The Get Up Kids, like many of their fellow emo luminaries, have defined not only their parent genre but influenced countless other artists, sometimes in the smallest of ways, sometimes with shocking profundity. There’s a good reason why—an efficient pop-indie sensibility with often anthemic, elated choruses helped solidify the band’s early successes. It interestingly enough also set them up for their greatest difficulty: the challenge of growing as artists while maintaining the DNA of the band’s style.
It’s somewhat of a relief to say that aside from some new-wave influences, the new Kicker EP doesn’t stray that far away from their past directions. Matthew Pryor’s iconic vocals barely seem to have aged, exalted and over the top, recalling their career defining 1999 release Something to Write Home About. That album’s famously sugary pop harmonies and gigantic anthems did more to inform the band’s style, and in some fashion, Kicker recreates the highest points of their earlier career with a more mature sensibility.
Tracks like “Better this Way,” a song that finds them in the familiar territory of relationship woes, sonically does more to emphasize plunging bass lines and more unique chord progressions, but still rely on a chain-gang chorus and plenty of excessive, fist pumping “whoa”s. Pryor muses at the end of the track, “I guess some things are better this way” signifying (albeit in a rather meta way) that perhaps, stylistically this is what the band is capable of now, there’s no effort to move outside the margins of their comfort zone. And maybe that’s not entirely awful. The blistering iconic keyboards that did so much to define their early style come back in a subdued and restrained form, accenting only what’s needed like on “I’m Sorry” a looser track that once emphasizes, “I just wanted things to stay the same.”
I don’t believe that Pryor and company are somehow longing for a stagnant and senseless position for the Get Up kids. “My Own Reflection,” the last track on the EP, stands in some measure of sonic defiance, actually closing out the set with grace and some much-needed complexity. There’s post-punk trappings there that give the whole track a refreshing perspective on their long career, showing that while The Get Up Kids remain the same, that institution still has some life left in it.
There is truthfully nothing new on this EP. There’s also nothing wrong with that inherently. The lyrical content is exactly what fans are likely to expect, no grandiose musings that elevate the work above anything that has come before or will come after. And that’s fine. What is here however, is four tracks of solid material that embody why anyone fell in love with the band in the first place. And that is also fine.