[12 June 2012]
PopMatters Events Editor
On the final track of Motion City Soundtrack’s 2010 album My Dinosaur Life, lead singer Justin Pierre gets a bit introspective in the wake of his band’s upbeat pop-punk crash course, singing, “As years go crashing by, I think of all I’ve pondered / So many minutes squandered, so many things undone / I’ve tried to figure out how many lives I’ve wasted waiting for the perfect time to start.” That contemplative sentiment was far from just a fleeting thought, but rather a concept that would engulf Pierre and the rest of the band during the creation of their latest release Go. Instead of nestling into a comfort zone of broken-hearted emo-pop, Motion City Soundtrack has pushed themselves in a much darker, more pensive direction which has culminated in what may be the band’s best and most well-rounded release to date.
Go kicks off unassumingly enough with opener “Circuits and Wires”, a song that sounds like just what you would expect from Motion City Soundtrack upon first listen. But dig a little deeper and you find the beginnings of a theme that will run throughout the course of the entire album, as Pierre sings “I am all motors and gadgets, organically designed to last a finite length of time / Locked in this rotary motion, the wheel spins round and round / I comprehend it all but still can’t make a sound.” This idea of time and mortality comes to life on “Timelines”, a track retracing the Pierre’s missteps and regrets, but ultimately leading to a greater realization that “all the destruction will one day end / And you’ll finally know exactly who you are / It’s just a matter of timing.” If you find yourself unsure at this point about whether to cling to the coming promise of self-awareness or feel defeated by the length of time it might take to get there, that may very well be the point.
Unwilling to offer hard answers to the pestering questions of purpose and self-worth, Go plays out more like a story than anything else. Shifting musical gears effortlessly while maintaining its identity, the album barrels through pop-punk numbers like “The Coma Kid” and “Boxelder”, but also takes the time to slow down and humbly ponder on “Everyone Will Die” and “Happy Anniversary”. While the album is obviously a display of Pierre’s own wonderings, his story offers room for just about anyone who’s ever doubted or questioned his direction and decisions.
While the band’s sound may take a few listens to fully digest for long-time listeners, it’s easily the group’s most eclectic mix of songs. Taking the best parts of their more aggressive releases like Commit This to Memory and My Dinosaur Life and meshing with their poppier 2007 album Even If It Kills Me, Go finds a comfort zone between the sounds, but pushes itself in a new direction with thoughtful synth placement and subtle shifts within the songs themselves that match Justin Pierre’s emotion. Call it maturity, but it feels like a logical and appropriate progression for a band that’s proved itself capable over the years of creating focused presentations for its ideas and lyrics.
On “Everyone Will Die”, Pierre opens with the lines, “Everyone will die and everyone will lose / So what are you going to do with the moments you have before it’s you?” At first glance, the title Go doesn’t seem to fit the dark feel of the songs that lie within the album. However, the title isn’t the preface, but rather the conclusion drawn from the album’s ideas—to go and make the most of the time you have instead of living in remorse over time lost. With Go, Motion City Soundtrack has crafted a proactive and thoughtful album full of wonderfully catchy and melodic songs that serve a much deeper experience than typical summertime anthems. In doing so, they’ve also created one of the best releases so far this year and shown themselves to still be residing in the upper echelon of the pop rock world.