Go, Motion City Soundtrack’s fifth studio album (and first since becoming an independent band for the second time), is arguably one of the finest they’ve released in their fifteen-year career.
The band, known for their keyboard-driven pop/punk style and Justin Pierre’s emotionally-tinged vocals, must have been in a great place creatively when composing this record. Notably, the synth has returned, in a big way. Gone is the keyboard-free approach that characterized much of 2010’s My Dinosaur Life; the result is one of the best punk albums released so far this year.
Opener “Circuits and Wires” sets the album’s tone perfectly, a driving drum beat and relentless rhythm creating the song’s core, from which Pierre shouts “I know there’s something wrong within my faulty brain”.
Lead single “True Romance” follows, presenting the second half of a formidable opening one-two punch. Pierre’s vocal hook and the song’s plucky synth beeps easily make it one of the album’s highlights.
After a slight slow-down with “Son of a Gun”, Go really picks up: “Timelines” is one of the most endearing songs on the record. Its perfect pairing of emotion, nostalgia (“It’s not a matter of time/It’s just a matter of timing”) and power-pop bliss, the depth of “Everyone Will Die”, “The Coma Kid” (with more affecting synth-laden melody and fist-pumping rhythms) and “Boxelder” (finger-tapping, pop/punk energy and one of the strongest choruses on the album) round out Go’s completely untouchable middle section.
Not that the end of the record is a letdown – far from it, although the themes are pretty dark. “The Worst is Yet to Come” exemplifies the album’s melancholia with the marriage of some sinister synth tones and ominous lyrics (“if you just let me make my own mistakes/I promise I’ll behave only in the worst way”), while “Bad Idea” continues the trend of self-reflection, preparing the listener for the heavy presence of “Happy Anniversary”. A heart-wrenching tale of a dissolving life and, subsequently, a relationship, this is one powerful song. In it, Pierre sounds at times like Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World, his voice telling the tragic story in a way that sends chills down the spine: “Take me in your arms and hold me tight/’Cause I won’t be here for long, my dear/Settle our accounts/Happy Anniversary” he sings, while somber guitar chords cascade by. It’s a depressing tune, and one that should easily appeal to anyone familiar with loss and the tumult of life’s unpredictability.
In many ways, Go feels like a concept record – it’s heavy on introspection and themes of loss, self-esteem, and overcoming obstacles. On the closing track, “Floating Down the River”, Pierre sings “I am attempting to change/After years of destruction/Don’t be alarmed I’m still stupid, awkward, anxious and a terrible bore”, but despite the self-deprecation, the song comes off as hopeful – a poetic way to cap off an album as flawless as this one.
ALBUM RATING: 5 stars (out of five)