Monday, October 1, 2007

Motion City Sountrack- Even If It Kills Me

There is nothing particularly new about Motion City Soundtrack. You’ve probably heard it before: Poppy melodies, songs about girls, layers of Moog synthesizer. The lead singer has glasses; his voice is thin and somewhat grating. The sing-song choruses mask the melancholy of the lyrics. Despite the familiarity, Even If It Kills Me is one of the best power pop albums to be released in a very long time.

The thing that sets Motion City Soundtrack apart from a million other bands is their geeky charm. There is nothing cool about Jason Pierre and Joshua Cain, which is why their music is so likable. When Pierre laments about his love life, there is nothing but heartfelt innocence. The ultimate goal for these guys is not to get the girl in bed, but to get the girl. At times Pierre sounds like Peter Noone, sheepishly telling Mr. Brown that he has a lovely daughter.

A big part of this charm comes from the producers, Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, and former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek. The biggest issue with 2005’s Commit This to Memory was that the songs started to blend together towards the end. Ocasek and Schlesinger have refined the band’s sound so the mid-album lull never occurs. This results in a tighter, catchier album. Sonically, the album isn’t much different than its predecessor. Fast tempos, Moog synthesizer and fuzz-toned guitars are in abundance. The band has learned how to use these trademarks without relying on them, and it results in more memorable songs.

While the music on the album is catchy, the lyrics are what make the album stand out. On Commit This to Memory, Pierre’s lyrics sometimes had a stream of consciousness feel, as if he was trying to get as many thoughts down as possible. His pace has slowed down considerably, and it pays off with more evocative writing. This new approach is exemplified in “It Had to Be You.” Lines like “Let’s save birds from Prince William Sound/And skateboard through the mall,” come dangerously close to being corny, but are delivered with heartfelt sincerity. On “Antonia,” Pierre describes his dream girl, mentioning her love of Cap’n Crunch and her fear of cobra snakes. These details seem mundane, but they make the girl seem real. You actually want Pierre to end up with her.

The only weak link on this album is “The Conversation,” a spare, piano based ballad. Jason Pierre doesn’t have a great voice, but it fits the band’s sound. With just a piano, his voice becomes grating and thin. Pierre attempts to channel Ben Folds, but fails pretty miserably.

Despite this minor flaw, Even If It Kills Me does everything a good follow-up should do. It keeps the band’s core sound while fixing the major problems of the previous record. Motion City Soundtrack’s songwriting continues to improve, and it will be interesting to see where they take it from here. But enough pretentious rock critic jargon: This record contains 13 songs about girls. Some things never go out of style.

No comments: