A fixture of the pop-punk and emo scenes long before either of those terms had taken on pejorative implications, Kansas City's the Get Up Kids disbanded in 2005, only to reunite early last year to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album, Something to Write Home About. On their first album of new material since their breakup, the band is faced with the task of attempting to find their place in the current market without alienating their devoted core fanbase. There Are Rules, unfortunately, finds the Get Up Kids somewhat confused as to how to meet that challenge.
While the style of rock for which they're best known might now be passé, the Get Up Kids pushes themselves entirely too far outside their comfort zone on There Are Rules, resulting in an album that is at turns strident and awkward. With their heavily distorted, skuzzy guitars, songs like "Birmingham" and "Tithe" sound like Japandroids B-sides. Were the songs as tuneful as that band's "Young Hearts Spark Fire," that would be a more favorable point of comparison, but the Get Up Kids attempts to use the noisiness of their tracks to mask the fact that they want for real hooks. While there's something to be said for looking to a highly buzzed, contemporary rock act as a cue for a new direction, the execution is lacking.
The songs that foreground the band's gift for angst fare somewhat better. "Regent's Court" gives actual context for all of the rage and noise, while "Shatter Your Lung" scuttles along a surprisingly deft funk groove from bassist Robert Pope. But "Pararelevant" and "Keith Case" get mired in post-garage posturing, while "Automatic" and "When It Dies" sound as bloated and sludgy as the songs from Jimmy Eat World's similarly disappointing Invented. Ultimately, There Are Rules aims for an aggressive aesthetic, but it ends up as mostly empty bluster as the Get Up Kids tries to put their pieces back together.