The Get Up Kids - Kicker (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Get Up Kids

Kicker (2018)


 Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Emodom, there were five princes of emo: Matt, Jim, Rob, Ryan, and James, and together they were known as The Get Up Kids. The Get Up Kids were beloved by everyone in the land of Emodom for their specific brand of melodic emo that bridged the gap between two different generations of the genre. They put out four albums that were all excellent (okay, the first two were significantly better than the latter two, but they were still all very good albums) and their music was known far and wide. One day, the princes chose to retire from music, and the people of Emodom mourned the loss of their princes, but rejoiced in the fact that The Get Up Kids had retired with a catalogue of excellent music to their name. And everyone lived happily ever after.

And perhaps it could have been a fairy tale if it had actually ended there, but unfortunately, it didn’t. In reality, after concluding their farewell tour in 2005 and calling it quits, the band reunited in 2008. In 2010 they put out a good but not great EP called Simple Science, which showed a more experimental sound. One track from Simple Science would carry over to their next full length album, the extremely controversial There Are Rules. It would be inaccurate to say that There Are Rules is a terrible album. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot if it had been put out by another band besides The Get Up Kids. Normally I’m all for bands expanding their sounds, and I normally like this sort of quirky experimental style, but when I put on a Get Up Kids album and expect to hear Get Up Kids music—considering the deep emotional connection that The Get Up Kids have to my youth, and the youth of so many of their fans—hearing something like There Are Rules, which is light years from The Get Up Kids’ traditional sound, is a monumental disappointment. It’s been frustrating for The Get Up Kids fans because, in the ten years that the band has been reunited, they haven’t put out anything with that traditional Get Up Kids style. That is, until Kicker came along.

Kicker might have been more aptly titled There Are No Rules, because this EP mercifully jettisons the style of There Are Rules to return to the style of the first four Get Up Kids albums (albeit with a few new twists) for the first time since 2004’s Guilt Show. The EP features four tracks that feature the group’s trademark melodic pop emo style, but whereas their last few albums before their 2005 breakup seemed to be trying to smooth off the rough edges on their sound, Kicker puts some of those rough edges back into the music. The guitars are the most distorted and punk sounding they’ve been on a Get Up Kids album since Four Minute Mile. The whole EP has somewhat of a messy style to it which, far from taking away from the quality of the album, gives it a bit of a DIY aesthetic. When the drums are off by a beat somewhere, or a guitar plays a wrong note, or one of the singers’ voices hit a sour note, rather than stopping to rerecord, the band seems to have chosen to keep these small mistakes in. It gives the album the feel of a car with bad breaks: The Get Up Kids are mostly in control, but there’s a feeling like they could lose control of the vehicle at any time. They do lose control a little bit on the last track, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

“Maybe,” the EP’s lead single and opening track, is a true pop gem. The raw and powerful emotional content of Matt Pryor’s voice is a welcome reminder of why he’s one of the best vocalists in emo. James Dewees’s keyboards, at times, become part of the rhythm section, making the beat even more infectious than it already is. Jim Suptic’s track “I’m Sorry” scared me a little bit at the beginning because its quirky keyboard riff at the top of the song is reminiscent of There Are Rules, but the song changes gears in a few seconds to turn into another brilliant pop tune with a killer hook. The only song that doesn’t fully work is the closing track, “My Reflection,” which isn’t a terrible song, it just sounds more like an early demo of a track that they were still planning to put some more work into before putting it on an album. I also don’t love the way the song is mixed, especially at the end when the keyboards suddenly come in to drown out Pryor’s vocals, which they hadn’t been doing before. Bringing the keyboards to the forefront might have been less awkward if they weren’t playing such an unpleasant, high pitched tune.

Despite the shortcomings of the last track, Kicker is a triumphant return to form for The Get Up Kids. This is the first release of their recent, highly publicized signing to Polyvinyl records, and there’s no way that a label like Polyvinyl signed them just to put out one EP. No, if The Get Up Kids put out an EP, then it usually means that they’re trying out some things for an LP, and a full length is soon to come. Considering the quality of Kicker, I can’t wait to see what their next full length sounds like!