Power Punks

Motion City Soundtrack's tales of romantic woe and suicidal angst would probably be hopelessly emo if it weren't for the band's shiny sense of pop melody and sharp, ever-so-slightly self-depracatory lyrics--"I am wrecked, I am overblown/I'm also fed up with the common cold"-- which suggest a band less interested in wrist-slit navel-gazing then in using the genre's thematic tropes as a canvas for a series of character studies about life and love in suburbia, a concept album made up entirely of delicious power-pop nuggets. I downloaded their 2005 album, Commit This To Memory, a few months back, and have been listening to it incessently on I-Tunes ever since. Like a lot of recent rock bands, this power-punk group from Minneapolis sounds a lot like Green Day and the Pixies, their songs full of short, clanging ejaculations of electric guitar and nasal vocals that tend toward the upper register as a way of "keeping it real." But oddly, for all their WB-ish, mid-90s sonics, the band they kept reminding me of was Cheap Trick. They don't really sound like those great Chicago power-poppers, but they have a similarly loopy lyrical sensibility that walks a fine line between sincere emoting and understanding of the melodramas of teen life, and wink-wink acknowledgments of their own ridiculousness (I'm thinking of the Cheap Trick of "Surrender," not the atrocious power balladeers of the mid-80s). MCS also has a lot of fun matching their guitar attack to layered group vocals that wouldn't sound out of place on an album from 1976. In that sense, perhaps they're less the spawn of Green Day then a Replacements for the I-pod generation -- they share that earlier band's love of hiding a rich sense of songwriting craft behind a punk attack, guarding their emotions behind layers of irony. On nearly every tune, MCS's voices rise and fall across their songs, wrapping around melodies as open and expansive as a summer day-- the kind of summer day for which their album might make a nice, laid-back companion.


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