We always hear about the “big” music scenes. We know about Athens indie and Seattle grunge and D.C. hardcore. But unless you lived there, all you can really go on are the stories. You might have seen R.E.M. in a large-scale venue, but that doesn’t count. So while I love Nirvana and enjoy watching old videos of the band, in the end all I have to go on are secondhand experiences. They were never "my" band. Hell, Kurt Cobain killed himself when I was eight years old. The band was a ghost before I even knew what was going on.
But we never hear about the smaller level stories. Prior to being mailed this record, I’d never heard of Stand Up Get Down, so for all I know they may have been shat on constantly, hence their quick demise. But the playing on We Have Something to Celebrate is so assured and triumphant that the title doesn’t sound forced. On my own local level, I know I’ve played with bands like this one. Acts like Backseat Driver and No Outlet played with an indie cool that concealed the hot rhythms they smuggled into VFW halls. On a national, more understandable comparison, I hear a band not too removed from The Promise Ring circa 30° Everywhere. Which makes listening to this record depressing, because we all know what came after that.
We Have Something to Celebrate is all Stand Up Get Down left me, though, and that’s all I have to go on. A look at Last.fm shows the band was never too big (276 plays), and that’s a shame. This album’s 10 jams play the ’90s indie rock playbook well. Aside from The Promise Ring, the album will surely appeal to fans of Sebadoh and (don’t oversell it, Jelone) maybe even early Weakerthans. The intro track, “My Life in a Balloon and the Day It Burst,” abruptly, uncomfortably stops to get out of the way of track two, “Giants,” but the lack of actual segue lends the album a small band homemade touch. This bump aside, the record is solid.
On a national level, I’ve grown disillusioned with emo music. I miss the indie-infused ’90s incarnation, and I really didn’t expect to hear any throwbacks to that anytime soon. Stand Up Get Down didn’t carry much angst, but they had the aesthetic sound down. Even the album artwork, complete with hazy sky-n-trees shots and even a photo of the band members huddled together with only their feet and ands shown, hearkens back to that era. I’m not sure what the former bandmates are up to now, if they have further musical aspirations or if they’re just trying to finish school. Regardless, they should be proud of putting out a full-length, which is more than I ever did (three EPs and a split, all self-released). And while I’m ultimately hearing only part of the band’s story, I hope their friends up north still spin this album and smile. I think it’s important to remember the local causes. In my case, that means bands old and new like The Next Big Thing, The Premier, Nutbox, Ancestor, and more. If you know these bands, congrats, we share an experience. If not, well then they’re just stories. But hopefully you’ll think they’re good ones.