For most of us, before we became the hyper-literate consumers of music that we are now, our early experiences with listening to music came from whatever might have existed around us. This may have been your parents’ favorite radio stations or the CDs that bounced back and forth between friends at school. For me, it was my older brother’s collection of ska and pop-punk notables from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Motion City Soundtrack.
This also included The Get Up Kids, whose front man Matt Pryor just released his fourth solo album, Wrist Slitter. Going back and listening to Four Minute Mile, The Get Up Kids debut album, is an eye-opening experience. It was so basic, so carelessly mixed that it sounded like any garage band worth half a damn could have put it together. But that was the point. Pryor’s edgy, bordering on tone-deaf style of singing was meant to personify that common nature that pop-punk was meant to evoke. Most of us didn’t date the prom queen, so instead we sang about her.
Wrist Slitter, which I promise is not as bleak as its name might imply, is a much needed maturation on Pryor’s earlier efforts. The days of pop-punk eventually gave way to emo (thanks, Pinkerton and Something About Airplanes!), a brand of music just as feeling but a little less blatant. And Pryor’s songs are just as riff-laden and hyper at times as you would expect from someone with his background, but altogether cleaner than anything he did with The Get Up Kids. All the foggy angst that once propelled songs like “Don’t Hate Me” is now clarified and crystallized with songs like “Foolish Kids.”
Pryor’s voice is still as grating as it ever was and at times it falls flat in a new context. The title track is easily the album’s weakest showing, a jangly banjo folk anthem that’s as awkward as it is out of place. But there are some triumphs, such as the aforementioned “Foolish Kids” or “Words Get In The Way,” which contains the line “A crooked mile between the home and gate/at the time the distance was appropriate.” Earlier versions of Pryor would have tripped all over that rhyme, but this one simply relishes in its success as the machine-like guitars persist.
In Wrist Slitter, Pryor helps us grow up from the days of speaker-blaring awkwardness. You might love it, you might hate it, but at the very least it will remind you of those times spent riding shotgun with your older brother. Times when we were all get up kids.