It’s difficult to place The Get Up Kids these days. In the 90s they helped launch emo, bringing the genre to the attention of a mainstream audience. They were one of the biggest influences on the scene, which, as the 90s drew to a close, began to become more and more popular. Their first two albums, ‘Four Minute Mile’ and ‘Something To Write Home About’ were saccharine slices of melancholy power pop, that laid the foundations and set the conventions for an entire genre. More recently however, the band have attempted to disassociate themselves with the emo scene, moving towards a more mature sound. This is where ‘There Are Rules’ comes in.
‘Tithes’ opens with a thick electronic wall of noise, before the sparse riff kicks in to carry the song through. ‘Shatter Your Lungs’ is a highlight, with its MGMT-esque keyboard effects and the stomping beat that helps to round this song off as one of the catchier tracks on the album. ‘Automatic’ ratchets the pace up an extra notch, before ‘Pararelevant’ arrives in a hail of tight drums beats and twitching guitar work. There is a palpable sense of energy surrounding these songs, a frenetic, anxious feeling that is barely containable. When these songs hit the mark, as ‘Automatic’ and ‘Pararelevant’ do, The Get Up Kids‘ new noise seems positively genius. This is until ‘Rally ‘Round The Fool’ muddies the waters somewhat. The first half of the album is a light speed run-through of garage-tinged electronica, but the ethereal wail of effects of this track, coupled with Matt Pryor‘s haunting singing, creates a dark, intense atmosphere that hangs in the background of every following track like a black smog.
‘Keith Case’ is the weakest moment on the album, lacking the sense of direction that the better tracks on ‘There Are Rules’ have. Luckily ‘The Widow Paris’ reclaims most of the lost momentum with its dark groove, bristling with melancholy-cool. It’s placement in the track list is perfect, providing a bridge between the bleak one-two hit of ‘Rally…’ and ‘Keith Case’ with the jagged punk of ‘Birmingham’. ‘Let It Die’ is closest to their emo sound of the past, and doesn’t quite gel with the overarching concept of the album. It’s a strong song with an interesting riff and perfectly balanced electronic harmony, but it feels uneasy next to the other songs. The finest moment on the album is yet to come however, with the final track ‘Rememorable’. It is a crystallising of The Get Up Kids‘ two sounds; dark electronic and emo-infused punk rock, with a harrowing but infectious chorus, fuzzy guitars and sparingly-used but effective synth sounds. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more songs on the album like this.
The main criticism present of ‘There Are Rules’ is that it’s not sure what it wants to be. There is such a mess of different ideas and styles on display, at times the real core of the songs are lost. ‘Pararelevant’, ‘Rally ‘Round The Fool’ and ‘Rememorable’ are all great tracks, but there is nothing to unite them. No banner to fit them all under. It sounds like The Get Up Kids are still struggling with finding a new identity, and it shows here. The album is still very enjoyable and has its share of stand-out moments, but the musical focus just isn’t quite there yet.
Written by Grant Bailey
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989. | Aspiring freelance pizza eater.