The Get Up Kids – On a Wire

The Get Up Kids
On a Wire

I will be the first to admit that when I saw The Get Up Kids a few months ago and heard them crank out new song after new song, I was unimpressed. Actually, disappointed is a more appropriate word. Still, I tried to forget that while putting On a Wire into my stereo for the first time, and it worked.
Right from the start, it is obvious that this is a different band. There is temptation here to make some joke about how much more mature this album is than the band’s previous work, and whether or not they can call themselves The Get Up Kids anymore, but I’ll leave that for some other zine. “Overdue” is a dark and folky opener that makes you wonder if the wrong disc somehow got put in the case, but frontman Matt Pryor’s unmistakable vocals and tragic lyrics (“You’re a few years overdue / I spent them waiting here for you”) make you realize this is indeed the right album. “Stay Gone” is a little more upbeat, being one of the songs that closest resembles anything from Something to Write Home About, but with an irrefutable back porch twang to it, making it and countless other songs on the album sound more like Pryor’s solo work with The New Amsterdams than any previous Get Up Kids work.
“Let the Reigns Go Loose” shows off the talent of famed REM producer Scott Litt as it is crafted into a lush pop song suitable for adult contemporary radio. The jangly and throbbing “Fall from Grace” is one of the best songs offered, followed by the gritty “Grunge Pig,” which sounds as though it came straight from the garage, received a good coat of polish, and sent out the door. “High as the Moon” is a cutesy and bouncy little Beatle-esque tune, which shows off the new strategy of pushing James Dewees’ keyboards higher into the mix than ever before, often playing out an entire melody rather than just punching out a few notes here and there. “All that I Know” is a similarly chipper tune, with guitarist Jim Suptic taking over on lead vocals this time.
The sly and seductive title track builds around a throbbing bassline and Pryor’s scratchy vocals to create something perfect for late-night lounging, while “Wish You Were Here” is a pretty straightforward Midwestern rock love song. The nifty and lo-fi “Campfire Kansas” sounds like a demo, as if the band is trying to show it can craft a clever song whether in an expensive studio or sitting around a campfire. “The Worst Idea” competes with “Fall From Grace” for the title of best track here, showing off the band’s newfound sophistication in proper fashion, and closing things out is “Hannah Hold On,” another love song that wavers on the edge of sappiness.
Like The Promise Ring’s Wood/Water, On a Wire marks the completion of a band’s transition out of emo and into plain old pop. Sure, things like the punchy keyboards, dueling vocals, and overall aggression are gone and will be missed, but a band can’t keep writing the same songs over and over. The new textures here show The Get Up Kids have put some serious effort into their songwriting skills, and it seems to have paid off. From bouncy 60s pop to dirty 70s rock, there are influences and layers here that the younger indie rock kids won’t recognize, and so they’ll quickly dismiss the album altogether, with many of them blaming Vagrant, citing evidence like Saves the Day as proof that the label poisons its bands. But this is not a band trying to be something it is not; rather, it’s a band that has done some serious growing up since it started out with Four Minute Mile. And so what if some of the songs make you want to grab an acoustic guitar, build a campfire, and sing “Kumbaya?”