It wouldn't be natural for these healthy Midwestern lads to stagnate in the punk rock cesspool forever; it's time the Get Up Kids tested new waters. The band's a popular one in the punk faction known as emo-core (so named for the emotional content of the songs and performances), but this, its latest album, shows strong pop sensibilities and a noticeable polish.

Singer Matt Pryor is as comfortable with catchy harmonies backing the group's up-tempo anthems as he is with tragic, romantic ballads accompanied by acoustic guitar and keyboards. Either way, the lyrics are always a little sad and cynical, so even the poppiest tune couldn't be labeled "light." But it's a great contrast — the Kids have planned this album like a good live show, throwing in a few slow dances among the punk rock standbys. There's a little something for everyone, but in a good way. It never feels contrived or insincere.

Normally, when a band tries to stretch new legs too soon, it wobbles a bit or falls down completely. Let's be honest: Sometimes it shouldn't even try to wear the damned things, but instead be content as a one-note amoeba or predictable slug. But here, the Get Up Kids not only stand up straight and strong, they confidently take a few steps into new territory that seems both fresh and totally right for them.

No, it's not called a "sellout." When it involves a higher level of maturity and musical competence, it's called "artistic growth." Evolution, if you will.

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