Review Summary: Hyperactive.
One of the most fascinating human conditions is neither a disease nor an illness, but rather an involuntary state called synaesthesia. Synaesthesia occurs when senses overlap and/or unite in such a way that the person experiencing the phenomenon connects a colour with a word, a number with a particular spatial location, or a piece of information like a day or month with a personality.
When you consider the role of music in general it's easy to see parallels between this condition and a listener's; the artist is an agent using instruments in an attempt to evoke an emotion or reaction which is not usually associated with sound. Normally, the result is a change in mood or mindset, a desire to dance or shout or think, or the conjuring of some sort of image as a result of the lyrics and tone of the music. But only the last of those brushes anywhere close to synaesthesia, and even then it's nowhere close to consistent enough to count. No - while it's certainly not the most emotional or life-changing record I've ever encountered, Motion City Soundtrack's Commit This To Memory is easily the closest I've ever gotten to a synaesthetic experience.
It's all about colour
. Justin Pierre's forcedly optimistic vocals are part of it; he delivers every line with an unerring sense of self-awareness, and the erratic nature of his cyclic melodies is easily the most addictive thing in pop music. They just refuse to let up - every single second of MCS's second studio album houses some form of bright, hyperactive tune. We're not talking about the kind of chorus that works its way into your brain - these hooks are enormous, brilliant, and come as a veritable barrage of fun, upbeat guitars and a momentum-packed rhythm section which is geared towards danceable beats. Take the opening moog-synth line of Time Turned Fragile, which bursts straight out of the end of the previous track; it sounds celebratory, ecstatic, edging knowingly close to cheesy but never quite getting there for that very reason. Commit This To Memory is shameless in knowing its strengths, digging out infectious guitar lines even in its more poignant moments, like the end of the same track, its drum-heavy closing section still plays host to a plethora of intoxicating strands.
Thankfully, Motion City Soundtrack have enough sense to ensure that this record doesn't blend and merge into a uniform blur of repeated ideas. Despite the amount and frequency of riotous enjoyment packed into these 39 minutes, every so often a song hits you with a slight jolt of emotion, like the third refrain of L.G. Fuad which says, Sister, soldier, you've been such a positive influence on my mental frame, if I could ever repay you I would but I'm hard up for cash and my memory lacks initiative
. It's sung with the conviction required to imply a more thoughtful and pensive side to the lyrical content which always exists under the surface of Commit This To Memory but is only rarely allowed to take control. The moments it does are easily the record's most powerful, the best probably occurring in closer Hold Me Down, whose closing line of You're the metaphors I can't create to comprehend this curse that I call love
negates Pierre's earlier attempts to describe a fading connection. The track in general is more restrained, floating above a picked guitar and hollow taps at first and remaining mid-tempo until the massive bridge, whose deep piano strikes as both unexpected and beautiful.
Motion City Soundtrack don't pretend to make music that's going to give you any sort of epiphany or musical breakthrough. The keyboards, the catchy guitars, the massive choruses - they're present for one reason alone, and that reason is fun
. They're one of the few bands in the world that can play live with almost any kind of band in the confines of rock and pop and still make a lasting impression, most probably on the soles of your feet and your vocal cords. Commit This To Memory is a perfect summary of why they're so good at it - a tour-de-force of penning hooks without sounding like you're not trying. The first three tracks form a foreboding trio of zesty commotion which at no point threatens to let up. It does
sound like colour - whatever that means - as its light, relentless energy conjures every side of the spectrum. It's not a disease, or an illness, just an involuntary state that helps you see things from a very slightly different perspective, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.