MCS returns with new, mature sound

By Jess Decina

From its previous albums, Motion City Soundtrack may seem like another pop-punk band that just happens to have an exceptional drummer and a knack for writing songs about bottles of wine and things that happened in 1995. Just listen to a few tracks from I Am the Movie and Commit This to Memory and you’ll understand what I mean.

Still, the band has earned its place in the music world with a unique, pop-meets-punk-with-hints-of-electronic sound, and every so often, it melds that sound with poetic, multifaceted lyrics to make amazing songs.

Be prepared to be blown away by Even If It Kills Me, because this is the album where Motion City Soundtrack finally found that maturity. The CD has 13 tracks that stick to the band’s fun sound, but create much deeper meanings than what previous albums have provided.

For starts, Even If It Kills Me opens with a swell of string instruments before leading into an explosion of synthesized sound. That’s the introduction to the first song, “Fell In Love Without You.” The track’s familiarity serves as a great way to begin the album; it’s Motion City’s way of letting fans know it hasn’t abandoned its old sound.

The track “It Had To Be You” is an absolute gem, bringing the perfect blend of Motion City’s eccentric melodies and poetic lyrics. The direction of the song takes the listener completely by surprise. The first verse starts out with a story of feeling lonely after a break-up, but then sails into a chorus of revelation: “What if it was you?/You, that I needed all along?”

From there, the song explores the giddiness of what could happen between two friends, but arrives at the realization that the relationship won’t work. The disappointment and heartbreak in this track is both beautiful and sad; lead singer Justin Pierre declares, “What a disaster it would be if you discovered that I cared/a little too much for friends/but not enough to share.”

“The Conversation” is a much quieter track; mostly, the only sounds are the vocals and a gentle series of piano chords. The track’s title implies its sound: Pierre doesn’t sing the lyrics as much as he speaks them. Here, the song’s simple lyrics make the message more powerful: “So can you tell me if I’m crazy/or confused?/Don’t ever change/the way you are/I’ve never loved anyone more.” Fans of Motion City’s usual work might not enjoy this track; however, this change in style comes as a pleasant surprise.

“Broken Heart” follows “The Conversation” almost on purpose. “Broken Heart” is another catchy, great-for-late-night-drives tune, laced with vocal harmonies and interesting guitar riffs. It could have easily been a clichéd song about loneliness, but the stunning lyrics and rhyming make the song a hit: “I get carried away/with every day and every fantasy/the deeper the wound/the harder I swoon/and wish that it was me.” Plus, the tone of resignation — “I’m getting used to it/you have to get used to it” — mixed with such an upbeat sound makes “Broken Heart” exceptionally clever.

The album isn’t without its weaknesses. “Calling All Cops” is a throwback to the band’s usual material. The track is really just a mesh of silly lyrics with a pleasant head-bopping beat. The good news is this: It’ll be a great listen for fans who didn’t enjoy the more serious tracks.

“Antonia,” while not at all a bad song, is a strange combination of sweet and silly. Its innocent lyrics (“She’s always eating Captain Crunch/she sings a lot of Ben Folds Five/she’s scared to death of cobra snakes/just like Indiana Jones”) don’t quite match with the serious parts of the song: “She’s what’s keeping me alive … without her near me, I would not survive.” Although the song is just too adorable for words, the juxtaposition doesn’t work.

What an accomplishment for Motion City Soundtrack. The band’s willingness to fiddle around with sound and its penchant for offbeat but insightful lyrics creates a winning combination. Even If It Kills Me isn’t perfect, but it comes fairly close.

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