhythm combo and strings-of-heaven guitars straight off a Jupiter-era Cave in riff until launching into a classic Get Up Kids chorus.
The end result is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, this album is a collection of synthy power pop songs that genuinely defy the genre and fad associations that footnote the rest of the band’s library; on the other hand, the Get Up Kids seem discontent with their current place in modern music and want to start over, but I don’t know if There Are Rules is the kind of album that will convert the unfamiliar or unconvinced. Regardless, it is certainly a step in the right direction.