Motion City Soundtrack rocks the stage and the stereo

Motion City Soundtrack drummer Tony Thaxton keeps the beat alive on stage. (credit: Courtesy of  ZOMG_anna_lol on flickr) Motion City Soundtrack drummer Tony Thaxton keeps the beat alive on stage. (credit: Courtesy of ZOMG_anna_lol on flickr)

Motion City Soundtrack is a band on the rise. Whether you’re attending a concert or checking out the band’s newest album, your musical palate is sure to be widened.

In concert

“Do you guys like music?” asked Justin Pierre, lead singer of Motion City Soundtrack, halfway through their set. In response to the roar of the crowd he quipped, “That’s good, ‘cause we’re a musical band.”

One might almost have mistaken the fivesome on stage for a stand-up group as the crowd broke out into laughter, just one of many occasions throughout the performance. However, as the band strummed the opening chords to their next song, no one could mistake Motion City Soundtrack for anything other than an extremely talented group of musicians.

On Jan. 31, Motion City Soundtrack hit the stage at Mr. Small’s Theater & Funhouse, a cozy, personal venue that put the audience close to the stage. The floor was packed, as the concert was sold out. A few people even loitered around outside, asking if anyone had extra tickets to sell.

The lights dimmed, and the crowd cheered as the first band, The Swellers, came on stage. The punk rock foursome from Flint, Michigan played an exciting set, and undoubtedly gained a few more fans that night. Following The Swellers was This Providence, an alternative rock quartet from Seattle, Washington signed to Fueled by Ramen. The band filled the gap in between songs with funny jokes and self-deprecating humor. The third band on the tour was Set Your Goals, a hardcore punk group that escalated the energy level in the theater to the point where even non-fans were jumping to the music.

As Set Your Goals cleared the stage, the anticipation for Motion City Soundtrack built up. During the set change, the audience bonded over singing well-known songs, one such song being “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. When Motion City Soundtrack finally stepped on the stage, they opened with “Worker Bee,” a popular song off their new album, My Dinosaur Life.

Motion City Soundtrack did a wonderful job of entertaining the audience with their energetic songs and equally energetic jokes. For “Her Words Destroyed My Planet,” the band even involved fans in the song, tossing kazoos out into the audience so they could toot along to part of the song. After playing “L.G. Fuad” the band left the stage and the crowd soon began shouting “one more song.” The band did better than that. After coming back on stage they ended the night with two encores: “Disappear” from their new album, and “Everything is Alright.”

Indeed most people were feeling more than just “alright” after the concert.

“It was exciting! I couldn’t hear anything,” said Tyler Nighswander, a first-year computer science major, for whom the ringing in his ears had muted all other sounds. Then again, as frequent concertgoers will know, the inability to hear anything for hours after is just a pleasant reminder of how amazing a concert was. And it was true — this really was an amazing concert.

On record

Flashback. It’s 2003; Motion City Soundtrack has just released their first album, I Am the Movie, and it’s so chock-full of angst and nostalgia that scenesters across America rejoice. Now flash-forward. Seven years later, the band releases My Dinosaur Life, and their following has increased 50-fold with a fan-base that extends beyond the boys’ starting place in Minnesota. But don’t get your high-tops in a bundle, band-hoodie-wearing hooligans, because Motion City Soundtrack’s edge has certainly not been dulled.

Arguably the most important criterion for the validation of musicians is to have cohesive albums, and Motion City Soundtrack has managed to do just that through four studio releases. The band has blended their original punk/rock sound with indie lullabies, electronica dance beats, rock guitar solos, and pop love themes, but throughout it all, they managed to maintain their unique style. They kept their original fan base and simultaneously expanded it to the more media accessible reaches of the young adult world.

The band’s third and most popular album, titled Even If It Kills Me, launched the band into the popular media spotlight, and Motion City Soundtrack rode the momentum to the release of My Dinosaur Life, which debuted at number 15 on Billboard 200. Despite the band’s switch from Epitaph Records to Columbia, the album, which mirrors their sophomore album, Commit This to Memory, brings back the punk but keeps the pop.

What is the common thread that ties the band’s four albums together? Lead singer Pierre’s distinctive voice. Plus, it’s recognizable as a Motion City Soundtrack album because listeners know they love Pierre’s complex lyrics stuffed with pop culture references, intricate metaphors, and clever diction that requires Googling to be sure the words are even English. Pierre sings, “I still futz with that tourniquet, and tried to squeeze on your dreams/Slung it on — it’s a perfect fit. What do you suppose that means?” Beats me, Pierre.

Motion City Soundtrack’s most popular songs pre-Dinosaur include “The Future Freaks Me Out” off the first album and “Everything Is Alright” off the sophomore album, as well as “Fell in Love Without You” and “This is for Real” from Even If It Kills Me. The band’s first single, “Disappear,” was not the strongest on the new album. Songs to look out for include “Worker Bee,” “A Lifeless Ordinary,” and “Her Words Destroyed My Planet.” The three tracks hold familiar nostalgia and hysteria from the band’s previous albums, and Motion City Soundtrack knows that crazy is what they do best. Just look at Pierre’s vertical hair and horizontal sideburns! Geometry at its finest.