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By Andy Argyrakis
A cooler, more credible pop/punk amalgamation
from Motion City Soundtrack
"One on One"
May 21, 2008
Retro rockers The Cars, geek pioneers Weezer, irreverent punkers Blink-182 and satirical power poppers Fountains of Wayne may not be the most frequently linked together artist collective, but the seemingly divergent worlds find common ground under the umbrella of Motion City Soundtrack. The alt-punk outfit recently released its third CD Even If It Kills Me (Epitaph), which not only hints at all the aforementioned influences, but benefits from the help of those lauded camps in one format or another.
Though the Minneapolis-bred quintet first rose to fame in 2003 with the bubbly I Am the Movie and a subsequent tour with Blink-182, it evolved towards more palatable pop radio fair on the follow-up Commit This to Memory (produced by Mark Hoppus, bassist for those one time tour mates). While both projects helped branch the band out to a widespread American audience, the current Even If It Kills Me is the more artistically minded record members always wanted to make.
"The only way to really be a band is to not focus on anything specifically and just do what you want to do," suggests front man Justin Pierre during a cell phone chat. "I had a conversation with Mark that reaffirmed the idea that once you worry and try to [contrive] a certain sound, you're either going to fail or become a caricature of yourself...[On Even If It Kills Me] there are a few more orchestral elements and more electronic drum beats, plus we're looking back to the late 80s and early 90s indie scene with bands like Pavement, Sonic Youth and Jawbox."
To capture that fairly wide swath, the gang employed two separate production teams: Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger with Girls Against Boys' Eli Janney and The Cars' Ric Ocasek with engineer Chris Shaw (reunited for the first time since working on Weezer's seminal 1994 self-titled sessions). While the resulting record is harmonious from start to finish, the processes of execution were completely different depending on the collaborators. "Adam and Eli had notebooks full of ideas from when we sent them our demos and they really bounced a lot of ideas off each other," explains Pierre. "They were far enough removed from the writing of the music to have an objective point of view, so they really dissected, added and subtracted everything until everyone's ideas were exhausted."
Ocasek wasn't originally on the band's dance card, though he came into the mix after popping by the studio and hitting it off with everyone. "He has a dry and hilarious sense of humor, plus a really old school way about him, but it was so awesome," Pierre remembers. "I think Ric and Chris have a specific method in which they record, which included using their own guitars and synths since they already knew how those sounded. On 'Even If It Kills Me,' I wound up using the same guitar [Weezer's] Rivers [Cuomo] used on 'Say It Ain't So.'"
And just like Cuomo and company, Motion City Soundtrack graduated from the club circuit to filling auditoriums this summer on the Honda Civic Tour (alongside Panic at the Disco, The Hush Sound and Phantom Planet), which brings the potent songs from this project to Chicago's Congress Theatre Friday, May 23 and Saturday, May 24, then to Milwaukee's The Rave Eagles Club Sunday, May 25 (www.ticketmaster.com).