It’s really tempting to make a joke about how The Get Up Kids are middle-aged now, but I’ll let you come to your own conclusions and punchlines about Kicker, the Kids’ latest EP. The Kansas City, Missouri-based band started making emo over two decades ago and, fortunately for them and their personal lives, they’re no longer drawing on heartbreak and melodrama for inspiration. The band has matured and moved toward clean production, delivering four upbeat tracks with introspective but vague lyrics.
Far from dad rock, Kicker still has the bounce of pop-punk but leaves out the angst and heartache from the old emo that would appeal to teens. Instead, the lyrics are a bit more generalized and universal: you’re never quite sure exactly to what they are referring or to whom they are singing. In “I’m Sorry,” I’d have to guess that he is telling his child that “I never wanna miss your birthday parties, I just really wanna see you smiling,” but he could be singing to friends or partners in the other lines. There’s lyrics about finally realizing what’s important in life sprinkled throughout the EP. “Maybe” mentions a lot of discord without any specifics. Everyone can probably assign their own meaning to the words, but it definitely doesn’t tell a classic emo story like “my girlfriend is somewhere far away and I miss her” or “we’re stuck living in a very small town.” The EP’s title and cover art (and the video for “Better This Way) refer to foosball, which frontman Matt Pryor posits could be a sport or a game in an interview with NME. Let’s face it, foosball would be only be a sport in the most watered-down definition, kind of like how the emotion in these lyrics feels watered-down and vague.
The album has got an old pop-punk sound to it, especially as it opens with “Maybe” and “Better This Way.” It’s catchy, with the second half of the album providing some potential earworms on “I’m Sorry” and “My Own Reflection.” The latter includes keyboards and vocal harmonies, unlike the others, which helps it stand out. That nostalgia, mixed with the clean production and the happy, up-tempo sound, make this a very grown up pop-punk album. It’s for people who were around for earlier waves of emo, but now have less patience for fuzzy vocals and imperfect production, and now have a less dramatic personal life.
Kicker won’t make you feel all the young people-feels (or maybe any feels at all except for pop-punk nostalgia,) but it’s high energy and fun. And clocking in at under 15 minutes, it’s a quick way to get pumped for summer fun while bringing back memories of general admission emo shows.