The Get Up Kids have a lot to answer for… The Missouri pop-rockers are often credited with spawning the ‘emo’ generation (Pete Wentz has gone on record saying that “without The Get Up Kids there would be no Fall Out Boy”) and in the eyes of many this would be a damning accusation. After all, who would want to be even partly responsible for atrocities such as the plague of ***ty ‘pop-punk’ bands at the turn of the century? Accidental influencing aside, however, there is little argument to be found with TGUK themselves. Their formula of effervescent power chords, honest lyrics, and yearning vocals, may have been imitated by a thousand ‘different’ bands, but rarely has it been done as well as the original. This is none more evident than on the ‘Red Letter Day’ and ‘Woodson’ EPs.
Interestingly it is the earlier EP, ‘Woodson’, that is the most varied – perhaps as a result of the band still trying to find their feet. The urgency of the title-track is impressive, as it lurches between near-whispered and more desperate vocals, all the while being propelled by a lively bass line (the bass tone on both EPs is crystal-clear and irrepressible, giving it a distinct sound). This urgency is contrasted by the space and comparative intricacy of ‘A Newfound Interest in Massachusetts’
which leaves it sounding like a punkier Sunny Day Real Estate – which is by no means a bad thing. Overall, ‘Woodson’ is strictly a pop-punk EP, but one by a band clearly not afraid to experiment, and its solid song-writing and variety make it an exciting listen.
On ‘Red Letter Day’ there is less deviation from their pop-punk template, but, as the old proverb goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Upbeat power chord progressions feature prominently, and are often driven further by soaring synths and buoyant bass lines – as if songs such as ‘Forgive and Forget’
and ‘One Year Later’
weren’t irresistibly chirpy enough already. The only real deviation from this formula is found on the final track, ‘Mass Pike’
, in which the pace is slowed slightly, and a half-jaunty, half-twinkling piano line combines with lyrics about young love to give the track an endearingly nostalgic feel.
Originally released in 1997 and 1999 respectively, ‘Woodson’ and ‘Red Letter Day’ were re-released in the same package in 2001. The chronological proximity of the two releases is telling as both EPs carry an air of youthful exuberance about them, and, being written at a very early stage in their career, there is little variation to be found. Rather, the two EPs capture the excitement of youth and of one of the most influential bands in modern pop-punk and ‘emo’ finding their feet and refining a sound that would inadvertently launch an unfortunate sub-culture.