Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The Get Up Kids On A Wire Picture Disc Vagrant/Heroes & Villians 2002
The career killer. At least that's what a member of the band once told me. There's an element of truth to it. It wasn't a well received LP and afterwards, the band made one more attempt on the Guilt Show album, but that seemed disingenuous. The band had changed, grown up, members got married, had kids--they were too old to be Get Up Kids.
Over time, I've come to enjoy the album. It's got some of the best songs they ever wrote as a group. Problem I've always had with it was the production. And, I'll address it, just a bit of a back story.
Prior to On A Wire's release, the Get Up Kids were in a position to break out of the indie-scene and become relevant as a mainstream artists. They toured Something to Write Home About relentlessly. They'd become fairly well known outside of their .emo confines by touring with the likes of Green Day and Weezer. They were now outside of college music/indie rock scene and on that somewhat hip highschool/sorority girl level of popularity. All they had to do was write Something To Write Home About part II.
Instead, they tried to grow up before their fan base did. They wrote their most competent and adult themed songs to date and hired a big time producer to get them to the next level. Scott Litt was put in place. It made sense for what the Get Up Kids wanted. They didn't just want to be popular, they wanted to be respected and have a substantial career should they reach commercial success. If you look at Litt's work with R.E.M. the move made sense. Litt's production put that band into the mainstream without making the band compromise their individuality.
For whatever reason, Litt sucked out any energy of these songs. It sounds as if the band is shooting for adult contemporary radio, not modern rock. I heard the songs live, when they were new, still had energy and a groove. Litt didn't allow it. The production mirrors the placid early Matthew Sweet stuff he did, or the bore-a-thon that was the first Indigo Girls album. It bears no resemblance to All Shook Down by the Replacements, which he should have referenced. And there is some blame on the Get Up Kids, the songs distance themselves from their previous work. But, listen to "Grunge Pig" (terrible title), "Stay Gone", or "Wish You Were Here", there's a rock song trying to escape, there's a groove that was ignored, shelved for the notion that housewives in Middle America like things subdued and boring.
It's an album that should have been great, but offers disappointment. Again, I stress, great songwriting, great ideas, just poor execution. To it's benefit, it's not the fucking travesty Jimmy Eat World carried out during the same time. I mean, that band sold out. They went from relevant Emo band to writing songs for 14 year old girls. And, it does sound grown up. Better than the band's long time nemsis, the Promise Ring, who tried to stay young well into their mid-30's before giving up. And, despite trying to go big time, they stayed local. They utilized long time friends and producers Ed Rose and Alex Brahl on some tracks. They hired Olathe, Kansas native, Travis Millard, to do the artwork and even create a video. Most local band ever.
Overdue Video with Travis Millard's amazing artwork