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The Baby Out with the Bath Water!
on March 18, 2010
As Motion City Soundtrack is probably my favorite band of the last five years it is very hard for me to write this review, but I do so in the hopes that the band reads these reviews and might take heed of one DEVOTED fan's heartfelt plea.
The beauty of MCS - what sets them apart from so many more simple bands that occupy a similar genre - is their INTRICACY. Going well beyond the guitar-and-vocals-backed-up-by-a rhythm-section formula of rock and roll, the band (in the past) has created finely-detailed aural creations where every instrument doesn't just back up the others but rather AUGMENTS them (and even the drums sketch intricate lines)...so what you get is a sort of sonic feast where you can listen to a song over and over again savoring the nuanced mechanics of so many elements doing so many different things at once, yet all making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Now - and I can't stress this too strongly - this effect is best exemplified by MCS's keyboard element, which adds not merely another layer of sound, but a whole additional DIMENSION of sound to their songs (while at the same time giving them a unique and welcome signature.) I say all this to point out that, if you remove this whole other dimension, what you have is quite simply a set of songs that are LACKING A WHOLE DIMENSION--sounding in the end less intricate, less full, and less intense. Put another way, Motion City Soundtrack was made to be a loaded sundae, not very good scoop of vanilla.
My fear is that somewhere along the line the band bought into the notion that their keyboards, their gear-shifting refrains, and all their little nuances made them less punk in attitude or seriousness. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a dyed-in-the-wool devotee of punk essentialism (and all varieties of *up-tight* rock and roll energy), and have lamented many times after a band lost their edge or succumbed to over-production. And while "Even if it Kills Me" is a little prettier than "I Am the Movie" it was BY NO MEANS any sort of shark-jumping album. Yes - "I Am the Movie" was a little more raw, but it was filled with wonderful flourishes and keyboards; and - Yes - "Even if it Kills Me" was more polished and poppy, but it was still filled with Motion City Soundtrack's heartfelt agita and speed. Just listen to "Fell in Love Without You." This was what I was expecting when heard Mark Hoppus was back producing - NOT a stripped down version of a band whose strength lies precisely in all their accessories!
So, gentlemen, if your listening - for your next album bring back the lost dimensions, "throw it all" in every song, and don't be afraid of polish...it's what you do. (And I'll be there waiting.)