Skip to main content

154. Motion City Soundtrack: Even If It Kills Me (2007)

Let's say you have a band. The main lyrical appeal of the band is your acerbic stories of bad choices, your sad/funny tales of girls and substances you like more than you should.

Now let's say you get sober and fall in love for real. Sure, you're happy, but what's a songwriter to do?

Even If It Kills Me kicks off with Last Night I Fell In Love Without You, and it seems that all is still right (wrong) with Justin Pierre's world: "I waved goodbye to that heart of mine beating solo on your lawn." It's the sort of I-don't-care-but-I-do broken heart song that the band has made its trade.

But the second track quickly reveals a new dimension, that things are not the same as they ever were. This Is For Real is not only about cleaning up your act, but also about the person who inspired you to do it. "You smoked the demons/ Gave me back my feelings / Now I am good to go." It's the most unabashed thing they've ever done, at least until you get to Antiona. Were I a betting man, I'd say the songs are probably about the same person. Pierre describes the titular woman in amusing detail, telling us of her love for Captain Crunch, snowmobiles, stray cats and Ben Folds Five. As the song ends, we learn that Antonia is pregnant, and Pierre confesses that he hopes the baby "will be just like her mother." Were this a James Blunt song, the masses would collectively reach for vomit bags, but listeners who know MCS well should be touched.

Antonia's love of Ben Folds must have rubbed off. The album's most musically surprising song, The Conversation, is a voice and piano ballad that could have appeared on Rockin' The Suburbs or Songs For Silverman. Even though it's essentially a sad goodbye letter, he song still comes off as sweet, mostly because of the final line: "Don't ever change / the way you are / I've never loved anyone more."

If you are getting worried that the album overdoses on sugary sentiment, don't fret. There are plenty of other pleasures to be had. It Had To Be You is the requisite I-never-realized-you-were-the-one-for-me song, but the nonsensical lyrical details make it something original. Example: "Let's fight crime with mangoes and limes and join the PGA / Let's win big with every spin / But hurry / I can't wait." Point Of Extinction and Broken Heart are perseverance songs, and you can feel the bluster especially on the latter when Pierre vows to "destroy this useless heart" and "fuck it up so it'll never beat again." Finally, Last Night is an oddly compelling analogue to The Strokes song of the same name, with its boppy rhythm.

The album's songs do move briefly away from matters of the heart. Calling All Cops is a general condemnation of some of the more corrupt influences in our society ("Sever all ties to satellites that broadcast worthless words / You're extrapolating nonsense / And it really hurts"), but it's hard not to see it in the light of the recent I-35W bridge collapse, especially when it speaks of "saving victims from the wreckage" and ends with the words "and everything just falls apart." Hello Helicopter is a kin to that song, but instead the target appears to be the continuing war in Iraq. "In several years no one will care / They'll all be rich and dead / So let some one else devise a cure for it."

Musically, the album is poppy and hook-filled, exactly like the first two MCS albums. It leads one to believe that, as good as the end results sound, that all-star producers Ric Ocasek (formerly of The Cars) and Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains Of Wayne) were almost superfluous. That's a compliment all around. A good producer, when he or she is working with a truly talented band, should have an invisible hand.

So, did maturity kill the band we loved? Even Justin Pierre seems worried about that. On Where I Belong, he sings, "This is where I run out of words to describe how I'm so damn hurt" and "I can't stand the thought of losing everything I ever thought that I knew." But on the album closer and title track, he knows he (and his band) will survive. "For the first time in a long time," he tells us, "I can say that I want to get better and overcome each moment in my own way."

If Even If It Kills Me is any indication, he's on the right track.

Grade: A+
Fave Song: Broken Heart

Comments

Samantha Ardoin said…
I'm just a kid writing this (14 years), but I'd like to thank you for the information. I loved MCS ever since I first heard them, and am continually amazed by the songs they're coming out with. Calling All Cops was my personal favorite on the album for a while because it simply seemed so true (referring to lyrics). I have a slightly differing opinion on Hello Helicopter, though it may not be what the band originally specified as the meaning. I think it's more than just the Iraq war. Originally, and maybe i am just too hyper-sensitive to this sort of thing, I figured the line "we all waste and consume, destroy and ruin, everything we touch" was hitting on about global warming and how people are careless and ignorant; not even simply global warming but any kind of carelessness in global affairs (such as the war which you mentioned). "I'm not saying anything you haven't heard before" emphasizes the effect that we have been told this so many times. "Swimming through the garbage dump that fills the air" sounds like air pollution, (or even noise pollution if you'd like to take it that far since so many people can easily publish, post, or produce things whether in paper, video, words, or music). The whole "green" thought was just an idea I thought might have not occurred to you before. That's all I wanted to mention.
Paul V. Allen said…
Wow, that's a great reading of the song. I hadn't even considered it that way, but it works! Thanks for pointing that out, it'll make me hear the song completely differently next time...

Popular posts from this blog

Radio, Radio: A Scientific Study of Cities 97

To start, I want to make it clear that I'm not going to write a comprehensive screed about the state of modern radio. Whatever problems radio has, it's had them for many years, and there are people who are much more informed and insightful on the topic than I am. Of course, you may wish to apply the conclusions drawn below more broadly, but that's out of my hands.

Instead, this piece is a scientific experiment of sorts, a detailed analysis of Twin Cities station Cities 97 (KTCZ-FM), a Clear Channel joint.

Why, you may ask, if I didn't not have a theory to prove about the state of radio, did I decided to perform this experiment? Well, basically it comes out of 10 years of tumultuous Twin Cities radio. When I first moved here in 1999, there were a few good choices for hearing new pop and alternative music. There was 104.1 The Point. It didn't last long and soon became an '80s station called Mix 104. Now it's 104.1 Jack FM. The 105.3 signal was Zone 105 when I m…

Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne, and Me

Ah shit.

That was my first reaction when my friend Dave texted me the news yesterday that Adam Schlesinger had died after contracting COVID-19. .

Though he had a wide and varied career as a film/TV/theater composer (That Thing You Do and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ) and worked as a producer (weirdly often, it was with artists I already loved such as They Might Be Giants, The Monkees, and Motion City Soundtrack), for me the beginning and end will always be Fountains of Wayne.

I was hip to them almost from the start. Their first album came out in the fall of 1996, when I was a sophomore in college. I'd gotten a job at the campus radio station, which gave me access to a vast library of promotional CDs. Most of these went ignored, as the program manager had very narrow tastes (basically if it wasn't in top 10 on the CMJ charts he didn't touch it). I must have read about Fountains of Wayne in a magazine, and doubtless said magazine used the magic words "power pop" because I s…

REO Speedwagon: Find Your Own Way Home (2007)

Where We Left Off:
REO Speedwagon's 1996 album Building the Bridge was their first album not to chart since 1972's R.E.O./T.W.O.. But their appeal as a live concert draw continued to grow, especially as nostalgia for the 1970s and 1980s built.

*

Though 11 years between albums certainly seems egregious, REO did release some new music during that span. The 1999 Epic compilation The Ballads featured two new love songs, "Just For You" (written by Kevin Cronin with Jim Peterik from Survivor) and "Til the River Runs Dry" (by Cronin and singer-songwriter Jimmy Scott).

But it would be another 8 years before new REO music appeared on the shelves. According to Cronin, a 2000 tour with Styx - specifically seeing a new generation of fans singing along with the old songs - lit a fire under the band to start working up new material again.

The result was Find Your Own Way Home, which came out in April 2007. The band self-released the record, and cut a deal with XM Satelli…