“She cuts herself beneath her clothes
A secret wound that no one knows
She likes the way she hurts herself
It makes her feel like nothing else
She never talks to anyone
She hides away, abhors the sun
She keeps her heart within a box
Protected with one hundred locks”
How do you respond to bad lyrics? Some music listeners focus on the words, while others focus more on the notes. If you are a words-focuser, you will probably hate Get Set Go’s Ordinary World. Fair enough – it can feel like being beaten with Trent Reznor’s seventh grade diary. But if you are able to probe beyond the lyrics, you will find a lot of good music hiding underneath.
Get Set Go claim to find inspiration in Guided By Voices and Wilco, but their second release has more in common with ’90s punk revival classics Dookie and Smash. It contains big, soaring, polished, wonderfully catchy hooks about moping around and watching the future disappear. However, unlike Green Day and the Offspring, these guys don’t really rock. Instead they opt for a more introverted, mid-tempo sound. Snarling aggression is replaced by winding viola lines, prominent two-part harmonies, and high, tinkling piano. It’s got a punk heart wrapped in a tame exterior, and it can be gorgeous.
So Ordinary World aims for a mellow punk sound that comes out charming and satisfying. This shouldn’t be taken lightly; too many albums are based on misguided blueprints. The fact that Get Set Go absolutely nail their target is an added bonus. They know how to write a pop/punk song: tense, minimal verses and energetic, hooky choruses. Without straying too far from that formula, they keep it interesting with an arsenal of subtle tricks. Overlapping melodies, sad handclaps, and other such things help to give these songs personality.
And frankly, these songs need all the personality they can get, thanks to the fatal flaw of Ordinary World (besides its lyrics): the album is 79 minutes long. That is INSANE for a pop/punk album. I suppose it might have worked had there been more overarching shape, but the songs are just too similar to hold a listener for well over an hour. This is teenager punk we’re talking about; an album half as long would still have been too much.
Can you tell that I’m torn? Ordinary World is a very flawed album, but I find myself fishing for positive things to say. The truth is, I like Get Set Go’s sophomore record more than it deserves. Modern indie pop is still walking in the massive footsteps of Chutes Too Narrow, along with a few other classics. The result has been a series of literate, clever, rather soulless albums such as Twin Cinema and The Life Pursuit. Placed within this assault of detached craftsmanship, Ordinary World’s blunt, charming honesty is absolutely refreshing. The album is far from brilliant – but if you’re half as tired of the indie pop scene as I am, I still recommend it.
Reviewed by Dave Koenig
This review is also posted on The Modern Pea Pod.