Motion City Soundtrack is a band that’s hard to pin down. From the beginning with I Am The Movie to the last record, My Dinosaur Life, their sound hasn’t changed much. Except, at the same time, it has. It seems like an odd thing to say, but anyone who has listened to Motion City Soundtrack can tell you that it’s true. Because of this, fan rankings of their albums are all over the place, and there is no one “must have” album for the band that’s universally agreed-upon to start with for newcomers. All of the albums have something unique about them that either endears them to one portion of the fanbase or turns off another part of it.
Go (the Japanese equivalent of “five”) is their fifth full-length album, and again, their sound has changed. In fact, this may be their most “experimental” album since Even If It Kills Me. Although the sound has changed away from the harder edge that My Dinosaur Life explored, the sound is still undeniably theirs. Perhaps that is the way to best describe the aforementioned inconsistency– even though their sound changes, you instantly know who it is you’re listening to. The beloved moog synthesizer work of Jesse Johnson, something which many fans felt was much too absent in the last album (much to their dismay) also makes its comeback in a big way in Go, something that gives the band its unmistakable sound.
Go also marks the band’s return to an indie label after their adventure with Columbia Records during My Dinosaur Life. Although My Dinosaur Life undeniably had an extremely polished sound to it, Columbia didn’t necessarily “do” anything for the band. The fanbase that already adored Motion City Soundtrack still adored them, but no major expanding of the fanbase ever really happened. Columbia failed to get the band any notable airtime on radio stations across the country, and as a result, the fanbase largely remained stagnant.
So, back to Epitaph the band went. And with the return to a familiar record label came another great experiment. This record is undeniably more “poppy” than any other record that Motion City Soundtrack has put out, but at the same time, it balances this sound with the old-school sound that long-time fans will appreciate. In addition to the pop and rock sounds, however, are new sounds to the like of Everyone Will Die and Son Of A Gun. These deviations from the norm provide a welcome breath of fresh air from the band, even though their tried-and-true formula never quite grew stale with its fanbase.
Go starts out with Circuits and Wires, a song that sounds as though it could have been straight off of My Dinosaur Life. Immediately noticable in this song is the lyrical mastery of lead singer Justin Pierre. Though this is nothing new, it sets the tone for some of the content matter of the album and also shows the maturing Pierre has done with lines such as, “I know there’s something wrong within my faulty brain / I lack the proper behavior /My temper-addled tongue can’t seem to force it out / The words that linger inside me”.
Next up is the first single from the album, True Romance. This is probably the poppiest song on the album, and it sets up the sound of the new album rather well. This song is where the album makes its departure from My Dinosaur Life and sets itself apart in spades. The moog is ever-present in this track, and it helps to set up one of the catchiest hooks and choruses the band has put together in quite a while. Pierre continues his penchant for self-depreciating lyrics by declaring, “I’m pathetic / Overly apologetic /I’m a tightrope tragedy / You’re chicken little / I’m the monkey in the middle / There is something wrong with me”.
Son Of A Gun is where Go wanders away from any sound Motion City Soundtrack has done in the past. It begins with an extremely different, yet catchy beginning with Pierre asking in an almost-singsong tone, “Have you had enough? / Are you tough? / Are you broken?” This song will undoubtedly be hit-or-miss depending on the listener’s taste thanks to its experimental and very different nature, but it’s certainly a breath of fresh air from the band and it breaks up the record nicely.
Timelines is the second single off of the album, and possibly their best song to date. This song demonstates Pierre’s strength for storytelling in his lyrics and also his mastery of the art of lyric writing rather nicely. The drumming in this track also stands out quite a bit as Pierre recounts, “I flunked out of each college course / And set my sails for no remorse / The nights were for nowhere / And that’s where I wanted to be.”
The album then takes an undeniably darker turn with Everyone Will Die. All you need to know about the subject matter is in the title, but this also marks another experimental venture in the album. It is a rather short track, but the instrumentation in the middle is nothing short of beautiful, and it sets the mood of the track very nicely. Pierre also writes arguably one of the best verses of the album during this track, singing, “Every single smile and every single tear / Reminders of the moments we shared in the instant we were here,” before he concludes by asking the listener, “So who you gonna leave in the meantime before it catches you?”
Reaching the mid-way point of the album, the band decides to throw long-time fans a bone with The Coma Kid, and it’s one of the tracks that shines brightest. It opens with Pierre hitting all of the right notes and the moog coming through strong before breaking into its strong hook and chorus of, “I won’t look back / I won’t look down again,” that will lodge itself in your head and stay there for days to come.
Boxelder is going to be possibly the most divisive song on the album, I believe. When I first heard the track, I absolutely despised it. In fact, I declared to a family member and many friends that it was possibly the band’s worst song. The opening vocals absolutely turned me off to the track from the very beginning, and the tone and rhythm did nothing to remedy this issue. But the more I listened to the track, much like the album itself, the more it grew on me. The lyrics are again one of the strong points, and the drumming by Tony Thaxton once again makes a strong impression on the song. If you can hang in there and listen to this song more than once, you’ll likely find it growing on you quickly.
A return to the rock sound of recent albums is made with The Worst Is Yet To Come, in which Pierre promises, “If you just let me make my own mistakes / I promise I’ll behave only in the worst way.” The track will probably be enjoyed a great deal by fans that enjoyed the sound of My Dinosaur Life, and older fans might find just enough of the moog and strong lyrics to enjoy the track as well.
Bad Idea gives an almost Last Night feel to it that long-time fans will surely appreciate. Pierre laments at the beginning, “I’ve been asleep for nearly fifteen years / All dreams I’ve never had outweigh the life I’m not yet living.” The song then breaks out into yet another catchy chorus that concludes with more strong instrumentation and vocals that make the track one of the strongest on the album.
Happy Anniversary is one of the darkest works that the band has ever done. From the vocals of Pierre singing in a near-whisper at the beginning of the song to the subject matter, the song does everything it can to send chills through your body. Happy Anniversary was penned after Pierre visited his grandmother in the hospital, who was dying from cancer at the time, which makes the verses “I can feel it in my bones tonight / Drain me slowly of the will to fight” even more unsettling than they already were. The track progresses from the viewpoint of his grandmother, pleading, “Promise me you’ll laugh, my dear / After I am gone.” The track is, again, one of the darkest the band has ever done, but one of the best. It certainly is the strongest song on Go.
The album winds down with Floating Down The River, in which Pierre again explores his past and laments the time wasted while asking the listener, “Do you feel the same? / Caught beneath the weight of it all?” He then takes another turn into the brutally-critical view of himself, declaring to the listener, “Don’t be alarmed / I’m still stupid, awkward, anxious, and a terrible bore” before the track breaks into yet another strong instrumental. This is a very strong track, but compared to previous album closers such as The Weakends and Hold Me Down, long-time fans will likely be left a little disappointed by the conclusion of the album.
If you buy the Deluxe Edition from Amazon or elsewhere, you’ll be treated to three more tracks. Bottom Feeder opens with a strong drumline and features a very strong chorus in which Pierre admits, “If I had to tell the truth / I would rather be a liar” before concluding with his trademark brutal honesty saying, “I need something more than you”. It is actually one of the stronger tracks from the album, and one which many long-time fans will likely enjoy. It’s a bit of a shame that it gets tucked away on a deluxe edition. Give Up/Give In is a bit poppier, as is much of the album, but it’s also a very solid and very catchy tune. The last bonus track is Alcohol Eyes, which is a bit more upbeat and has a strong moog presence.
So, how does Go compare to the other albums? Oh no, you’re not going to get me to fall into that trap. Simply put, it doesn’t, as is often the case with every Motion City Soundtrack album. The sound is different than it ever has been, but is still undeniably theirs. Some fans will adore some tracks, and other fans will absolutely hate the same tracks. As such, some people might adore this album, some may think of it as average, and some will likely absolutely hate it. I recommend giving this album a quick listen through the band’s site before deciding whether or not you want to purchase it.
That said, I feel as though this is the band’s most solid album to date. Although it doesn’t quite have the energy of their old albums, the band’s sound has certainly matured, and in the case of this band, that’s not a bad thing because of how gracefully they have handled it. This album is an absolute must-have for any existing Motion City Soundtrack fans, and anyone who enjoys the rock, punk or pop genres. If you haven’t heard this group before, you may find you’re pleasantly surprised by what you find. Long-time fans will definitely find enough in this release to justify a purchase, and they just might stumble upon their favorite Motion City Soundtrack album to date.