May 6, 2019 The Get Up Kids – Problems (Album Review)
It has been eight long years since we last heard a full-length album from Emo titans The Get Up Kids, but your little black and red hearts can now rejoice: Problems arrives Friday, May 10, 2019, thanks to Polyvinyl Records.
Formed in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1995, for better or worse, The Get Up Kids (TGUK) would go on to become synonymous with the Emo scene. Their career all began with the band’s 1997 debut album, Four Minute Mile, which paved the way for the arrival of three more albums — 1999’s pivotal Something to Write Home About, 2002’s On a Wire, and 2004’s Guilt Show — over the next seven years. Tours with the likes of Weezer and Green Day helped the band rise to prominence, though they would sadly opt to end their career in 2005.
You can’t keep a good band down! To the delight of their dedicated fanbase, TGUK would reunite and, seven years after their previous release, in 2011, they delivered their fifth full-length, There Are Rules. Picking up where they left off, TGUK regained their momentum and continued to tour the world. In fact, in 2017, they did their first tour of Latin America, while in 2018 they released the 4-song EP Kicker to whet fans’ appetites for their upcoming sixth release.
Now it’s here! For the 12-song Problems, TGUK — Vocalist/Guitarist Matt Pryor, Guitarist/Backing Vocalist Jim Suptic, Bassist/Backing Vocalist Rob Pope, Drummer Ryan Pope, and Keyboardist/Backing Vocalist James Dewees — examine everything from life-changing loss to loneliness, to the inevitable anxiety of existing in 2019. Working in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with Grammy Award-winning Producer Peter Katis (Kurt Vile, The National), the band took a characteristically riff-driven yet decidedly Pop-minded approach to song structure, while also allowing themselves a new sense of creative freedom.
The album opens to the upbeat pace of “Satellite,” which already feels like a nostalgic classic. It’s the perfect introduction to a collection that sounds exactly as one would expect TGUK to sound in 2019. This transitions the band perfectly into the dysfunctional, romantic wit of “The Problem Is Me,” which harkens back to classics such as Ben Folds Five’s “Song for the Dumped.” Not to say that the two songs are comparable in sound, certainly not, but that joyously spiteful spirit is present in both tracks. Though, as always, TGUK are a bit nicer about it!
Guitars open the drive into the cloudy “Salina,” the meandering thoughts and confessions of a “sentimental fool.” Next, they amp their pace back up for the layered harmonies of the gently rocking “Now Or Never” before the bass-heavy, infectiously-paced “Lou Barlow” provides a nod to the Dinosaur Jr. vocalist. This catchiness continues into the sing-along of “Fairweather Friends,” which appropriately scoffs at its titular troubles.
For the melancholy sway and twinkling keys of “Common Ground,” the band provide a bittersweet glance at what we leave behind when we exit this mortal coil. Don’t worry, they pick it back up to a rocking pace, complete with some fun synth flourishes, in “Waking Up Alone,” a sentimental heart that can’t become accustomed to the solo life.
Set to some darker tones, “The Advocate” contains the promise to weather the storm together, to always have someone’s back — to not be a fairweather friend. This leads the band into the catchy confession of “Symphony Of Silence,” which despite its title is not a ballad but an upbeat pace that will have you nodding your head along with the beat.
Meanwhile, the quick step of “Brakelines” builds to bass-heavy, melodic choruses before they reach the album’s conclusion, “Your Ghost Is Gone.” A piano ballad thick with emotion that was written in the wake of the death of Dewees’ mother, here Pryor and co. take a deep breath and allow their most vulnerable side to shine. Lamenting the loss of a relationship, a house that is no longer a home, they end Problems with a poignant, stand-out offering that is a perfect example of their sonic strengths.
For a band that’s never fully desired their Emo label, it’s easy to see that TGUK are making music that defies any exact categorizations. Sure, they often have the infectiousness of Power Pop, the grit and lo-fi qualities of 1990’s Alternative Rock, but underneath it all there’s also the DIY Punk mentality.
What that means for Problems is a rawness — of both emotion and sound — that feels beautifully nostalgic in all the very best of ways. In short, there’s nothing entirely shocking about the band’s evolution, rather it’s a natural progression that fits the TGUK mold perfectly. If that does or does not make them Emo, so be it, but it certainly makes them damn good at what they do! For this, Cryptic Rock give Problems 4 of 5 stars.