For punk kids coming of age in the late '90s, it was impossible to ignore the wave of emo led by Jimmy Eat World, the Get Up Kids and the Promise Ring. These Florida boys are too young to have experienced those bands at their peaks (unless they were the coolest kindergarteners of all time), but their influence shines through brighter than a thousand suns on Grow Up, Dude. In fact, on their Facebook page, they list their genre as “1999.” The overdramatic cracking vocals, the clean (or just-barely-overdriven) guitars strummed aggressively in crunchy chords and arpeggios, the drums playing intricate patterns and pushing everything forward; it all speaks to me as an former emo kid. But it also sounds just like Cap’n Jazz.
Sure it’s not all the Cap’n, but it folds nicely into the arms of that family tree. Some Promise Ring (30 Degrees Everywhere) slightly-off-key vocals, Owen-style melodrama (“It’s not me, it’s you,” Tanner Jones croons in “The One with David”), some more chill American Football numbers; basically these guys worship the Kinsella brothers with a dash of von Bohlen.
That said, I love that shit. Love it. I’m all about the '90s revival stuff, from Surfer Blood’s Weezer power-pop love to Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Modest Mouse/Built to Spill homages, to Wavves’ Dookie-style-pop punk with a shitty mic and a reverb plug-in. I’ve been missing this clean-guitar emo style, and You Blew It! nail it. After putting out EPs in 2009 and 2010, Grow Up, Dude is the quartet’s first full-length release. The members are road-tested and tighter than ever, a quality essential to this kind of playing, where every instrument is exposed.
“Terry Vs. Tori” is a strong cut, starting with a gritty a cappella melody before the sharp guitar rhythms strike. “Medal Of Honor,” mid-tempo with nice ride bell work by drummer Tim Flynn, has some of the most emo sentiments on the record: "I’m not a fucking trophy / But to you I might as well have been / We’re outside of an awkward Christmas party / Two separate shades of parting." For an album called Grow Up, Dude, that’s a bit melodramatic, don’t ‘cha think? But with some 7/4 in the turnaround they win me back.
The record mellows out in the middle, with the instrumental interlude (complete with nifty panning effects) “I Am, I’m Trying” and then immediately after, “The Fifties.” This drumless song is the most Owen of the set, especially with a relaxed melody and lyrics like "I just think that it's about time that I stopped falling for every beautiful set of brown eyes / Just like your brown eyes."
The album picks up near its end with “I’m Bill Paxton.” This tune has the coolest emo-riffage of the set, with a killer intro line and plenty of slidey guitar shit and drum breakdowns; it’s one of the more intense, Braid-esque tracks here. The song “Noble Black Eye” showcases a technical drum part while the guitars twinkle overhead. Throw in some odd meters and a key change to push it over the top and you’ve got one of my favorites off the album.
The production on Grow Up is a step up from their EPs, but just a bit. It’s still raw, and perhaps that’s what they were goin’ for. But with a style of music characterized by pointed rhythms and clean-channel arpeggios, I think the neater the production, the better. That said, it doesn’t affect the songs negatively by any means. It sounds like 1999 in Chicago!
While owing great debts to their forefathers and not showing a ton of growth from their EPs, You Blew It! still manage to impress by doing their thang so well. Grow Up, Dude is a very enjoyable album, especially for the older set looking for 90’s nostalgia acts.
*This review is dedicated to the great supplicant (and the dude who introduced me to this band), Floridian Bryne Yancey.*