By Motion City Soundtrack
There's been what some might justifiably call a pop-punk revolution, or revival, in certain circles since the end of the 90s - especially exposed to this are American four or five piece bands, most of which induce huge fissures between the believing faction and the less convinced audience. Motion City Soundtrack, ostensibly riding on the crest of this wave, released "Even If It Kills Me", greeted by the most positive media response and highest charting of their three albums.
Perhaps the press and the consumer have just become more accustomed to the limits and inevitable hazards of the 'genre'. It would be absurd to claim that this isn't using the tested and reliable blueprint of all those other powerpop bands, as even each song on the album sounds as though it's mimicking its brothers. It's not as if it poses a gargantuan problem - it's what the listener expects, and you could do worse than repetition of the same blithe, easy-on-the-ear song.
The next issue to rear its head, though, is exactly how Motion City Soundtrack colour in that blueprint. They've ticked all the obligatory boxes: choppy power chords? Check. Clear-cut hooks? Definitely. Plus chirpy synths, straightforward basslines, crescendo-ing toms after most middle eights to make the whole thing sound more far reaching that it strictly is: it's certainly all here, but attempts to push it further are lacking. Where other archetypal pop-punk bands start to find success - I tentatively reference Fall Out Boy's witty and sharp lyrics, or Cute Is What We Aim For's hook-mania, present in more than just the vocal part, neither of which are the case with "Even If It Kills Me" - is when they start to push the genre to its limits. The succinct way of putting it is that Motion City Soundtrack are doing what others have done countless times before, but just with less ingenuity; it's rather soulless. There's even a lyric on "Hello Helicopter" which seems ironically appropriate - 'I'm not saying anything you haven't heard before'. Admirably put, although I don't think we're talking in the same context.
There's yet another aspect to the framework of this album, which is how it compares to its predecessors. Arguably, neither debut "I Am The Movie" or sophomore "Commit This To Memory" were overly occupied with making great forays into the unknown, but this album does seem substantially more commercial. Lyrics seem much starker and less eloquent. Now, that is possibly one of the silliest criticisms to be levelled at a band whose style lives off its marketability and, as such, its frivolity, but listens to songs like "Antonia" will highlight the teenage-boy approach to writing.
Ultimately, there are some reasonable pop songs on here - the kind of track you wouldn't be surprised to hear bobbing about on a teenage rom-com soundtrack, as perhaps their name shows they're aware of - but there's no real profundity to be found here.