Eudora (Vagrant)

The Get Up Kids 

Eudora (Vagrant)

"The Get Up Kids have gotten significantly worse over time," declares Jonas4263, an amateur Amazon.com reviewer who gave Eudora one star out of five. Now, as many of Jonas' fellow guest critics also pointed out, the album in question is a B-sides/covers compilation, not a new disc. And as its Liberty Hall show last month revealed, the band is headed in a new direction, with country, Southern rock and even grunge bleeding into its sound, so the unreleased tracks on the compilation shouldn't be interpreted as a sign of recordings to come. Those facts aside, is Eudora, in fact, inferior to all the Kids' previous full-length releases?

Well, yes, pretty much by definition of the odds-and-sods format. There are rough drafts of eventual gems such as "Ten Minutes" and "I'm a Loner Dottie, a Rebel," both of which lack the strong lead-ins and passionate vocals that energize the album versions. The band demonstrates what happens when a power ballad is drained of its power when it rehashes Mötley Crüe's "On With the Show"; makes the Cure seem pedestrian and inelegant with its graceless clodhopping through "Close to Me"; and strips David Bowie's "Suffragette City" of its flamboyant glamour. The Kids shred through the Replacements' "Beer for Breakfast" in concert, but on disc, the party keg runs dry.

But Eudora also contains solid proof that Jonas4263's theory is without merit. Exhibit A: All the disc's standout tracks showcase the band's newest member, James Dewees. Sparking the irresistible spirit of 1999's Something to Write Home About, Dewees' keyboards added a necessary dimension to the Kids' sound. His impact was immediate -- "Newfound Mass," a 2000 compilation track that marked Dewees' first recording with the band, is more delicately beautiful than anything the Kids had previously created. Dewees also shows impressive range on his first lead-vocal assignment, a surprisingly effective cover of New Order's "Regret." (Maybe he can help singer Matt Pryor hit some of those high notes he abandons in concert.) Even when not directly collaborating with the band, Dewees inspires some of its best work: The Kids' finest cover is "Burned Bridges," a thorough reimagining of a complex composition by the keyboardist's resurgent day-job band Coalesce. Eudora is essential only for collectors, who get all the out-of-print 7-inch singles and tribute-album tracks that previously required Ebay searches and bountiful disposable income. But it's encouraging for all fans, both because it confirms that the group's current lineup is its finest and because it suggests that the band has gotten all of its ill-advised covers out of the way.

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