Review Summary: "All I want for you to be is happy—or something."
I shouldn’t feel embarrassed about how much I like Motion City Soundtrack. I admit that they have some juvenile tunes, especially early on. For all that I love their debut, it bleeds a high school ethos with high, whiney vocals and silly lyrics. And it still does charm me. I find the nonsense cute. Justin Courtney Pierre probably does, too. By My Dinosaur Life
, he embraces an oddball persona. The tracks come out as zany as his ruffled afro.
I don’t usually like songs as stupid as Worker Bee
. I can’t imagine Pierre pitching this as the album’s opener. “Guys, guys, let’s open our next entry by absolutely screeching about a gold star.” Without question, without even a second’s thought, I would have vetoed it. Too wack, dude, so weird that it seems like satire. Please, go back to the drawing board, except, maybe, wait, hearing it for the first time, it works well.
It begins in a lull. The words come out in a lethargic drawl. The guitars sling back and forth somberly. Drums remain absent from the arena. “I deserve a gold star,” he deadpans. Then the song awakens as if the band took a quick power nap before punching it to life.
It’s musical caffeine. The energy doesn’t let up; the first seven cuts have a lovely, convivial energy that leaves me needy and laughing and short of breath. And they show off such immense sonic diversity, too, even throwing in a kazoo.
The lyrics cut me up. It is both very weird and oddly resonant. Sometimes he delivers sweet sentiments. “My parents keep asking when you’re planning on coming around,” he notes seriously. But he only sprinkles these sentiments into other strange asides and anecdotes. Just a minute before, he had declared that he fell asleep watching Veronica Mars, not for the first time. Like, dude, what.
But that immaturity shines, here, by laying him out, characterizing him. After the album closes, I might not know what Justin’s tourniquet dream means, but I do learn that it bothers him. He cares, at least cares enough to muster up some honesty and confess his anxieties. He fears his hedonistic personality, asking for help and loneliness, too, falling in love, not falling in love enough, and growing up. He resents becoming a better person. “The things that used to mean so much to me have gone the way of dinosaurs, hopes and dreams, and everything. All I want for you is to be happy—or something.”
I no longer feel embarrassed about Motion City Soundtrack. I connect with what they said in This Dinosaur Life
. I don’t think they reached a thematic conclusion, at the end. That’s okay. Neither have I in my own life. Somewhere there, I found something poignant. And I will revel in that instead of hiding it.