The Get Up Kids - Problems (Album Review)
Something very unusual happened in the last few years. As the 2010's began coming to a close, a genre long thought dead made a surprising revival: Emo. I am not talking about Emo acts like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance or Taking Back Sunday, the type of emo I am referring to feels a lot more like their forefathers The Promise Ring, Braid, and Texas is the Reason. With new acts such as Tiny Moving Parts, Oso Oso, and Mom Jeans., Emo has returned with a brand new vigor. What better time than now for one of the early acts that came so close to making it mainstream to make their return?
The Get Up Kids got their start in 1995 in Kansas City, Missouri. The bands first record, Four Minute Mile, was recorded in only two short days at a time when one of their members, Ryan Pope, was still in High School. Ever since then the band has been going off and on, taking breaks to work on other projects and start families. Even when they were apart they never stopped making music. The individual members have taken on many side projects, with notable ones being Matt Pryor with The New Amsterdams, Rob Pope has played with Spoon, and keyboardist James Dewees has his infamous group Reggie and the Full Effect. The reason I mention all of these projects and the years gone by is precisely how those moments and experiences shaped what would become Problems, the band’s first full length in eight years and the direct follow up to their excellent 2018 EP Kicker.
Problems is not something to nod to or mosh to, it is something that hearkens back to a time when kids put on their best Vans and headed to the local VFW to dance in the dark with friends they didn’t even know they had yet.
Upon starting Problems I couldn’t help but feel like I was listening to everything that Matt Pryor and The Get Up Kids have been through in the eight years since they last let their hearts rest on their sleeves. Pent up feelings that come with growing up and growing older flow from the pen on to paper and into the songs themselves. Emo itself has always been an excellent way to get out everything that we are feeling, and to allow us to feel something ourselves, and lyrically the message is loud and clear. They have been through the best of times and the worst of times and together they have seen it to today. They do so with an energy all their own. The opening track, “Satellite” starts off simply with a guitar and vocals by Matt before progressing into an upbeat tempo that would get any modern day audience off their feet and into the air. Problems is not something to nod to or mosh to, it is something that hearkens back to a time when kids put on their best Vans and headed to the local VFW to dance in the dark with friends they didn’t even know they had yet.
As their sixth studio album, Problems is essentially the culmination of so many years of doing so many things. When they began, The Get Up Kids had a very genuine feeling about them. Songs about love and loss told by young men who have seen their fair share of heartbreak and joy. As time moved on so did they. In the early 2000's the Emo movement was coming to a boiling point. There was a demand for heartfelt and honest music that would bring a feeling of unity to a group of people who couldn’t have needed it more. A place to belong and a feeling of home. The band had an excellent chance to become one of the predominant acts in the early movement, but something strange happened. They went in a completely different direction with their album On A Wire. Gone were the upbeat and frantic tones of their first two albums, replaced with a smooth and calculated shift into a more artful and somber tone. The feeling was still there, but the youth seemed to wash away, replaced with a mature sound and more atmosphere. An atmosphere that would show through in Pryor’s future work with The New Amsterdams. By the time Guilt Show hit the scene they were almost entirely different than where they had started. They had found a more pop focused route that landed them airplay on Fuse with “The One You Want”.
Mentioning this is not just a history of one of the bands I have grown to love in my over thirty years. This record takes a little bit of everything that they have done in the past and channels it into what they have become. Utilizing elements of their youthful excitement from Something to Write Home About to their experimental electronic record There Are Rules, Problems is almost like a greatest hits compilation. “The Advocate” is full of an energy seen in their earliest days, while tracks like “Common Ground” and “Waking Up Alone” begin with a more produced opening that wouldn’t sound out of place on an album such as There Are Rules before transitioning into something more akin to Guilt Show. Closing out the record, The Get Up Kids do what they so often do, end it with a soft comma instead of an exclamation point with “Your Ghost Is Gone”.
Problems feels like the culmination of a life’s work coming to fruition. Taking what they have learned not only in their own work but the music they have made with others, The Get Up Kids have found a sound that suits no one but them. The scene they helped to start has began making noise in an underground scene filled with excitement and promise. For anyone who enjoys heartfelt and honest emotional music this album is for you.
Problems is available May 10th on streaming platforms and is available for pre-order here. The Get Up Kids are on tour now in Europe before heading back to a stint in the US, tickets are available here.