Reflecting On: Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life

“I stall before I start.”

Motion City Soundtrack is a band that is loved by different people for different lyrics, different sounds, and remarkably distinct albums. There is an argument to be made that any one of their albums is the highlight of the group’s career, but none offers more evidence than My Dinosaur Life (2010). While earlier albums danced around the pop punk scene by testing the boundaries of pop and rock music, My Dinosaur Life unabashedly amplified every aspect that made them great. The result is a loud neurotic mess of sound that defined who Motion City Soundtrack are and cemented their legacy in an overcrowded Warped Tour field.

You can buy or stream My Dinosaur Life on Apple Music.

As this album turns 10, I find myself in a position where I can relate to its themes more than ever. Feeling left behind by a world you’re still a part of, trying to improve yourself for the benefit of all, and realizing it took you way too long to do it. If My Dinosaur Life has one message to offer, it’s that it is never too late to be your best.

My Dinosaur Life is the album that made me feel okay for having a mind that jumps from topic to topic, seemingly beyond my control. Even in my most uncomfortable and heartbroken moments, I make jokes to ease the oncoming sense of doom. From song to song, singer Justin Pierre jumps from one thought to the next with grace, humor, and the humility to ask his audience to forgive him for being all over the place.

My Dinosaur Life was a statement on the idea of feeling left behind. After gaining some moderate success with the release of Commit This To Memory (2005), the band seemed to take noticeable backlash for just how poppy Even If It Kills Me (2007) was, even though the album is highly regarded now. For a brief moment, Motion City Soundtrack seemed like they had outlived their longevity in the music scene. My Dinosaur Life revitalized the band both in career and spirit.

“The things that used to mean so much to me /

Have gone the way of dinosaurs /

Hopes and dreams and everything”

My Dinosaur Life plays off of the theme of improvement. Every song feels like a short story about admitting one’s own faults and, maybe for the first time, asking for help to become better. “A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)” states this most directly (“I think I can figure it out / But I’m gonna need a little help to get me through it”).

“Her Words Destroyed My Planet” is one of the best songs written in the last decade. It’s a raw confession of someone admitting that their significant other’s frustrations with them being an underachiever have finally been realized. The song is an admission that despite trying to improve themselves in a variety of ways, it was still too little, too late, even if they like who they are now better than before.

These pleas for help and proclamations of improvement are interwoven with the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness that often coexist when we seek to be better. “Skin and Bones” asks the void an absurd amount of questions, as though trying to relieve themselves of a panic attack (“What if consciousness can expand / And we fool ourselves with absurd demands? / What if there is no point at all? / We just grow up to fade away…”).

Although My Dinosaur Life seems to dance back and forth with the idea of admitting one’s own faults and promising to be better (“Stand Too Close”), it balances itself taking pride in hard work and emotional health (“Worker Bee”).

It’s important to work to be better. But it’s just as important to do it for the right reasons. In “The Weakends”, Pierre reflects on a life spent wasted on not being his best, of dreaming about the future when he could be living it. “As the years go crashing by / I think of all I’ve pondered / So many minutes wandered / So many things undone / I’ve tried to figure out / How many lives I’ve wasted /  Waiting for the perfect time to start”.

My Dinosaur Life is as close to a perfect album that I can think of. It passes a message that everyone learns at some stage of their life with a mix of humor, self immolation, and hope. But most of all, it asks you realize when you’re not the best you can be. That’s all it takes to deserve a gold star.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and hates olives and everything that looks like an olive. He bit into a chicken salad sandwich expecting the sweet taste of cranberry and instead was betrayed with a mouthful of these poison grapes. If you know anyone who eats olives out of a jar, he asks you to pray for them, as that is the only way they can be saved now.

Review: Motion City Soundtrack – Panic Stations

Motion_City_Soundtrack-2015

Motion City Soundtrack is easily one of the most unique bands on the scene. Each new album is a fresh look at their unique take on pop punk, escalating guitars and weirdly memorable lyricism. The band’s new album, Panic Stations is, in a way, the first to buck this trend. It’s not a slight against the album; Panic Stations is a solid release that makes you keenly aware that MCS are the only band capable of making an album like this.

The difference between Panic Stations and the rest of Motion City’s discography is that it feels like the first time the band has tried to recreate its past rather than forge ahead into something new.

You can buy Panic Stations on iTunes.

You can buy Panic Stations on iTunes.

Panic Stations sounds like a brilliant mix of every past album from the band, most notably the stylistic similarities with Commit This to Memory and I Am the Movie. Others feel more alluded to, like the way that stand-out song “I Can Feel You” sounds like a sonically and lyrically-loose sequel to “Time Turned Fragile” from Commit This To Memory. It’s a wonderful, subtle nod to what the hardcore fans have always loved about the band.

The issue is that while this formula provides some great moments and ups the nostalgia factor in a way that almost any new album doesn’t, it feels like an older album. There is much more energy than in 2012’s Go, but it trades that new-found energy for songs that sound like they could have come off of Commit This To Memory or I Am the Movie at almost any point. It’s a weird trade off in that fans of the band’s older material will absolutely love it, while fans of their more recent albums may find some essential songs, but will be slightly disappointed with the whole.

Musically, this is Motion City through and through. It’s their past, their present and their future wrapped together. Justin Pierre and Joshua Cain sizzle through the guitar. The restraint and back-and-forth (“I Can Feel You”) and massive, ‘Weezer-esque’ choruses (“Over It Now”) are dominating machines, especially when they show a bit of both (“Heavy Boots”).

Matthew Taylor riots across the spectrum on bass and carries several songs (“Heavy Boots”). The bass is mixed perfectly to pop and stand out significantly from the steady wall of guitar without distracting. Jesse Johnson once again shows that he’s the best keyboardist in the scene. His synth weaves from the focus of the music to the background, almost acting as rhythm guitar (“Broken Arrow”). Newcomer Claudio Rivera bashes the shit out of his kit and maintains the intensity that has always been a staple of MCS’s sound.

The lyrical department is perhaps where Panic Stations disappoints the most. These are good songs, but few carry the weird and clever wordplay that has always been one of the highlighting charm of the band. Under any other circumstance, it probably wouldn’t be anything noticeable, but with years of experience with MCS, Panic Stations sounds slightly bland. Even my favorite song, “I Can Feel You”, sounds slightly bland when seeing the lyrics down on paper: “Lack of infrastructure, someone hear me out / I’m dying inside, There’s nowhere to hide / Where do I go? / Get back in the cage, just keep me away, I’m staggering / I can’t wait to find you, I really hate that I’m alone”.

That’s not to say that Panic Stations lacks its own charm. Each Motion City Soundtrack album seems to have a loose theme that holds it together (The new year in CTtM, or time and aging on Go), and Panic Stations is no different. The entire album has a loose thread of coming back from the brink of despair. Straight from the confident but exasperated opening line of “Let’s do this” at the start of the disc, there are several references to the end of the world (“I Can Feel You”) and refusing to give in. On “It’s a Pleasure To Meet You”, Pierre sings “At a distance, there’s a difference / Things will make sense, You are not alone / Got to hold on for the moment ‘til the next one / Everything is so damn tragic, time erodes the waves of panic / Get up, you are not alone”.

Panic Stations is an entertaining album, and is a fitting release for a band that has diehard fans of each album they release, even if they can’t agree which is their best one. It isn’t my favorite Motion City record, but it will be someone else’s. Panic Stations feels like a guided tour through Motion City’s history and gets their fanbase up to speed together.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and wants Justin Pierre’s hair, or at least the secrets to it. That amazing, scientifically impossible hair.