Sound: You might know him best for his days with the Get Up Kids, but singer/songwriter Matthew Pryor has been on the rebound since 2000 with The New Amsterdams. Pryor has been recognized as being one of the best songwriters in the indie world, and The New Amsterdams' latest release Killed And Cured reflects this much of the time.
Killed And Cured was actually released a few years back as a free EP via the Internet, but this time around it included 2 discs: one with the original recordings and the other with those same songs being re-worked with more instrumentation. When the songs were originally made available, there was an outpouring for more and it eventually inspiring the newly re-released double album. While the stripped-down, primarily original acoustic versions do have merit, the songs are only brought to life when the full band comes into the picture.
As far as the first disc goes, Pryor definitely has an honest, likeable vocal delivery that makes the emotion-driven lyrics very believable. That is vital when you're presenting some pretty basic compositions, and Pryor does make an impression with just he and the guitar. While the 10 songs can definitely be described as pretty and even enjoyable, it's not until you hear the 2nd disc that you're like to get blown away.
The changes are immediately apparent on the 2nd disc, with Wears So Thin now taking on a very dreamy feel with it's trippy, echoing guitar effects. Only small tweaks are made on that track, but those little changes still make a massive difference. In a later track Your Red Hand, the band also incorporates some fantastic Mariachi-like horns, an unexpected and perfect addition to the song.
The New Amsterdams do need to use all of their instrumental resources in order to really make a huge impression. Pryor does tend to phrase his vocals somewhat the same line after line, and the second CD is able to break that monotony up a bit with horns, harmonica, and what sounds like lap steel at one point along the way. // 8
Lyrics: Apparently many of the lyrics on Killed Or Cured were directly inspired by Pryor's break-up with the Get Up Kids, so that fact in itself makes the songs intriguing. When you start hearing Pryor put it all on the line in the song Drinking In The Afternoon, it becomes apparent that the rumor is likely true. He sings, Drinking in the afternoon; This is what it's driven to; Is there anything else to do? I could've sworn it's three AM; It's quiet in the room again; This is where the story ends. That honesty is heard in every song on the album and works beautifully against the moody-sounding music.
Pryor takes a brief humorous turn in Has Anybody Seen My Wings, which has a memorable lyrical opening. He sings, I'm a saint, I'm a bonified seraphim; An angel on a bar stool, anyone seen my wings? I'm always losing the damn things. Because the album does have a serious tone much of the time, it's good to have some humor injected into it. While the lyrics might be a bit too revealing or emotional for some, Pryor's lyrics rarely get stale. // 9
Overall Impression: Had the original, bare-bones recordings of disc one been all that was heard on this latest version of Killed And Cured, it really would be missing key pieces of the band. The New Amsterdams (in particular guitarist Dustin Kinsey) are able to come up with some fantastic instrumental extras in the new versions that, plain and simple, sound very cool. Hearing the different genres that they bounce between -- whether country or brooding alternative -- allows each song to stand out and not feel like filler material.
While Matthew Pryor fans probably love disc one, it's the second disc that will likely attract fresh ears to listen to The New Amsterdams. Although Killed Or Cured's 2 discs each contain the exact 10 songs, the astounding change in the listening experience does go to show that The New Amsterdams are at their strongest when all the musicians are brought up front. // 8