On A Wire
By: Eric Greenwood
Let's put it this way: if you had graciously overlooked The Get Up Kids' sappy word vomit for its pogo in place pop hooks on its first two albums, then you will be sorely disappointed with its third, On A Wire. Gone is any trace of energy. Any trace of aggression. The Get Up Kids is the now, predictably – yawn – The Grown Up Kids. Lightly strummed acoustic guitars, twinkling pianos, and passive harmonies flitter in the distance of this Scott Litt-produced rubbish. The nasally vocals weren't half as annoying back when the guitars were actually distorted, but now that all you can hear is some kid in his mid-twenties with carefully cropped 90210 hair whining about the same old high school relationship crap, you will notice your face twitching and your ears instinctively trying to close.
At least the like-minded Jimmy Eat World tries to rock. Granted, the poor guys couldn't rock their way out of a wet sack of boiled peanuts, but they do indeed try. Can't say the same for The Get Up Kids anymore. Sadly, but all-too-expectedly, the band has adopted The Promise Ring's career-in-the-noose rhythmic shift, which amounts to about the speed of a leaf falling from a tree. You either look away or fall asleep before it ever hits the ground. I've tried to pay attention all the way through this album, but I can't. My brain refuses to ingest the monotony, the whining, and the boredom. The songs all have choruses, yes. A chorus is not a difficult thing to compose, though. Melody is not an almighty, untamable beast. Even the most tuneless hack can make up a melody every now and again, either through luck or mimicry. So, yes, these songs have melodies and choruses, but they are so trite and played-out that even the fifteen-year-olds that this is written for will smell something fishy in their neatly packaged emotional escapism.
The Get Up Kids may have missed the commercial boat that it seemed poised to hop aboard three years ago. Jimmy Eat World already blew the beefy-riffed, crybaby-pop wad. And now Dashboard Confessional is, inexplicably, cashing in on the tuneless ballad tip (50's Fonzie hairdo and all) on MTV2. On A Wire may be two months of TRL too late. Vagrant will have a hard time promoting the "cute" factor, as I see some guts forming in the press picture. So, it will be up to this blah acoustic pap to rev up a new generation of bleeding hearts. I just don't see it happening. The whole appeal of The Get Up Kids, as far as I could tell, was its youthful energy mixed with heart-on-its-sleeve honesty. Now that the energy is gone, the gimmick is too. If The Get Up Kids want to push a bunch of lame ballads down the throats of the masses, it will have to get in line behind the Goo Goo Dolls and that ilk.
Of course, The Get Up Kids never proclaimed itself a punk rock band, so it can't be held to that standard. I never considered it one anyway. But even by pop standards this is run of the mill. "Stay Gone" sounds disturbingly like latter day Superchunk, which is not a good thing. "Let The Reigns Go Loose" masquerades as a moody pop ballad with lines like "misfits under mistletoe" and the requisite organ line (to show how the band has grown, man), bubbling underneath intricate guitar interplay. It just sounds so contrived. There's no emotional punch behind this. It's too formulaic- too calculated. "Fall From Grace" trots along at a light gallop with an ever-so delicately distorted electric guitar riff. Careful guys, you may offend someone with all that racket. Wait a minute, "Grunge Pig" is even louder. Oh, but the vocals are mixed so loud you can barely hear the guitar after the introduction so never mind.
I can only imagine that the band repeatedly had to save Scott Litt from drowning in a pool of his own drool when it found him face down on the soundboard after a few sessions of this stuff. Well, he has produced his share of stinkers, so, maybe, he's built up a tolerance by now. (Let me get a show of hands- how many of you still have a copy of Matthew Sweet's Inside? Juliana Hatfield's Become What You Are? That's what I thought). "All That I Know" is a lame stab at miming The Beatles. There's a mellotron and an embarrassing attempt at falsetto harmony. Woof. If it weren't for the booming drums "Walking On A Wire" would be an adult contemporary ballad. Heart-rending emoting to the max. There's actually a song called "Wish You Were Here." Is that an Incubus cover? May as well be. Somebody please push the button that stops this.