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The Get Up Kids, ‘Guilt Show’ (Vagrant)

They grow up so fast. Rock’n’roll may be the sound of maturity deferred, but lately that hasn’t stopped punk-bred bastards of young from trying to act their ages. On Dashboard Confessional’s latest, Chris Carrabba put aside high-school drama and dared his cult to follow. Blink-182 put on grim expressions-not to mention pants-for their surprisingly dark new album. With their fourth full-length, Kansas City’s Get Up Kids also struggle with the tough stuff that can make or break a life: commitment and betrayal, hard promises and bitter pills.

This isn’t the Kids’ first attempt to break rank with their emo peers-that would be 2002’s On a Wire, produced for maximum moodiness by Scott Litt, arranged for acoustic guitar and furrowed brow. Guilt Show feels more organic. Emo seldom exorcises pain without first romanticizing it, but primary Kids songwriter Matt Pryor doesn’t allow himself that luxury:He sings about characters who’ve painted themselves into corners, people who’d do anything for a second chance or an escape route, including lying their asses off.

The This Year’s Model–style bash-along “Wouldn’t Believe It” is a marital-stress snapshot so sharp that well before Pryor mentions a “scarlet letter,” you can hear the dishes breaking from across the lawn. School’s out forever, and the boy-girl strife documented in “How Long Is Too Long” and “Conversation” has consequences that last long past summer vacation.

Ultimately, Guilt Show feels about as transitional as its predecessor; Pryor has stripped the cuteness from his songwriting but hasn’t figured out how to make his dispatches from adulthood resonate the way his teen land stuff used to. And some of the “sophisticated” instrumental flourishes (like the pseudo–Yo La Tengo space-lounge outro tacked onto “Wouldn’t Believe It”) feel like just that: flourishes. This isn’t the best Get Up Kids record. But in its embrace of messy and painful reality, it may be their deepest.