Preview: Matthew Pryor

When he takes the stage of the Picador on Saturday night, it won’t be as a part of the many projects he’s been involved with, but rather as a solo identity, being billed as Matthew Pryor (of the New Amsterdams). Presumably, we’ll be hearing Pryor play tunes he’s penned for his largely acoustic solo project-turned full-time band the New Amsterdams. Left out of the equation may be the time Pryor spent as the frontman for the influential emo pioneers the Get Up Kids, who disbanded in 2005 following their farewell tour. To say that the Get Up Kids are a seminal band could potentially be a stretch, but they came of age in a golden era of indie rock during which bands such as them, the Promise Ring, Mineral, and Texas is the Reason were taking the blistering indie rock of Guided By Voices and Superchunk and putting a dramatic spin on it. Taking a page from Sunny Day Real Estate’s first two records, frontmen like Pryor wrote, sang, and performed with an emotional furor that would become known as emo, a term to become wholly blasphemized by the likes of New Found Glory in the latter 90s and continuing into the 21st century.

The New Amsterdams was born as a sleepy solo outlet for Pryor, who released his brief masterpiece Never You Mind on Vagrant Records in 2000. As the debut release under this solo moniker, Pryor displayed sharp mastery of acoustic songwriting, using his knack for unconventional song structure. Aside from the short blast of fuzz strategically placed in the middle of the album, Pryor relies on simple and terse bedroom tunes that are as honest (and beautiful) as anything he’s ever written. It features two outstanding covers, one of Boilermaker’s “Slow Down,” and then a haunting cover of the Afghan Whigs’ “When We Two Parted.” It’s hard to pick a standout track, but without a doubt the closing song “I Won’t Run Away” packs a vicious heart-on-sleeve punch that’s enough to make even the most jaded hipster hit “Repeat.”

The illustrious discography of the Get Up Kids is most likely more well known than that of the New Amsterdams, as the band broke up following their tremendously underwhelming swan song, Guilt Show. However, they left three dynamic full-lengths, an excellent covers and rarities collection, and two criminally under appreciated EPs as their legacy, to speak nothing of their reputation as one of the hardest working and impressive live bands. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing them on four separate occasions, and each one was a similarly stunning experience.

We’re now nearly 10 years removed from the zenith of Pryor’s career, 1999’s Vagrant debut Something to Write Home About, and so it remains to be seen what Saturday night’s performance will bear. Most recently, he put out a new album this September called At the Foot of My Rival via his own new label Curb Appeal Records. He’s become a seasoned songwriter and weathered by the road, with his family life taking precedence over his one-time punk rock aspirations. But goddamn that man was a legend for me when I was nearly 10 years younger, and I’ll be caught red-handed if I miss this show.

Download: The Get Up Kids - Holiday (from Something To Write Home About - 1999)

Download: The New Amsterdams - Make Me Change My Mind (from Never You Mind - 2000)

2 Responses to “Preview: Matthew Pryor”

  1. 1 Jon

    Did you go to this? What kind of songs did he play?

  2. 2 todd

    Yes, we did attend. He played a great set heavy on early New Ams tunes. Idaho, I Won’t Run Away, When We Two Parted, My Old Man Had a Pistol, and others. He also played Overdue, and closed with Out of Reach and I’ll Catch You. It was a really amazing and long night of music! Hopefully he’ll be back someday.

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