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CD Reviews:  The Get Up Kids: On a Wire

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Nearly one decade and four or five full-length releases into a career, The Get Up Kids return in typical unknown fashion to offer On a Wire. This time around at least the pieces are in place for breakout results, not the least of which is REM's past producer Scott Litt doing the production work. What's more, The Kids have toured extensively the past few years with the likes of Green Day and Weezer in an attempt at finding even moderate popularity with their often difficult to categorize pop-infected emo sound (see, even my spell-check won't recognize emo as a definable musical category!). The best I can do is submit that emo is a styling of alternative or even mild punk rock that doesn't scream lyrics over the music. 

The admittedly catchy "Overdue" opens the new record, and reminds me instantly of The Connells, another tragically unknown college band from days past. Simple, subtle, if not unmemorable guitars shuffle along side Matthew Pryor's run-of-the-mill vocals in a handful of songs that sound too similar to meaningfully decipher. "Fall From Grace" is steady and beat-conscious, but never grabs any part of a critical ear to beg for extra attention. The most significant moments come during the rollicking "Stay Gone," which recalls Squeeze, as well as "Walking on a Wire," which forges through a grinding tempo to produce the best guitars and overall musicianship on the album.

For the most part, On a Wire ponies up 12 forgettable background ballads which wouldn't necessarily cause anyone to leave a party or exit their favorite bar early, but also do very little to salvage an unrecognized career in its twilight. I don't doubt that The Get Up Kids likely have a rugged and tried cult following in their hometown of Kansas City. I would, however, be first in line to contest the next time I hear these guys compared to Husker Du or Wilco, because the energy, spirit and talent that separates the really good from the common just ain't there with these Kids.

~Red Rocker

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