Motion City Soundtrack – Commit This to Memory

Motion City Soundtrack
Commit This to Memory

So I’m watching Fuse the other day, my brain melting out my ears, watching some Warped Tour shit or something. Amid a string of about five videos from bands whose names cover every permutation of the words romance, sense, and explosion, I came across a diamond in the infinite roughs – and by some dumb-looking band who, by all reasonable expectations, should sound exactly like everything else I heard that half-hour. Yet when the multi-tracked voices blew up in the chorus, I was, well, mildly impressed. After 20 minutes of mind-numbing power-chord progressions, I thought I’d lost all ability to feel emotion or surprise, but here I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

The song in question is “Everything is Alright,” penned by the boys of Motion City Soundtrack. Shockingly, Motion City Soundtrack has followed in the footsteps of Brand New and followed a shitty pop-punk debut up with an unexpectedly nuanced and accomplished second album. In other words, Motion City Soundtrack shocked the world by releasing an album that doesn’t suck.

Indeed, Commit This to Memory holds not just a few, but many well-written and well-executed pop numbers that will have your head nodding without melting its contents with the magma-like flow of smoldering clichés. “Attractive Today” starts things off with squeaky-clean guitars and drum fills in all the right spots. The cheery music belies the self-deprecating lyrics: “Well I just wanna feel alive / for the first time in my life / I just wanna feel attractive today.” Believe me, it comes across poorly on paper; Justin Pierre’s earnest shouting actually communicates a wilting melancholy. “Everything is Alright” follows, featuring a jittering start-stop intro that segues into a brief verse. When the chorus kicks in, Pierre’s multi-tracked vocals soar through an irresistible melody that, once again, is saturated with a bitingly cynical melancholy: “Tell me that you’re alright / that everything is alright.”

“Time Turns Fragile” picks the pace back up with a staccato verse and another frantic chorus, and at this point, I’m shocked that I haven’t tired of a steady diet of antiseptic-clean pop-rock tinged with keyboards and led by a high-voiced, super-earnest lead singer. Luckily, though Justin Pierre veers dangerously close to falling off the edge and into the vat of indistinguishable Simple Charlotte-Sunday mush, he never crosses that line, treading instead in more listenable octaves and less nasally vocal inflections. His voice even achieves a desperate edge that, though rendered too perfectly by producer Mark Hoppus (of Blink-182 fame), manages still to ignite the often-effective matchbook instrumentals laid down by the rest of the band.

Though Commit This to Memory is not without its missteps (a note to all bands who would write a song like “Together We’ll Ring in the New Year”: contrary to popular belief, leaving out all the instruments except a strumming guitar does not make up for a lack of a compelling melody, and nor does it make an uninspired song more touching), it is a rather surprisingly consistent listen, even if it falls short of being particularly great. And though the band doesn’t quite reach the highs of the album’s two opening tracks again, there are enough compelling moments on the rest of the disc to keep fans of the genre interested, and, with any luck, maybe even catch the ears of those who had left it for dead roadside. Those who pursue it may find an animal more nimble than its road-killed counterparts.