Tag Archives: Get Up Kids

The Get Up Kids – Guilt Show

The Get Up KidsGuilt Show (Vagrant)

We’re going back. Way back…to the year…2002.

Do you remember where you were when The Get Up Kids released On a Wire? Neither do I. I did buy it sometime soon after, however, and enjoyed it; surprised at the signs of maturity that (occasionally) cut through the band’s noted triviality. The Kids actually devoted time to textures and arrangements and attempted, at least, a different side of a band always seen as expendable.

Guilt Show, unfortunately, isn’t about remorse over the band’s pre-Wire material. What’s worse, they erase any progress made with their last album and pander once again to mall-punks everywhere. The Get Up Kids offered acceptance with On a Wire that the short-lived explosion of mall-emo was over and the band were ready to move on with the rest of the music world. Two years later, however, isn’t enough time to dig Saves the Day and the rest of the gang up for a retrospective; and what’s more, who fucking cares that The Get Up Kids “infuse their brand of punk with new-wave progressions and a greater emphasis on the keyboard.” This shit doesn’t work.

Particularly offending are “Is There a Way Out” and “Conversation,” the album’s last two tracks. It’s bad enough that the first 11 tracks are of the hardly-passable pop-punk variety. That the last two are “epic” in nature (and trust me, “epic” is used loosely) is laughable.

The Bush administration may be out of work come November. What’s getting lost in the shuffle is that while Bush blew hot air over the literacy rate and insufficient schooling, Dubya failed to rid the 2004 landscape of such an obvious threat to the intelligence of our nation’s children. Avoid Guilt Show like the plague.



Rock’s latest youth movement finds a friend in Emo

Johnny Loftus

Where do all the Britney fans go when the lip gloss wears off? What happens to young consumers – already used to buying CDs and downloading MP3s from the days of their pre-teen popstar love affairs – when they get old enough to realize Pop isn’t cool, but aren’t knowledgeable enough to do anything about it other than changing the channel to M2?

Superchunk is old enough to appreciate the irony of their support slot on the current Get Up Kids club tour. It has to be a little weird, considering Superchunk released its first 7″ when most of GUK were still in short pants. But how do they take it when most of the audience still is? Last Friday evening, Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance looked out across a house packed with peach fuzz and training bras. “No fancy entrances,” she said with a weary, sarcastic sigh. “We’re going to pick up our instruments and play a few songs for you now.” As Superchunk commenced with the rock, there was a palpable sense of confusion from the throng of teenagers, each one dressed in meticulously arranged Abercrombie wear with various nouveau punk rock accoutrements. “Who is this group of old people on stage?” they seemed to be asking. “Why does the rhythm guitar player look like my old T-ball coach?” Despite the solid rock foundation of Superchunk’s anthemic riffs, they received only a smattering of applause after each song. Polite patronizing, as anticipation continued building for headliners The Get Up Kids – Midwestern phenomenon, certified dreamboats, and Vagrant Records’ #1 act with a bullet. “Yes, I’m making fun of you and your cell phone,” guitarist Jim Wilbur said to a pretty young thing in the front row. “How can you even hear over the racket we’re making?” Ballance chimed in that she was probably calling her mother, “just to check in.”

Parents pounding MGDs in the back bar as their teenagers hop around to the music is nothing new for an all ages show. But over the last year, the music industry has realized that its Pop audience is growing up, and searching around for something other than “Active Rock” histrionics to identify with. Enter Emo. The success of Blink-182 proved that “Alternative Rock” isn’t made exclusively by ugly people. Mark, Tom, and Travis’ heartthrob status paved the way for a new crop of sensitive boy bands that rock – Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, and now The Get Up Kids. It’s Meat Loaf in G, Freddie Prinze, Jr with a Les Paul, and Morrissey without the celibacy. It’s a corporatized amalgam of indie rock’s more sensitive side, and it’s the perfect product for the post-Britney demographic.

At the show this past Friday, I asked the girl next to me (who was 6 when Superchunk’s seminal “Slack Motherfucker” was released in 1990) what she likes about The Get Up Kids. “I think Matt [Pryor, lead vocalist] is cute,” Susan said. Musically, she’d heard some GUK tracks on a friend’s Vagrant Records sampler. Then I asked her what she thought of Superchunk’s set, which had just ended with a searing version of Sebadoh’s “Brand New Love.” Susan thought for a second, then explained how she’d missed most of their set waiting in line to buy bottled water. For Susan and so many other kids at the show, history doesn’t matter. Superchunk’s permanent seat in the indie rock Hall of Heroes – not to mention their significant influence on the music of groups like The Get Up Kids – isn’t important, because indie rock doesn’t matter much anymore. Or at least it matters in a different way. During its early 90s heyday, the music was unified by its labels, and a few geographic enclaves like Olympia, WA. This international pop underground survived the corporate workover in the wake of Nirvana, but eventually diversified on its own terms. New labels, new bands, and new scenes sprang up. Something called Math Rock was discovered under a rock. And the seeds for another Alternative Nation were sown.

Nowadays, the industry calls Weezer, The Strokes, and The White Stripes “Retro Alternative,” and it’s the hot format of the moment. The prettyboy rock bands like Get Up Kids or Sensefield get thrown into the mix as Adult Album Alternative or wherever their label positions them, via video, tour, and appearance on M2. It’s a more calculated approach to Alternative than the feeding frenzy that followed Nirvana. But it’s also much more important financially, as the industry is trying desperately to keep the spending power of 12-25 year-olds firmly in its corner. With this new gaggle of good-looking, guitar-toting rockers, they seem to have hit on a formula that will last at least until the majority of Friday night’s teenage riot hits freshman year of college, discovers Mary Jane, and invests in a Jon Belushi ‘College’ poster, a giant blow-up of Jim Morrison, and the entire Phish back-catalog.



The Get Up Kids take it down a thousand.

Johnny Loftus

Rock bands often start their journey with meth-amphetamine gusto, romping out of the gate with screeching amps, squealing tires, and enough energy to run around the block 12 times. They come to your town. They party it down. And they snap decadent photos of the act. Adrenaline and feedback get them through a flurry of singles, EPs, and at least one long-player. But changes creep in. And soon enough, the rock band that once had groupies’ underwear on its head suddenly has serious songs on its mind. Keys and acoustic guitar have tempered the fury. Blood has been wiped from the pick guard. This transition is probably inevitable; the physical demands of rocking 24/7 are challenge enough. And sometimes it’s just plain wrong, like that old cliché about the synthesizer on a sophomore album. But can it just happen too goddamn quick?

Maybe it’s the flushed, hurried excitement that comes from creating something; maybe it’s a lack of knowledge beyond three chords and the truth. But there’s a tradition in music of ragged-assed rockers growing into more somber songwriting shoes. Dateline: 1980. Subsisting on hair grease and Mad Dog 20/20, the Replacements tore holes in your Jordache with Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash. But over a series of albums for Twin/Tone and Sire, the ‘Mats morphed into a Paul Westerberg solo project with more to offer than just snot and crushed-out cigarettes. A few years later, The Goo Goo Dolls threw some punches around in Buffalo, New York, recording double-time scream-fests for Metal Blade records. That same consonant-heavy trio is now known more for their jangly romantic comedy soundtrack music and unfortunate hairstyles. And when Superchunk shot out of Chapel Hill in 1990, they seemingly wanted nothing more than to fire off punk-pop anthems in three-minute bursts. But in the last few years, the Superchunk sound has evolved. They can still rattle the speakers in the van. But it’s no longer a question of how fast. It’s how much they’ve learned along the way.

It’s appropriate then that Superchunk will accompany one of their proteges on tour this summer. Because just as Mac McCaughan and company have stopped trying to consistently bash skulls, The Get Up Kids’ new material is less rock, more song. But given the results, some remedial rock work just might be in order.

In the zeal of their youth (five years ago), The Get Up Kids released singles and records that pitted plaintive tales of romance and longing against the fuzzy anthemics of late 90s indie rock. Dumped into the ‘Emo’ bin by a nation of record store clerks, GUK was considered by some to be the Kansas City version of Milwaukee’s equally pleading Promise Ring. But here it is 2002, and both groups have released albums of handcrafted songs – not simply riffs for the sake of riffs, or cracked vocal chords over crackling power chords. That’s what’s interesting about On A Wire, GUK’s newest. Upon first listen, it’s odd not to hear the breath-catching dynamics that defined the more rocking moments of 1999’s Something To Write Home About, like “Ten Minutes” or “Holiday.” (Indeed, Something launches with a power slide and heavy metal drum fill; conversely, On A Wire begins with the brightly strummed acoustics of the lead single “Overdue.”) But like their mentors before them, The Get Up Kids have transitioned, and have replaced volume with a desire for experimentation, beyond playing a different electric guitar here and there. Throughout Wire, Producer Scott Litt amplifies touches of organ and backing vocals that at times recall bright-eyed early 60’s pop. Unfortunately, Litt’s production is occasionally a negative, busying up already confused songs (“High As The Moon,” “All That I Know”). And the album wouldn’t suffer at all from a few blasts of heartland guitar heroics. But for the most part, On A Wire is saved by pristine moments, like the layered guitars that support “Fall From Grace,” the homey feel of “Campfire Kansas,” or the balladic, New Amsterdams outtake “Hannah Hold On.” It’s definitely strange to hear the band retract where they used to lash out. But the direction that The Get Up Kids have taken with their new material isn’t surprising, given the path traveled by their principal forebears.

It’s true that it took a few more records for groups like The Replacements, Goo Goo Dolls, or Superchunk to fully exorcise the rock from their systems. And they did so with varying degrees of success. (In the latter’s case, the rock is still clinging to a toe-hold.) But everything happens faster these days, doesn’t it? Besides, The Get Up Kids assure the constituency on their website that rock and roll hasn’t fully fallen off of the truck, and swears that their sometimes quite pretty – but decidedly un-rocking – new material rocks more live. The words of a group of songwriters beginning to feel confident in a new medium? Or famous last words?

Insert wisecrack about Paul Westerberg’s solo career here.


Jake vs. the Kids

In the response string to Jake’s Weezer piece, Scott C. makes a point about the other kids at Weezer, the ones not named Jake Brown. Even though Jake was left feeling bewildered and let down by the rock show last Friday night, those young kids out there in the GA section, the ones getting crushed to the stage by their brethren behind them, they might have been feeling that tingling sensation of Real Rock for the very first time.

For many of them, I’m sure that Get Up Kids, Promise Ring, Ultimate Fakebook, and every other polite, emo/Superchunk-influenced pop band are the total shit right now. They can’t get enough of those plaintive harmonies wrapped up in crunching power chords and jarring time changes. Maybe some of those kids even bought Weezer tickets mostly to see Get Up Kids, with only a vague, early 90s recollection of the headliners.

Because let’s face it. Weezer hasn’t exactly been cranking out the albums Three Dog Night style. Albeit, there’s some record company ass-fucking occurring behind the scenes. But nonetheless, any Weezer fans under the age of 22 probably got into them secondhand.

So, why did they dig them on Friday?

Because Weezer really is at the forefront of the emo movement, whether anyone likes it or not. Just because you don’t record for Merge, or espouse self-righteous vegan propaganda from the stage doesn’t mean that you can’t be a solid musical influence. Keep in mind that the Pixies recorded for a major, too. Weezer’s endearing mixture of chugging riffs and Frankie Lymon-esque harmonies deserve just as much credit for the current crop of Emo-Pop Young Turks as does Mac Macaughan and his fellow Superchunk-ers. Shit, he and Rivers Cuomo even sort of look alike.

So imagine that you’re a 19yo indie-rocking undergrad, at the Aragon to see Get Up Kids, one of your favorite bands. You love what they do with their dueling guitars, fast chord changes, and Matt Pryor’s earnest vocals. So you’re shitting your pants when they take the stage and rock the joint. Everyone’s pushing you from behind, but you don’t care because you want to be as close as you can to the band. Other peoples’ sweat is all over your shirt and neck. Some guy behind you keeps poking your ear with his omnipresent goat’s head finger salute. And you haven’t seen your buddies since “Ten Minutes.” But you don’t care, because it’s a Real Rock moment, and you love it.

Now imagine that Weezer takes the stage next, and that moment happens again.

Weezer’s record company is tangling with the band over their new album’s material. “No clear single,” the A&R wonks say. Well, if a sold-out tour and a bunch of young kids (with disposable income) in the crowd don’t suggest a strong following, I’m not sure what does. Here’s hoping that Weezer climbs back into its rightful place on the Real Rock Mantle when the record finally comes out.


The kids are alright…right?

Michael Goldberg’s Insider One March 2 opening article talks about media marketing and the manipulation of youth culture. Am I being optimistic or naïve, or are the kids smarter than that? Actually, isn’t the piece really just talking bout the zombies of the teenage population who are no more programmable than their Gen X and now Gen Y counterparts? Surely he doesn’t mean all teens.

The piece is a fictional account of how Viacom honcho, Sumner Redstone, pays consultants to observe “typical” teenagers and then makes programming recommendations based on their behavior. Goldberg cites MTV’s Jackass as a prime example of this kind of research’s output. He also mentions groups like Backtsreet Boys and Incubus as examples of “product” that can be marketed to different demographics within the teenage ranks: BSB for the mall-walking, cutie pies and Incubus for the aggressive, angst-ridden tough guys. But this is no different than the type of marketing directed at older age groups. I mean, since when is it OK for 30-year-old men to wear orange cords and ride scooters? Since Gen-Xers hit the wall, Old Navy opened up and the Razor scooter became the dotcom-preferred mode of transportation in the city. Believe me, it’s all about the marketing.

But, are the kids really more susceptible to marketing ploys than anyone else? Can their opinions be that easily molded? Last fall I was outside the Metro in Chicago as an all-ages early show let out. Hundreds of youngsters streamed into the street. As I was there to hand fliers for a friend’s band, I ended up talking to some of the kids and asked them who it was they were there to see. Surely it was one of the groups I’ve seen on MTV. Judging by the staple punk wardrobe (docs, safety pins, plaid, pants cut off just below the knees, etc.) I knew it wasn’t J-Lo or any of the other unlistenable “R&B” groups that dominate the 3:00 to 7:00pm slots on MTV. The place was devoid of neon or high-soled platform shoes, so it was a good bet that Carson Daley and his ilk were not to be found. Who were they there to see? It must have been one of the ultra-marketed major label touring acts that pitch for Burger King or Sprite? Right? It was the Get Up Kids, a melodic EMO band who’s signed to Indie stalwart Vagrant Records. As far as I can tell, the only exposure this group has had is the occasional mention in SPIN and a one-time appearance on MTV’s never-watched (anymore) 120 Minutes.

Now, the Get Up Kids have a substantial following and certainly have the pop sensibilities to become MTV darlings, but they’re not yet. And the kids love ’em. Why? Perhaps it’s because the tunes are catchy and the energy from their live shows will sweep up the coolest of punks into a bona fide ass shakin’.

So, it seems the kids aren’t as dopey as Sumner and Goldberg think. Maybe they actually just like the music they like and that’s that. Maybe it’s all about good music getting to kids and shaking them to their scuffed docs. Maybe I’m just remembering how much my dad hated NWA and I want to stand up for the kids as not being so easily manipulated by marketing. But then again, NWA was marketed to the suburbs and white kids and there are even allegations that the heated disputes on wax and in the videos between NWA members was all a ruse to drum up sales for solo products (See the Feb. 28th posting by Jake Brown regarding NWA). After all, four top 10 albums are better than one and I started drinking malt liquor because I wanted to be like Cube. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to pop in my copy of Straight Outta Compton and run down to the Gap to get some baggy Khakis.

You can see the Get Up Kids touring with Weezer now. Check out their website www.thegetupkids.net.