Sunday, January 30, 2011

There Are Rules Review

It must be a difficult task for a band to ask themselves just how long they can keep up a certain style or demeanor when it comes to how they make music - and for The Get Up Kids, it seems they did this long ago. Upon the release of their 1999 critically acclaimed LP, Something To Write Home About, they were the face of catchy and innocent pop-punk, and for good reason. They displayed the ability to not only craft fun and memorable tunes fueled by a nostalgic energy, but to sustain it for an entire record and not just pump out a few singles and call it a day. However, one must wonder how long they could have kept that up. What's the shelf-life of innocent pop music when bands appear out of the mist to ride off your coattails? And to answer this, they released their 2002 LP, On A Wire, which stripped away elements of pop-punk and replaced it with a new, slightly more grown approach to what they established on their previous outing. They built upon this sound until their eventual break-up in 2004 and since then they've poked their heads out of their holes to release a teaser of an EP just last year, and now their long-awaited return, There Are Rules

With their return, The Get Up Kids make it clear that they're not quite the Kids we once knew, but aren't entirely different either. Throughout the record we're introduced to a new, slightly more powerful version of the melancholic boys who produced their first four records. Beginning with the quick and strong "Tithe", which flows intensely with its distorted guitars and thick bass lines - which remain a prominent feature throughout the record - they teeter on the edge of their previous veneer with a newer, nearly-punk sounding performance. Matt Pryor's often belligerent vocal work is what sets the group apart so clearly from their previous work. He shouts with a powerful intensity, but can still restrain himself for the poppier tracks such as "Shatter Your Lung", which again features the prominent bass beautifully. It comes with no surprise how versatile the group is during several moments on the record, as they've tested the waters of their capabilities over their four previous LP's, however during several moments on the album they seem to rely too much on the gritty sound they utilized superbly on other tracks, bringing their momentum down to a slow drag.

While several moments during the course of the record can take away from the overall enjoyment of The Get Up Kids' return to the studio, they ultimately deliver with a fun, energetic, and fresh album to please long-term fans and usher in a new sound for themselves with only a few glaring flaws along the way. The drab, boring feel of "When It Dies" and "Keith Case" bog down the last tracks of the record, but never entirely let it sink. It would take a lot for The Get Up Kids to make a bad record, and fortunately for them they haven't done it in their fourteen years in the industry.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Outside Review

Outside, Tapes 'n Tapes third studio album, is kind of like that really annoying friend that you only keep around because every now and then they do something interesting that will make for a good story later on. For every fun and catchy moment on the record, there's another typical and outright boring match for it waiting on the next track to make you forget what made you enjoy the last - and it's only in those rare enjoyable moments that Tapes 'n Tapes show their real potential. Hiding behind the bells and whistles that saturate most of the record in a vain attempt to make it slightly more interesting, there is a band that really wants to make music for an audience, but something is holding them back. 

The groups' forty-five minute LP starts with "Badaboom" a quick, enjoyable track not too uncommon on many indie-pop records present in today's congested scene, but soon afterward it begins to decline into an uninspired, dragging record that only slightly keeps its mouth above the water to sustain a little life. For the first five tracks, Tapes 'n Tapes do a fine job of sustaining the energy that many indie-pop bands thrive upon, producing some very fun and memorable songs such as the toe-tapping "SWM" or the delightfully boisterous "One in the World" which introduces horns and subtle chimes to the mostly stagnant musicianship. However, once "Outro" ends and "Freak Out" begins with its deceivingly upbeat guitar licks, the real feel of the record begins to show its face. The lyricism which was nothing to write home about to begin with, paired with Josh Grier's dull tone over the desperately energetic music makes for a falsified sense of liveliness and soon the album lies itself down in its own grave holding a bouquet of clich├ęs. It abuses the inspiration of bands such as Phoenix or maybe even a pinch of The Killers in order to lazily stride past any worthwhile lyricism or memorable moments past the first few tracks. 

To the group's credit, they decently begin and even end the record in a memorable fashion, but what lies in between is forgettable at best and makes no real effort to display any of the band's talents - and they certainly have them. If the record were more devoted to the energy and stylish charisma of the beginning and ending tracks, then it could easily be one of the most enjoyable records to start the year off - unfortunately, that road wasn't taken. It's adequate for the singles that could come from it, but for what's leftover, it's nothing short of an uninspired, boring clutter of a record. There are the catchy drum patterns and the slick guitar riffs, as well as the damn good bass lines in several tracks, but the droning feel of the last half of the record simply can't compensate for what lacks in both lyricism and creative effort. Perhaps it would be best to not cross our fingers for a fresh approach to indie-pop in 2011.