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.

Goodnight Hiroyuki: A Night with Justin Courtney Pierre

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“I went to the show last night. It was like shitty Beach Boys.” – Justin Pierre

Tonight was the first show of Justin Courtney Pierre’s first solo tour. Seeing Motion City Soundtrack live half a dozen times over the years, I am familiar with Pierre’s stage presence. Tonight was something new. Pushing through nerves, Pierre spoke at length with the crowd between songs and gave those in attendance a night just for them. His tour will undoubtedly get tighter by the end of its run. But on his first solo show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Justin joked to the crowd the best summary of his entire solo venture.

“I’m incredibly nervous. I talked to my daughter before the show, and she said, ‘You’ll do great, dad!’ I said, ‘Shut up, idiot.’”

Opening the show was surprise darling, Pronoun. I had never heard of them before, but like many others tonight, I’m a fan for life. It says a lot about a band when, after the show, more people are holding their vinyls instead of the headliner. Surprisingly simple, their songs contain an insane amount of melody.

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Pronoun

Pronoun, headed by singer/ guitarist Alyse Vellturo, are what rock stars are made of. Watching them play, I couldn’t help but think of the manga Nana, and seeing character Nana Osaki bend rock music to her will. Each song swam with a full, rich sound that made it seem like twice as many musicians took the stage. Despite Vellturo nervously telling the crowd, “This song only uses two chords,” (or “This one uses three!”) Pronoun are remarkably talented.

If nothing else, Pronoun played a song that “they hoped to record some time.” I assume it will eventually be a single. Though unsure of what the title of it is, it’s the type of song that can instantly turn a small band into a sensation.

By contrast, Justin Courtney Pierre was loose. He warned the crowd before the first song, “Some of the melodies and words might change. That’s not on purpose.” Where Motion City maintained a tight, coordinated live show, Pierre allowed his solo work room to breathe. The band had only practiced a hand full of times before hitting the road. Music stands were placed front and center, with Pierre eyeing pages of lyrics and/or sheet music before and during songs.

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Justin Courtney Pierre

In The Drink was played in its entirety, broken up with a great mix of songs from Pierre’s career. An older song written for a gay youth site, “Everything That Hurts” was played alongside a new solo song, complete with surfer rock vibe (see the ‘Beach Boys’ quote above) that will be released on an upcoming EP, My Girl Margot.

More than anything, Pierre had the chance to talk to the audience and try something new. Between each song, he’d talk at length with the crowd, changing topics and regularly filling the room with laughter. After one interaction asking about asthma medications, when someone from the crowd shouted, “Doctor says yes!”, Pierre instantly shot back, “You’re not a doctor!”

This solo tour allowed Pierre a chance to play anything. Rushed to learn the songs, the band flew through three Farewell Continental songs, including one called “Tossing and Turning” that he hopes will be on FC’s next release. When it came time for Motion City Soundtrack, Pierre took the stage alone. He wanted to play “without feeling like he was cheating on MCS,” and only played songs that he brought to the band in the first place. Requesting the audience to help sing, he played through intimate versions of “It Had To Be You”, “When You’re Around” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die”.

At this point, it’s impossible to tell if the rest of Justin Pierre’s solo tour will follow the same path, or if this truly is a chance for him play with his live shows and look for something new each night. But if this was him at the height of his insecurities on stage, Pierre is about to start something truly special.

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 just realized he was petting a toy Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of his cat. Boooooo.

Review: Justin Courtney Pierre – In The Drink

Despite the mounting evidence, Justine Courtney Pierre is fun. His musical career has been a series of self deprecation and hapless attempts at romance set to the tune of upbeat synth pop. That’s why it makes sense that his first solo outing, In The Drink doesn’t stray too far from familiar territory. In fact, it feels reassuring to know that Motion City Soundtrack’s lyrical content came from a place so honest that it follows through to his own music.

You can buy or stream In the Drink on Apple Music.

It is going to be impossible not to compare Pierre’s first solo album to Motion City Soundtrack. The album is still a pop rock album filled with dreamy lyrical downers. However, this is the first time Pierre has allowed himself to truly experiment with sounds. Produced by former Motion City guitarist Joshua Allen Cain, Pierre adds more garage influences to an otherwise MCS styled album. Be it the faded drumming and horn section of “Undone”, the fuzzed guitar nightmare of “Goodnight Hiroyuki”, or adding influences from Weezer’s Pinkerton to Motion City’s My Dinosaur Life to create a pop rock chimera like “Anchor”, Pierre somehow surprises as much as he plays to his base.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that Pierre himself plays every instrument except for drumming duties, which are handled by David Jarnstrom (Gratitude, BNLX). Pierre’s lead and rhythm guitar sections are as hypnotic as anything he’s ever done. He truly finds a career-spanning range from the soft pop of Even If It Kills Me in “Moonbeam” to the raging guitars of My Dinosaur Life in “In The Drink”. Perhaps most surprising is how much his bass lines pop and stand on their own. At times, the bass threatens to overtake the lead guitar as the main instrument (“Ready Player One”, “Shoulder the Weight”) in surprisingly diverse ways.

Pierre himself remains as versatile as ever. While his vocal range doesn’t attempt anything new, he remains one of the most impressive singers in pop punk. Silky smooth, Pierre manages to sound both relatable and impressive as his imagery-filled lyrics slide off of his tongue. Subtle wavers of the voice (“I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away”) and confident bellows (“In The Drink”) fill the album. While he doesn’t sound like a choir boy, it’s absolutely impossible not to want to sing along because you feel like you can.

Thematically, In The Drink is on par for anything else Justin Pierre has written. On the opening track, “Undone”, Pierre admits, “Hey, I won’t leave the party today / I have nothing new to relate / There is only sadness, it always ends this way”.

“I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away” feels like a sister song to the Motion City Soundtrack staple “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”. Not quite as lively, the song still revolves around a man trying to put the pieces together about a broken relationship with Weezer-esque guitars raging behind the vocals. “Don’t stay. Baby please stay, you can’t stay / Every night of my life ends the same way / I want to. I don’t want to. It’s both true / Why can’t I figure this out?”

However, Pierre isn’t constantly in the ditch. “Ready Player One” sees him coming to terms with himself and finding balance with his demons, even in the midst of relationship turmoil. “Think what you will I was never as bad as they say / Okay maybe I was but back then I was outta my mind / And I’m all quips and chatter each quivering section of spine / And I’m here to it, here like I never could ever before cause I was afraid, but now I’m ready”.

In The Drink is the next logical step for Justin Pierre, even if it sounds like the next Motion City Soundtrack album. Aggressive, experimental and familiar, Justin Courtney Pierre delivers a hell of an album, even if it’s somewhat expected. What makes In The Drink so spectacular is the fact that it justifies every song Justin Pierre has written and shows not only how authentic Pierre has been throughout his career, but how close to the vest Motion City Soundtrack was through their lifetime. Whether you’re discovering Pierre for the first time, or coming for the nostalgia, In The Drink is an album that we’ve been waiting for.

4.5/5

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 accidentally let his apples go bad. Who does that? Has anyone ever bought TWO APPLES and gone, “No, I’ll hold onto these until they rot”? Literally no one until today.