Album Review – The Get Up Kids – Problems

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A lot has happened for Kansas 5-piece The Get Up Kids since their epic last visit to our city in 2015.  Last years acclaimed Kicker EP was their first new music since 2011’s There Are Rules, and soon, on May 10th, they release their 6th full-length album Problems.  At Montreal Rocks, we were lucky enough to have been granted an early listen to it, and what a return it is!

Produced by Grammy Award-winner Peter Katis (who has also worked with Kurt Vile and The National recently), it came about after an intensive 3-week session of the band “holing up together” (according to the accompanying press release we received!).  Right off the bat, it’s clear that the band have successfully walked the line of maintaining their distinctive emo sound, while still creating an entirely new context for their music.  After all, it would sound a little weird for a 40-year-old frontman like Matt Pryor to still be complaining about missing his girlfriend!

Satellites opens the album emphatically, beginning with raw vocals and a mellow guitar strum, reminiscent of the chilled 2002 On A Wire record, before exploding into life with drums and guitars in a trademark manner much more in keeping with Holiday or Action & Action from the iconic Something To Write Home About record from 1999.  That record is 20 years old now, amazing…

The third song on the record, Salina, begins to hint at the experimentation of the new record, with its massively distorted bass intro reminding you of Spread Your Love by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  Common Ground hints that the band may be willing to explore more electronic directions, and is immediately followed by Waking Up Alone, which emphatically confirms that they are more than willing (and able) to head down that route already!  Album closer Your Ghost Is Gone is a much more fragile, piano-led proposition, and takes you back to Out Of Reach from the Something To Write Home About record.

For every song with experimentation, it seems like there is a song right out of The Get Up Kids mold.  The Advocate and Symphony Of Silence are absolute gems buried towards the end of the record, as well as Now Or Never or the amusing Lou Barlow, which elicits a smile with its tag line “I saw Lou Barlow on the street / I don’t think he noticed me.”  Brakelines is a frantic, hi-hat stomper that contrasts markedly with the tranquility of Your Ghost Is Gone which follows right after!

Overall, it’s clear that The Get Up Kids have managed to both change and stay the same, and it’s a fantastic return for the band. 

They will be in town again on 30 July at the wonderfully intimate Bar Le Ritz, for what is surely the can’t-miss club gig of the summer for those who roll in alternative circles.  I strongly suggest you grab a ticket now, grab the record in May, and get ready for the party!

Review – Simon Williams

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