CD Reviews

The Get Up Kids
Something to Write Home About
Vagrant Records

Weep harder, emo nation—your fave underground band is about to get kinda big, what with the move to a decent-sized-but-still-indie label and all. Kansas City cult heroes the Get Up Kids seem destined for some major-market radio airplay, at the very least. Their formula of wimpy, submissive vocals meshed with driving, frequently hardcore riffage and lock-myself-in-my-teenage-bedroom-and-mope lyrics set them up to be the next-generation Smiths, with a following that's just as rabid (something obvious to anyone who showed up at their Koo's Art Cafe show in July, where the crowds were so socked-in that they made the walls sweat). Their dedicated horde should drool all over the new album, Something to Write Home About (out on Tuesday), and with their much-improved pop-hook instinct (which you always felt they were striving for on their debut full-length, Four Minute Mile, but never quite pulled off), so will a lot of newcomers. Their songs this time out are habitually stirring in an anthemish, Pearl Jam way—moving, even, like on the piano-washed lullaby "I'll Catch You," which ends the disc on a note of reassurance after some 40 minutes spent wallowing through a lyrical swamp of tears and frustration (during which time we also get such bittersweet moments as "Out of Reach," a sorrowful keys/acoustic guitar ballad about being far away from home that further signals the arrival of a quieter, more adult band—the Get Up Grown Ups, anyone?). But they're still primarily a rock outfit, as such nifty moments as the opening seconds of "Holiday" will testify, where a wicked drag down an electric-guitar neck lets you know they haven't abandoned their rambunctious punch. The Get Up Kids seem to want to become one of those tremendous bands that define eras, and Something to Write Home About is a nice stab at the title, done without sacrificing their principles or their treasured indie street cred. (Rich Kane)

The Negro Problem
Joys and Concerns
Aerial Flipout Records

So, what's the problem? The problem is that the corporate cowards at Dreamworks SKG pour millions into marketing moronic fodder like Buckcherry while truly deserving bands like the Negro Problem toil in obscurity. After 1997's critically acclaimed Post-Minstrel Syndrome (recorded on eight tracks and a shoestring budget), leader Mark Stewart and his two cohorts have definitely knocked a few runs-in with their sophomore effort. It's just too bad that Joys and Concerns was released late in the season because this would have been a great summer album, perfect for escaping the heat at the beach or setting the right mood for a July sunset. Case in point is the wonderfully paisley-ish "Sea of Heat," which made me pine for the days of the Three O'Clock. And anyone who can write a song from the point of view of "Ken" (that would be Barbie's friend) and not sound like a complete tool has gobs of gifted, spooky talent. Other standout tracks include "Peter Jennings" (even better if I could understand the words), "Comikbuchland" and "Goode Tyme." The only sticking point are the four bonus tracks at the end —nice, but a bit much (memo to the Negro Problem: remember the Ramones, who always kept things brief and to-the-point). Recommended only for people who like insightful lyrics, melodic tunesmithing and good vibes. They're not Korn, and thank God. (George Fryer)

Other Star People perform at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-1133. Wed., 8 p.m. $10.

Other Star People
Diamonds in the Belly of the Dog
A&M Records

Other Star People resurrects ex-L7 bassist Jennifer Finch, who these days seems to have found her comfy spot in a mellower groove. It's a departure from the estrogen-driven she-punk metal of her past. But she's a happier punk now, and Diamonds reveals that she hasn't completely abandoned the glory of crunching the Perfect Riff. "Drip" explores the self-loathing that comes with drug addiction and the disappointment that sets in when you realize how much time you've wasted ("Looking around for the spoon/But the spoon ran away with the clock"). There's a lot of relationship goop, which delves into lovelorn moodiness and the frustration of passions gone sour—"And Then There's None" relates that sinking, nervous feeling after a breakup when you're yearning for the phone to ring, desperately wanting to hear that lost voice promising to make it all better (but the song's so chipper it's hard to feel their pain). Still, who wouldn't clutch his or her heart hearing "Locked Out," a pained, body-aching pronouncement on what happens when the person closest to you is suddenly revealed as a stranger and you're forced to grasp the agony of feeling thrown away like your parents' crappy couch. Other Star People describe their sound as "Cali-phonic," which embodies all of their influences—new wave, alterna-rock, punk, pop and more. But dig a little deeper into what they're up to here, and you'll notice that their happy-but-distraught music perfectly mirrors California's polished exterior, along with all of its jacked-up realities. (Arrissia Owen)

 
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