Days Will Run Away: A Eulogy For Motion City Soundtrack
Words By Carly Rios
Motion City Soundtrack may never have been completely mainstream- the closest they came was having the acoustic version of “Fell In Love Without You” featured on Gossip Girl which resulted in their briefly being signed to Columbia Records-but for countless fans in the pop-punk scene they remain legends. “Everything Is Alright,” off of their album Commit This To Memory, may have introduced them to legions of loyal fans with its tongue twisting lyrics and uniquely synth-punk vibes, but Motion City Soundtrack really began in 1997, meaning that their career has spanned almost 20 years. 20 years is a milestone that many bands never reach. While Motion City Soundtrack’s members have come across obstacles that have destroyed other bands, including lead singer Justin Pierre’s alcoholism and addiction issues and the departure of beloved drummer Tony Thaxton, they still managed to push through those issues and mold themselves a career nearly unheard of in the industry. From their earliest release, the 7” Promenade/Carolina, to their benchmark album Commit This To Memory, and their final release Panic Stations, they managed to reinvent themselves consistently and still keep their fans captivated.
The things that made them special weren’t what other bands were doing during the early 2000’s or even what other bands are doing today. Their underrated and quirky debut, I Am The Movie, was packed to the brim with ridiculous scenarios (“Capital H”), pop culture references (“The Future Freaks Me Out”), heartfelt hipster ballads (“My Favorite Accident”) and something not heard often in pop-punk, sick moog breakdowns. All of these things, plus Justin Pierre’s distinctive leading man appearance-21st Century Albert Einstein hair, boxy glasses, and the best mutton chops this side of the 70’s-turned Motion City Soundtrack gradually from indie music underdogs to serious contenders in substream music. After I Am The Movie, Motion City Soundtrack amped up the musicianship, reined in some of the crazy, and refined their sound with the help of pop-punk godfather Mark Hoppus, resulting in the aforementioned Commit This To Memory, one of the greatest sophomore albums ever to exist. This album, the one that broke through to the audience that they still hold to this day, is a pivotal record in pop-punk, with a cohesive outline from beginning to end and songs that even casual members of the band cling to. They channeled the spirit, aggression, and confusion of teens and early 20-somethings into 11 perfectly crafted tracks. “When You’re Around” is an acidic kiss-off to a partner who you literally just can’t stand anymore; “Better Open The Door” is a weekenders party anthem made for live shows; “Hangman” is an ode to the weirdos with one of the best and most subtle message-driven choruses on any of their albums (“Hangman/It’s not your fault/commit this to memory”), and “Hold Me Down” is a heart-wrenching album closer about a difficult breakup. These two albums set the gold standard for combining pop-punk with synth-rock and touches of post-hardcore, something that no band-and at its darkest times, Motion City Soundtrack themselves-has ever been able to duplicate.
These two shining beacons are only the beginning to the expansive catalog that one of the greatest bands in history progressively created over the next decade. Their softer, more electronic third album Even If It Kills Me gave us the nerdy love letter “Antonia” and the excellent (and underrated) call to action “Hello Helicopter” (“We all waste and consume, destroy and ruin everything we touch/it’s easy not to think when you’re not told that much…”). Their follow up and major label debut My Dinosaur Life introduced into their harder side, with hard rock guitars and chill inducing lyrics on “Disappear,” Justin Pierre setting a new vocal bar on “Her Words Destroyed My Planet,” and the deceivingly simple hand-clap-into-full band formula of “Stand Too Close.” The darkness of Go followed next, with achingly personal lyrics and the band moving away from its nerd-rock roots with unpolished stand out “Circuits and Wires” and the jarringly melancholy feel of “Everyone Will Die.” Their most recent offering Panic Stations, seemed like a joyous return to their roots, all of the best pieces of their albums combined into one album, the first redemptive step out of the emotional dip that was Go. Despite this, the final track off of the album, “Days Will Run Away,” seemed to heavily foreshadow their impending breakup. No one may have picked up on it at the time, but it’s glaringly evident in retrospective listens.
The key piece of that puzzle is this: “All of the best pieces of their albums combined into one album.” In hindsight, it almost seems like a conscious decision on the part of Justin Pierre & Co: return to the roots of what made us great, find ourselves again, recreate the magic. One last time, for everyone who’s followed us. One last time, for everyone who’s doubted us. One last time, for the Boombox Generation, the Make Out Kids, the Capital H’s, the Antonias. One last time, to prove to ourselves and to everyone that, despite the odds, we’ve still got it.
Despite the odds, Motion City Soundtrack became legends. 18 years and six albums have instilled themselves in the minds and lives of every pop-punk fan imaginable, leaving behind a legacy to be met by their peers and predecessors, almost like an unspoken challenge: this is what we did. This is what we were. Do us proud. Rise to the occasion. Their spirit still lives on subtly through bands like Sorority Noise, Metro Station and, in the case of live shows, The Wonder Years, but no band alive can replicate what Motion City Soundtrack created. They can only talk about them, cite them as influences, and keep their legacy alive for future music fans to discover.
Discovering Motion City Soundtrack was one of many pivotal pieces of my life in the summer of 2005. After watching them on Fuse, I watched them on Warped Tour. After watching them at Warped Tour, I bought the album. I became a fan. I turned Commit This To Memory into my teenage soundtrack, and clung to this band who felt like underdogs, but were really the champions of the underdogs who latched onto them. Motion City Soundtrack were one of a kind. Their music, their spirit, and their impact will live on. And even though this chapter of their journey is over and they are saying their farewells, rather than being sad about their departure, I have a feeling the one thing that they want us all to remember is the same exact thing that they told a teenage girl first discovering them on a hot summer day in a Philadelphia apartment: everything is alright.
Last modified: March 15, 2016