On a Wire

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On a Wire
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 14, 2002 (2002-05-14)
RecordedNovember 2001, January–February 2002
StudioZ'Gwonth Studios, Lawrence, Kansas;
Tarquin Studios, Bridgeport, Connecticut
ProducerScott Litt
The Get Up Kids chronology
On a Wire
Guilt Show
Singles from On a Wire
  1. "Overdue"
    Released: June 2002

On a Wire is the third studio album by American rock band The Get Up Kids on Vagrant Records. The album was also released in two record versions: black 180 gram vinyl and limited edition picture disc.

Background and recording[edit]

After touring extensively to support Something to Write Home About, the band was looking to depart from their high-energy powerpop style in lieu of a slower, more mellow sound. In 2000, vocalist/guitarist Matt Pryor moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and drummer Ryan Pope moved to Los Angeles, California. As a result, the members only saw each other when they embarked on tours. Later in the year, the group received a number of tour offers that they accepted, such as opening for Weezer and Green Day. The group later reconvened in Kansas and started writing new material for their next album. Soon afterwards, they accumulated 25 songs. The band compiled a list of potential producers for their next album. Scott Litt approached the group after liking the demos he heard.[1] According to Pryor, Litt was chosen because he would be less likely to push a sound that would sell albums, as opposed to what the band wanted to write.

In November 2001, the band recorded "Campfire Kansas" at Z'Gwonth Studios in Lawrence, Kansas. The rest of the album was recorded in January and February 2002 at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut with Litt[2] over the course of six weeks.[3] Keyboardist James Dewees stated in an interview with AP Magazine that Litt "knew how to make bands sound good, but he was taking a band that was used to playing four-chord rock songs. We didn't know what we were doing." According to Pope, Litt didn't allow Dewees much control with his instrument: "James would go into something and (Scott Litt) would be like, 'No jazz chords! Don't do that! One hand!'"[4] Litt mixed the recordings while Peter Katis acted as engineer. Ed Rose, who had worked with the band previously, provided additional creative input on "Overdue" while Carl Nappa did digital editing. Katis did additional mixing at The Hit Factory in New York City later in February with assistance from Jamie Duncan. Stephen Marcussen then mastered the recordings at Marcussen Mastering.[2]


On a Wire's songs were collectively written by the group, unlike their first two albums, which were predominately written by Pryor. Previously, whatever number of songs they had prior to entering the studio would end up being on a record. For On a Wire, they initially wrote double the amount of songs that would end up on the album. All of the members would show up to practice sessions with a song, which would be fleshed out by everyone. This was to allow every member having some input in the song writing and reduced any resentment in a situation where a single person was writing all the songs. In the past, the group would play songs as a whole band, and sometimes play them on tour, before recording them in the studio at a fast pace. This time, they would take the demo recordings of songs and build upon them.[5]

Musically, the album's sound has been classed as alternative country,[6][7] americana[3] and indie rock,[8] drawing comparisons to the Promise Ring's Wood/Water (2002),[9][10] Wilco and the Dream Syndicate.[3] It marked a shift away from the group's earlier pop punk/emo sound[9][11] and replaced it mainly with acoustic guitars, quiet vocals[11] and more prominent keyboards.[12][10] Bassist Rob Pope said they wanted to make an album that was less "guitar-rock-oriented", opting to focus more on the songs' arrangements.[1] Pryor said most of the songs were "sort of questioning where you're at and what you want to do and ultimately coming to the conclusion that you've got to be happy with what you're doing."[1] The album's title is taken from "Walking on a Wire", which was originally titled "Career Killer"; the song talks about a relationship failing.[3] "Overdue" is about Pryor's dad and things he thinks about as a parent himself: "If I'm going to learn anything from my parents, it's going to be what not to do."[5]

Release and promotion[edit]

On a Wire was released through independent label Vagrant Records on May 14, 2002.[13] The album's artwork was created by Travis Millard;[2] Pryor said it was "incredibly complicated" as the band wanted it to stand out when compared to the covers of their other albums.[14] In May and June, the group went on a headlining US tour[13] with support from Hot Rod Circuit, the Jealous Sound, Rhett Miller and Audio Learning Center.[15] On June 21, a music video was released for "Overdue" on the group's website, consisting of animation made by Millard. Around this time, the track was released as a single.[16] The video had a tiny bit of success, receiving a few late-night plays on MTV and was in rotation for a week at MTV2.[4] The band spent a week at home, before going on an east coast US tour[17] in June and July with Superchunk and Hot Rod Circuit.[15] After this, they performed "Stay Gone" on the Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and appeared at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan.[17]

In August, the band went on a European tour, which included a number of festival appearances.[18] The tour was to include shows in Italy, Switzerland and Amsterdam, but were left out due to time constraints. During this tour, the album was release in Europe on August 20. Similar to the European tour, the band were due to perform[17] on the Vagrant America arena tour alongside other Vagrant Records bands[19] but had to cancel. Further European shows were planned but also abandoned due to scheduling conflicts, resulting in the band staying at home. They played a few Midwest US shows in November and December,[17] before embarking on another European tour with Koufax in January 2003.[20] In February and March, the band toured Japan, Canada and the US.[21] A music video for "Stay Gone", directed by Brock Batten and Jonathan Green, was released on the Vagrant Records Another Year on the Street Vol. 3 compilation[22] in June 2004.[23]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[25]
Chart AttackUnfavorable[9]
CMJ New Music MonthlyFavorable[26]
E! OnlineB[27]
Entertainment WeeklyFavorable[8]
Neumu4/10 stars[11]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[12]
Stylus MagazineF[28]
The Washington PostFavorable[29]

On a Wire charted at number 57 on the Billboard 200[30] and number 3 on the Independent Albums charts.[31]

While the album was received with mild praise from more mainstream publications like Rolling Stone, many smaller publications felt that the band had abandoned their roots as second-wave emo group. However, despite the criticism, the band still incorporated much of their musical growth into their follow-up Guilt Show, which was much better received.[32] However, many fans were upset with the concerts, since many of the songs on the album did not fit well with the band's usually energetic live show.

However, the poor reception of the album had a larger impact on the band's widespread popularity as a whole. In an interview with AP Magazine, lead singer Matt Pryor considered that the dramatic change in style for On a Wire seriously impacted the momentum the band had gained from Something to Write Home About, allowing later bands such as Dashboard Confessional to take much of the fan base that The Get Up Kids had previously earned.[33]

Years later, Pryor acknowledged the effect the shift between Something to Write Home About and On a Wire had on their fan base in an interview with New York Press: "I feel like the way that we rolled out On A Wire was kind of abrasive and confrontational. I think it was very polarizing to our fans. We were kind of like, ‘This is what we do, fuck you guys.’ But hindsight is 20/20; I learned from that experience."[34]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by the Get Up Kids.[2]

2."Stay Gone"3:04
3."Let the Reigns Go Loose"3:43
4."Fall from Grace"3:39
5."Grunge Pig"4:09
6."High as the Moon"3:27
7."All That I Know"3:21
8."Walking on a Wire"5:17
9."Wish You Were Here"3:32
10."Campfire Kansas"3:04
11."The Worst Idea"3:25
12."Hannah Hold On"3:48
Total length:43:28


Personnel per sleeve.[2]


Charts (2002) Peak
US Billboard 200[30] 57
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[31] 3



  1. ^ a b c DeRogatis, Jim. "About On a Wire". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on December 2, 2002. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e On a Wire (sleeve). The Get Up Kids. Vagrant/Heroes & Villains Records. 2002. 910 370-2.
  3. ^ a b c d Edwards, Gavin (August 5, 2002). "The Get Up Kids Get Up". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Gintowt, Richard (February 27, 2004). "Guilty Pleasures". Lawrence. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  5. ^ a b D'Angelo, Joe (May 31, 2002). "The Get Up Kids Grow Up On A Wire". MTV. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Lee, Andy (July 16, 2004). "The Get Up Kids Wanna Rock Again". Chart Attack. Archived from the original on February 19, 2006. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Green, Stuart (January 1, 2006). "The Get Up Kids Get Back to Basics". Exclaim!. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (May 31, 2002). "On a Wire Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on September 29, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Servos, Steve (May 14, 2002). "CD REVIEWS: Moby, Weezer, Rush and many more". Chart Attack. Archived from the original on December 4, 2005. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Pecoraro, David M. (June 10, 2002). "The Get Up Kids: On a Wire". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on October 21, 2002. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Gozdecki, Steve (2002). "The Get Up Kids On a Wire". Neumu. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Walters, Barry (June 20, 2002). "The Get Up Kids: On A Wire : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Get Up Kids Get A Lift From Superchunk". Billboard. May 2, 2002. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  14. ^ "News". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on October 26, 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Tours". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on June 8, 2002. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  16. ^ "Overdue" (sleeve). The Get Up Kids. Vagrant Records. 2002.
  17. ^ a b c d "New + Notable". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on June 8, 2003. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  18. ^ "Tours". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on August 10, 2002. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  19. ^ Heisel, Scott (December 15, 2001). "Vagrant America 2002 - HUGE Update". Punknews.org. Aubin Paul. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  20. ^ "Tours". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on December 2, 2002. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  21. ^ "New + Notable". The Get Up Kids. Archived from the original on February 12, 2003. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  22. ^ Another Year on the Street Vol. 3 (booklet). Various artists. Vagrant Records. 2004. VR-0397-2.
  23. ^ Loftus, Johnny. "Another Year on the Street, Vol. 3 - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  24. ^ "On A Wire Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic.com. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  25. ^ Anderson, Jason. "On a Wire - The Get Up Kids | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  26. ^ Sciarretto 2002, p. 13
  27. ^ "Music - The Get Up Kids "On a Wire"". E! Online. Archived from the original on October 27, 2002. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  28. ^ Freelon, Deen (September 1, 2003). "The Get Up Kids - On A Wire - Review". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on February 1, 2010. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  29. ^ Jenkins, Mark (June 28, 2002). "The Get Up Kids "On a Wire"". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  30. ^ a b "The Get Up Kids Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  31. ^ a b "The Get Up Kids Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  32. ^ Gintowt, Richard (2004-02-27). "Guilty Pleasures". Lawrence.com. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  33. ^ Alternative Press Issue 204 "Say Goodnight, Mean Goodbye: The Oral History of The Get Up Kids"
  34. ^ Reiss, John (2011-03-02), Catching Up With The Get Up Kids' Matt Pryor, New York Press, archived from the original on 2011-03-09, retrieved 2011-03-04


  • Sciarretto, Amy (June 3, 2002). "Reviews". CMJ New Music Report. Vol. 71 no. 765. CMJ Network, Inc. ISSN 0890-0795.

External links[edit]