Published Jan 01, 2006Traditionally considered the more personal and introspective side of the melodic pop-punk movement, emo is a sub-genre that is probably one of the most misunderstood of all punk's mutant offspring. It is most easily characterised as punk's kinder, gentler cousin music that can be emotionally pummelling and epic in scope with hints of swirling guitar rock, although even that is a little too simplistic. But no sooner was there a generally accepted definition in place than bands like Saves the Day and Promise Ring up and underwent radical shifts in musical direction and acoustic guitar-wielding troubadours like Dashboard Confessional and onelinedrawing became emo's poster boys, further adding to the confusion over what exactly emo is.
Now, with the release of the Get Up Kids third full-length On A Wire, produced by Scott Litt (R.E.M, Replacements), things are bound to get a little more messed up. On the Eudora, Kansas quintet's first studio disc in three years (a compilation of outtakes and rarities was released last year) their transformation to a slightly raunchier R.E.M. for the new millennium is well underway. Gone is the clattering, post-adolescent angst of their 1997 debut EP replaced by a more refined, textured, thoughtful brand of songwriting and daringly different arrangements.
"We wanted it that way," says keyboardist James Dewees (who does triple duty as the one-man band Reggie and the Full Effect and as drummer in metallicore outfit Coalesce). "We knew it was going to shock a lot of people but it's a transition we made a long time ago. It's nothing new for us but for people hearing it for the first time, they wonder where the fast heavy rock songs and high whiny vocals are." Drawing his own comparisons to the Promise Ring's Britpop makeover on their Wood/Water disc, Dewees says both bands have just done what comes naturally to any artist.
"I think they're kind of the same way we are and get the same reaction from people who think we're supposed to be the same emo band that has been around forever," he says. "We're better songwriters than just this three-chord emo, everything has octave chords and distortion, and it's fast then it's got a breakdown in the middle and all the songs are about the same thing' thing. People say the Get Up Kids are emo but I think there's a whole new emo out there now."