Much like my older family members, it is quite easy to recall the musical quality of bands much earlier in my lifetime. In the early years of this new century, bands like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday were releasing albums that many still herald roughly a decade later. Motion City Soundtrack was just becoming a part of a record label in that time period, causing their debut full-length I Am the Movie to be released not once but twice due to joining the Epitaph family. The tracklistings ended up different between the two, but the synth-spiked powerpop of I Am the Movie laid the groundwork for a consistently strong run of albums from the band – and spawned off a number of imitators in the process.
Putting keyboards in rock music was certainly not a new idea when Motion City made it a practical center point of their music onslaught, but the way that the band incorporated said melodies into their songs was quite fresh in tracks like the catchy as fuck “My Favorite Accident” – a track that would gain the band notoriety by being included in a heavily stacked soundtrack for the game Burnout 3: Takedown – and the uptempo “Don’t Call It a Comeback,” a track that seeps energy from each guitar-soaked, Justin Pierre-pleading verse.
Listening now, considering the strengthening of the band’s songwriting over the years, we can hear the seeds being sown for future sonic endeavors including the band’s latest Go. “The Future Freaks Me Out” taps a little bit of Weezer for a straightforward jam with instantly memorable melodies, something the band has always had a knack for in their five full-lengths. In fact, while some of these tracks are very energetic in terms of constant guitar work and blistering drums, songs like “Autographs & Apologies” and “Perfect Teeth” show variations on how much arranging the band will do on a particular song, with the latter being a mid-tempo mashing of poignant synth lines and smartly placed guitar hits.
This record also featured some of the grittier cuts, as “Cambridge” combines a punk rock attitude with smartly penned structures, while “Don’t Call It a Comeback” seems ripe for an easycore-style cover with buzzing guitars and addictive melodic work. It hasn’t been a continuous element of the band’s style, as MCS has shown us they can pen stellar tracks without relying on the inherent style of pop-punk, but the album’s faster cuts certainly show a side of the band that is just as strong as their progression would make them in the coming years.
The upbeat style has never truly faded in spirit from the band, but in some way or another, every melody and outpouring lyric of I Am the Movie gave the band a springboard for their later work while exposing them to a generation of fans who still endear them today. In retrospect, the slightly raw nature of this album gives it a bit of an edge compared to the band’s later work, making I Am the Movie a very strong debut from the Minneapolis-based group.