After the endless performing that followed Something to Write Home About, the Get up Kids understandably became a little tired of their own material. Saying "no" to their growing fanbase and high-profile headliners (Weezer, Green Day, etc.) was something the Kansas City emo pioneers couldn't do, and the years of touring left the group desperate for something new. When it was finally time to write a new record, anything that rang in sympathy with their hits was to be avoided by the road-weary band. Subsequently, On a Wire has little immediate resemblance to the band's '90s discography. While it isn't hard to tone down so many punk-affected guitars riffs and upbeat tempos, it is quite difficult to unlearn good songwriting. And the group did not eschew this, their most definitive quality. Try as they might to alienate themselves from themselves, the same auditory pleasure centers are infected when listening to On a Wire. Just below the surface, all the quintessential Get up Kids qualities are there: melody, intelligence, and lyrical sincerity. If they were trying to lose their real essence, they failed. But that's to their own benefit, as all the good stuff still exists underneath the surface of On a Wire. This reshaped outer shell has some nice surprises. Lo-fi and post-rock influences ("Walking") are mixed into a subdued pop that calls to mind a host of British influences spanning the entire rock era. The Beatles and Elvis Costello ("All That I Know") are hinted at, along with a few modern Yankee favorites like Elliott Smith and labelmates Dashboard Confessional ("Overdue"). The names change, but there's hardly anything new in song-driven pop/rock. What makes records like On a Wire credible, even superior to their competitors (emo or otherwise), is talent and truthfulness.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson