Mon. Jul 4th, 2022

Pop-rockers Motion City Soundtrack could easily trace their musical genesis to a single day in 1998, listening to Barenaked Ladies’ “It’s All Been Done” on the radio. Nearly every song the band has written in its 10 year career has a healthy dose of that song’s bouncy melody and ‘woah-oh’ lyrics. Motion City Soundtrack’s third album, “Even if it Kills Me,” leaves the formula intact – the sparkly arpeggios and buzzing synthesizer riffs are right where they left them – but distinguishes itself by being the most listenable set of tunes that the boys from Minnesota have written to date.”Even if it Kills Me” takes its time getting started; opener “Fell in Love Without You” is a by-the-numbers rave-up, and single “This is For Real” is a nondescript nugget of power pop that exists somewhere between Fountains of Wayne and Weezer. “Last Night,” however, raises the bar with a strong hook carried by an incredible piano riff. Singer Justin Pierre’s character returns from a trip only to discover that his girlfriend has deserted him (“I searched the whole damn apartment from ceiling to carpet / No sign of the things she used to own”). As the album unfolds, longing for relationships lost becomes a recurring theme.

From that point forward, the band catches its stride. The fantastic tunes continue with “Calling All Cops,” which would not be out of place as the theme song for a children’s cartoon, and “Can’t Finish What You Started,” where drummer Tony Thaxton steals the show, turning an otherwise unremarkable song into something special. “The Conversation” and lead single “Broken Heart” both revisit the familiar boy meets girl theme. “The Conversation,” especially, features some clever lyrics (“Do you remember how we met? . You were drunk and tried to take a mental picture with your hands”).

Other highlights include “Even if it Kills Me” (“I wonder if I’ll ever lose my mind / I tried hard for a while / But then I kind of gave up”) and “Antonia”, a laundry list of the title character’s unusual traits that condenses a romantic comedy into three and a half minutes (“She shaves her legs with Ginsu knives / She quotes a lot of Annie Hall”). There is certainly a formula at work, but the songwriting manages to address several pop music clichs and still remain appealing.

On a song-by-song basis, “Even if it Kills Me” is easily recommendable. But, taking the album as a whole, most of the songs may seem a bit too similar. The arpeggio that opens “It Had to be You” could be mistaken for the arpeggio that opens “Even if it Kills Me.” The bubblegum choruses and synthesizer fills donot change much from song to song. Actually, they have not changed much from album to album.

And that should not keep Motion City Soundtrack’s fans away from “Even if it Kills Me.” And, if you already had the band written off as a group of mall-punk brats, you owe it to yourself to give the album a try. This is their best set of tunes yet, perfect to throw onto a mixtape or to play with the car windows rolled down next summer from “Even if it Kills Me.”

Chris Reimer is a fourth-year student majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Journalism at West Chester University. He can be reached at creimer@gmail.com.

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