All Things Reconsidered: The Get Up Kids an overlooked predecessor to modern emo

Sunday, January 8, 2017 - 5:40pm

This week Daily Music writers look back — and reconsider — less modern pieces of music. Here, Dominic Polsinelli reflects on pivotal emo band The Get Up Kids. 

 

The early 2000s get far too much credit for their contribution to the emo movement. Yes, the era blessed us with Take This to Your Grave, In Love and Death and Your Favorite Weapon, but 1999 gave us truly untouchable gems like the quintessential first self-titled record by American Football. Yet, the true diamond in the rough of ’99 is Something to Write Home About by The Get Up Kids, a tender forerunner of the more upbeat pop-punk to come in the following decade.

I often find myself playing the “which album would I rather listen to” game with myself and, when I’m feeling the emo-punk spectrum, rarely anything beats Something to Write Home About. The fact of the matter is, The Get Up Kids did it the best before the genre ever hit the mainstream. Nearly two decades later, barely anything within today’s “Emo Revival” comes close to the genius of this record. Nothing feels quite as fresh.

“Constants aren’t so constant anymore,” sings Matt Pryor on “Valentine.” Our world is turbulent. Life itself is turbulent, and it really sucks when you realize nothing is constant as you grow up. Emo music is emotional for a reason (duh), and because of this, it’s incredibly relatable. It’s also why lyrics like those found on this album remain timeless, regardless of its tweeny sentiments.

And truly it’s the success and timelessness of Something to Write Home About that is a dead giveaway as to why emo music is thriving again in the first place. It’s so easy to chalk emo music up to cliches like “sad boys” and “Warped Tour kids,” but these stereotypes only muddle the true accessibility of most of the genre. The melodies on this record are poppy and fun, consisting of rocking riffs lined with floaty synth lines, uplifted expertly with Pryor’s earnestly raspy vocals. This album is still pertinent because it showcases just how easy it is to enjoy music within the daunting and convoluted umbrella term that is emo.

“My Apology” represents almost everything that makes an emo song, well, emo. It includes sentiments still present in most of modern emo’s most successful works from bands such as Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms. Uncertainty, gaining confidence and having feelings you would really rather kick to the curb are all staples in the poignant genre showcased in this track. If lyrics like “Sometimes I’m old enough to keep routine / sometimes I’m child enough to scream,” don’t make you take a double-take at your own life, you have far more certainty than is humanly possible, dear reader.

A close friend once told me that, when reviewing art, I should ask myself, “Is this accomplishing what it wants to accomplish?” I’ve listened to Something to Write Home About at least a hundred times, and every listen feels like the first: it’s fresh, fun and unapologetically emotional like emo should be. It accomplishes these feats with flying colors by presenting its angst-ridden vibe amongst its dynamic catalogue of 12 tracks from pop-punk anthems indicative of the turn of the millennium to piano-heavy tracks that bring modern classics like “Miserable at Best” by Mayday Parade to mind.

In 1999, Pitchfork gave this album a egregious 2.0 — with remarks such as “mind-numbingly uninspired, adolescent pop.” There’s an obvious issue with reducing the album to only pop music, as it clearly explores punk influences from previous decades. The reviewer goes on to say, “The Get Up Kids write from assumption, not passion,” while assuming that the rawness of the album makes it incapable of being considered “good” in the timeless Pitchfork definition. In 2017, when I listen to this album, I hear a record that is nothing if not entirely inspired and written completely from the heart. Something to Write Home About is still the charming, brilliant predecessor to the explosive popularity of modern emo, and an integral milestone in the history of the storied genre.