Motion City Soundtrack - Go
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Record Label: Epitaph Records
In its history, Motion City Soundtrack has been nothing but consistent while evolving. From the raw earnest of I Am the Movie to the brilliance of Commit This To Memory to the experimentalism of Even If It Kills Me to, most recently, the pop-punk clinic of My Dinosaur Life, the group has grown as musicians while never penning a disappointing album. Go, Motion City Soundtrack’s return to Epitaph Records, fits right in with that lineage of strong efforts, although it ultimately falls short in comparison to the rest of the band’s catalog.
Go is the Minneapolis-based quartet’s most poppy album, full of vocalist Justin Pierre hitting some very high notes over synth-and-guitar-driven melodies. Motion City Soundtrack has forever stood in some sort of corner when it comes to genre, perfectly pureeing elements of pop, punk and indie into its own nerdy mix. The delectable result is fully identifiable – you know a Motion City Soundtrack song when you hear one, and opener “Circuits and Wires” is a testament to that. It plays as a perfect continuation of the Mark Hoppus-produced My Dinosaur Life, with Pierre delivering his usual self-deprecating lyricism: “There’s something wrong within my faulty brain / I lack the proper behavior / My temper-addled tongue can't seem to force it out / The words that linger inside me.” It’s a tour-de-force of an opening track, one that fans of My Dinosaur Life and Commit This To Memory will swoon over.
That opener is a misleader of a starting point, though, as first single “True Romance” is a lightweight, poppy tune that more accurately reveals the general sound of Go - which is, best put, a combination of every past MCS record. Pierre nails the high notes in the chorus, leading to an irresistible synth melody. “Timelines” is a vintage MCS song that is sure to become a fan favorite at live shows partly because of the “Catholic school, my private hell / I stuttered till the age of 12 / Discovered sex at 17 / And soon thereafter, self-esteem,” line in the second verse. Pierre turns up the bleakness with the sobering “Everyone Will Die,” penning dark lyricism over amazing, relatively happy-sounding orchestration. On repeat listens, the once-bright orchestration begins to sound just as melancholy as the “Everyone will die / Everyone will lose” refrain itself – a brilliant effect.
The reason Go falters is because, for the first time, Motion City Soundtrack suffers from a lack of cohesiveness on an album. Songs like “Son of A Gun” and “Bad Idea” don’t stack up to the rest of this group’s phenomenal discography, while “Boxelder” and “Happy Anniversary” pack powerful choruses but simply don’t captivate interest like so many of this band’s songs do. These stand in stark contrast to album standouts “The Worst Is Yet To Come” and “The Coma Kid.” On the former, guitarist Joshua Cain and keyboardist Jesse Johnson take over with dark-sounding riffs that haunt listeners leading into Pierre’s breakdown of a question in the bridge: “Tell me, do you think we'll be fine after all?” The latter is simply a familiar, pop-punk-esque MCS masterpiece.
Some bands are so much better than the rest of the pack that even their worst efforts are still ones you come back to. Some bands, you like so much that you only rank their albums in terms of “most favorite” to “least favorite” – not “best” to “worst.” I consider The Gaslight Anthem to be a perfect example of this; Sink Or Swim is only the “worst” Gaslight record because someone told me to put them in order, so something has to be at the bottom. Motion City Soundtrack is, without a doubt, one of those bands. The worst Motion City Soundtrack record is still pretty damn good – and Go might be that “least favorite” album. It seems to be, on the surface, the natural progression from Even If It Kills Me, the band’s most misunderstood experiment. But as I’ve become familiar with Go, I’ve begun to appreciate Even If It Kills Me much more than I ever have before. This band has grown and evolved in a way that has been fascinating to watch and even more fun to witness in live performances. And even though Go might not have the front-to-back prowess of Commit This To Memory or My Dinosaur Life, even though it may be the first inconsistency in a remarkably consistent band’s lifetime, it’s still very much worth your while. Many bands should wish that their most impressive work was as good as Motion City Soundtrack’s least impressive.
My personal favorites at the moment are "Son of A Gun" and "Boxelder". I actually think that "The Coma Kid" was too cautious in some ways. Anyway, I think I may like this album more than My Dinosaur Life and Even If It Kills Me, but I would have to check it again a few months down the line to see how it hold ups with me.