Review Summary: The Get Up Kids return after 6 years with a good, but familiar attempt at a comeback record.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
The last time The Get Up Kids were relevant was 1999. Not to say that any record they produced after Something To Write Home About was not worthy of recognition, but the fact is that most people write off On A Wire and Guilt Show. I, for one, do not agree with those folks, as those two records defined GUK as a band willing to move forward and create music that juxtaposes their previous efforts. After reforming two years ago, it was a thrill to hear that this classic band was preparing to release new material in the form of a 4-song EP, Simple Science.
While Guilt Show was mainly filled with the poppy hooks and heart-wrenching lyrics that made The Get Up Kids originally famous, it showed a band moving forward in a, dare I say, “indie-rock” direction. Songs like “Sick In Her Skin”, “The Dark Night of the Soul”, and “Conversation” displayed moody atmospheres, slower tempos, and experimental guitar interplay. The Get Up Kids took the ideas from these few songs and continued to develop their sound after reuniting. The only problem is that they did not take these ideas far enough.
Simple Science kicks off with “Your Petty Pretty Things”, a track that bears resemblance to their older material with its upbeat, quick tempo and distorted, “punk” guitars. However, within this song lies some of the new experimentation GUK started playing with years before. The track starts off with a looped recording of William S. Burroughs, which comes back during the bridge until its conclusion. The bridge itself almost brings the songs quick pace to a halt, as the loop enters and all the guitars fade out.
Following is “Keith Case”, which immediately changes direction. Those who have seen GUK live recently should already be familiar with this song. Leading with a steady drum beat and fuzz-filled bass line, “Keith Case” creates a similar mood to older songs like “The Dark Night of the Soul”, but without having to sound like anything they’ve done before. Adding to the texture is an ominous piano melody layered with echo and crunchy guitars giving an occasional bit of cacophony during the verses only to explode into a loud, abrasive chorus.
In comes “Tommy Gentle”, with a soft, driving melody that could have been found on Death Cab For Cutie’s 2008 album Narrow Stairs. It is the only song on this record that does not follow the typical 4/4 time signature, which makes it stand out on first listen. Other than that, “Tommy Gentle” has a very safe, pop-oriented style that doesn’t really add to this EP or GUK’s catalog. If anything, it tries to be another “Your Petty Pretty Things”.
The EP concludes with “How You’re Bound”, a more laid back song that sounds almost exactly like Guilt Show’s “Is There A Way Out”, but with much better instrumentation. Beginning with an electric drum beat and a single rising synthesizer note, the song slowly builds, becoming more epic as it reaches its conclusion. The song differs from the other three tracks, but it is too similar to “Is There A Way Out”, which brings up the question of how original are GUK being.
Simple Science is a good record, but it is not perfect. The faults are layered all over, starting with the fact two songs sound the same (“Your Petty Pretty Things” and “Tommy Gently”), one song rips off an older one (“How You’re Bound”), and there is definite lack of variety. When listening to The Get Up Kids previous efforts, the songs are easy to identify and differentiate from each other from album to album. The fact that instead of recreating their so-called “classic” album and decided to follow the formula they left off with in 2004 is definitely a plus. However, 75% of this EP sounds like b-sides from Guilt Show. This is in no way a bad thing considering how Guilt Show far surpasses Four Minute Mile and Something To Write Home About. But after six years of no new material, more songs like “Keith Case” would have been preferred. Does Simple Science have flaws? Yes, but it makes me hopeful for what The Get Up Kids will create in the future.