Motion City Soundtrack could never be accused of taking itself too seriously. Pop-punk (with a strong emphasis on the pop) bands that take up regular space on the soundtracks of TV shows like Gossip Girl and movies like Hotel for Dogs, and feature cartoon dinosaur cover art, are in no danger of being mistaken for Fugazi. After three full-length albums and a steady spot in places like Alternative Press magazine and the Warped Tour, Motion City Soundtrack have become seasoned veterans of their genre. My Dinosaur Life marks the band’s first release since moving from Epitaph to Columbia Records.
Clocking in at just under 40 minutes long, the album was produced by blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, and it sounds like it. Often, having a producer famous for his/her own music conjures expectations that a similar sound will result—expectations that usually aren’t satisfied. But My Dinosaur Life, with it’s punchy guitars and lyrics about ennui and breaking up and video games, would fit perfectly in any blink fan’s iTunes library. Singer/lyricist Justin Pierre continues to display his flagrant disregard for attempts at timelessness: “I fell asleep watching Veronica Mars again” from “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” echoes 2005’s “The Future Freaks Me Out”: “What’s up with Will & Grace? / I don’t get drum and bass / The future freaks me out”. The songs make no apology for being very much of this moment.
Of course, Motion City Soundtrack can do serious, too. “Disappear” is the first single and one of the standout tracks, reminding us that Pierre isn’t all about goofy. “An angry island / A bitter bee sting / Severing each artery to free the self / And fix the in-betweens” are the kind of words that balance out all the hilarity of selling Xboxes and getting a job at Common Ground. The video for “Disappear” is so downright creepy, you would never guess it came from the same band who did the synchronized dance moves at the science fair in “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”. (“Disappear” is not recommended viewing for anyone with late-night bathroom visits down dark hallways in his or her future.) “Stand Too Close” sounds too much like something Nickelodeon star Drake Bell might sing on a very special episode of Drake & Josh, but Pierre makes up for it by going all Lady Macbeth on us in the mental illness reverie “Delirium”.
It is this parallel darkness and froth that keeps Motion City Soundtrack interesting and worthy of more serious consideration than other bands of its ilk. Pierre’s agile wordplay garners more comparisons to Ben Folds than Pete Wentz. Don’t let the cartoon dinosaurs fool you.