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The Get Up Kids – Guilt Show

the Get Up Kids have become dilettantes of their own art; seemingly lost in an overwhelming wave of misdirection and desire to appease wanton listeners

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Dull. Uninspired. Directionless. Not terms commonly reserved for the Get Up Kids. Partly because their extensive discography, while not on the forefront of the critically praised, appeals to a great number of listeners with a soft spot for music’s emotional refuge. Since their early 7”s, they have celebrated the bittersweet, often cathartic energy that revolved around healing the broken heart. One that lay threadbare and in direct aim of their lyrical montage, painted to great depth by self-effacing lines (“your place is at the heart of what I do everything’s for you / every time I run away / it’s easier to stay”) and observations of what is lost in distance (“I’ve got pictures to prove I was there / but you don’t care”). They were perhaps the words of one, but felt by many.

The Red Letter Day EP, still their most complete and affecting work, echoed with the caustic fangs of sorrow that, in their perfect tuneful reverberation, left an impressive mark of sincerity (although at times described as a little mawkish). Is there a better reflection of resentful lost felt than “Anne Arbour”? The agony was beautiful, and the empathy not lost through the frayed romance. The triumph that followed was simply majestic; Something to Write Home About was the personification of what we all are at times – “out of sight, out of mind, out of reach” – left but the wilting memories with nothing more than frail goodbyes and a postcard. It was a record that spoke to those who spent the waiting by the phone. Built on endless aphorisms of love and lost, songs like “Valentine” and “Out of Reach” were rich in emotional appeal. While the Get Up Kids were not the architects of this tender-laden genre, they were one of the select few who propelled it into the many heart-shaped boxes of music’s thin-skinned aftertaste. As the lush harmony of “I’ll Catch You” faded away, there was certain assurance that their unkempt adoration would never follow.

Such a collection would have needed either a greater successor, or a shift in direction to lessen the temptation of resting on laurels and accomplishment. And how often it is that one finds the difficulty in writing with heightened poignancy rests not in the initial plunge, but the falling thereafter; searching for similar ground and radiance. So they did – fall that is. The new musical horizons On A Wire featured proved that maybe the Get Up Kids weren’t ready for such a change in direction; the listeners certainly weren’t. The grainy scope and emphasis on more unrefined textures was possibly the only way to demonstrate growth in such curbed ambiance. Gone amidst their new found bearing was the graceful sentimentality that had become the cornerstone of their sound; and as the music fought for recognition the allure grew dispassionate.

How do you again achieve that emotive past? For the Get Up Kids perhaps, it is fairly obvious. Parallels to Something to Write Home About need to be retraced, and as frustrating as it must be for a musician to have to once again trundle down a beaten path, these are but the few options for those seeking adoration amongst a disappointed audience. The landscape itself has changed however, and in the years since their fateful album much of the surrounding vistas have blossomed (or overpopulated) into a patchy, often hazy scene of never-should-haves and really-never-should-haves. As Guilt Showseems to so eagerly display; they have all but forgotten the dusty backlots of On A Wireand have rediscovered the use of more stable rock-entangled-pop characteristics. Yet as they bungle through these thirteen songs, it is clear they are not so keen on giving up their desire to earn musical respect. And for the first time, a Get Up Kids album can be summed up simply as dull, uninspired and directionless.

From the laid back Brit-pop apostrophes of “Holy Roman” (sounding plenty like they’ve been listening to The Coral or Porcupine-era Echo & the Bunnymen) to the garish chirpiness of “In Your Sea” (kitschy summertime AM radio castoff), there seems to be great affliction in focusing on a distinct approach. Instead, most of Guilt Show feels like a band trying their best to sound as relevant as possible. The incredibly theatrical “Is There A Way Out” is a lesson of torment, carved in gloomy progressive dreadfulness while “Never Be Alone” is very much equal in drag to the On A Wire track “Walking On A Wire.”

The instances where they do tread on familiar sounds seem at times overly effusive. “How Long Is Too Long?” and “Man Of Conviction” would have fit nicely with their earlier work, but the latter is clumsy; replete with hand-claps and a trailing piano line that screams confusion. “Martyr Me” (and maybe to some extent “Sympathy”) is the album’s lone moment of engaging complexity. Most similar in its composition to “Red Letter Day” and “Mass Pike”, it is a song phosphorescent with the gleam of earnest melancholy; finally resuming the sense of moving. It is however, a wonder how the rest of the songs are so lacking in any real tension, richness or profundity. The lyrics, once rife with searing piquancy, are now devoid of any lasting characteristics. Witness the choral aloofness of “Never Be Alone”; “Ohhhhhhhhhh / That’s just the way we go / No matter how the dice didn’t roll / You’ll never be alone” – not exactly “I still wear your heart around my throat.”

This is a scary place to be, for both listener and band – the visible path traced post-Something To Write Home About is a distinct nosedive into forgettable. It says plenty that the New Amsterdams’ Worse for the Wear is endlessly better than Guilt Show. In essence, the Get Up Kids have become dilettantes of their own art; seemingly lost in an overwhelming wave of misdirection and desire to appease wanton listeners. The underlining sentiment that resides here is an unmistakable lack of sincerity; everything the title purports it to be. And perhaps they could search through their own words to find the hollow cries of “start over, start over”, but it is very much clear, they wouldn’t know where to begin.

(Vagrant Records)

Reviews

Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper

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Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.

(earMUSIC)

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Reviews

Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good

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Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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