"In the mid-90s, emo was still strictly adherent to its hardcore roots. The idea of any punk band flirting with a hook let alone accessibility was dealt with swiftly."
There’s an inherent adolescent quality to The Get Up Kids. Originally “The Suburban Get Up Kids” before dropping the redundant adjective, the band was formed by a group of teenagers in Kansas City; just within reach of punk music’s latest extension in the Midwest Emo is a uniquely suburban genre — one that thrives on broad gestures and building lovesick emotion up to skyscraping proportions. While Something to Write Home About cemented them as one of second wave emo’s most influential and while the Americana-infused On a Wire has revealed itself to be quite a grower, none of this would be possible without Four Minute Mile: a breathless display of teenage fury that celebrates 25 years today.
Emo wasn’t supposed to last. For the first twenty years of its existence, it was closer to an insult than a respected music genre. Esteemed publications routinely dished out pans that they’re still apologizing for and the golden rule of being in an emo band was to deny any association with the label. “As if hardcore wasn’t emotional to begin with” said Ian MacKaye in 1986. Even today, most bands of this era probably wince at the term (our condolences). Four Minute Mile is in many ways the ideal emo debut: full of energy, sticky hooks buried in lo-fi production, and wide-eyed sincerity.
Four Minute Mile revels in its juvenilia. Its artwork, a high school track meet, blurred by the runner’s motion while its song titles range from “Fall Semester” to a quote from S.E. Hinton’s immortal high school text The Outsiders (“Stay Golden Ponyboy”). Still well under the drinking age, the squeaky-voiced but expressive Pryor and the more muscular Suptic trade off on album opener “Coming Clean” is the closest thing to a thesis statement the band’s ever made. A caffeinated rush of pop-punk that builds to a bait-and-switch of sentimentality that leads directly into a similarly “Don’t Hate Me”, the album’s most enduring track that could effectively ride the power-pop one-two crunch of the chorus alone into the emo hall of fame if wanted.
In the mid-90s, emo was still strictly adherent to its hardcore roots. The idea of any punk band flirting with a hook let alone accessibility was dealt with swiftly. Jawbreaker may have become martyrs with Dear You, but the floodgates were open for bands to tweak the formula. The Kids could crank out songs at lightning-fast tempos but at their heart these are po songs. While expanded upon in later releases, Four Minute Mile shows that from the get-go they were just as adept as balladry as they were barnburners. “‘Lowercase West Thomas” plays like a precursor to their anthem “Valentine” and could easily fit into the final slot of your dorm room mixtape. There’s a hangdog charm to the record that’s instantly apparent. It’s a sloppy effort bursting with an earnestness that would be washed out by studio polish.
The influence of Four Minute Mile is clear as day. Pete Wentz famously went as far to say "Fall Out Boy would not be a band if it were not for The Get Up Kids" and while the band may have mixed feelings on their legacy, it remains one of the great triumphs of the genre. You don’t get the moshpit existentialist bliss of Joyce Manor or Tigers Jaw some fifteen years later and you certainly don’t get the major label pop-punk revival that’s dominated the past year. The re-evaluation of such a reviled genre poised the band for a comeback regardless of whether or not they would literally do it themselves (they did). Bassist Rob Pope returning to The Get Up Kids from his tenure in Spoon feels like indie rock’s own instance of when Lebron left South Beach to come back to Cleveland. Critical acclaim is fun and all, but this… this is home.
The Get Up Kids - Four Minute Mile
Indie Exclusive 25th Anniversary Edition Bone Color Vinyl