Even If It Kills Me

While there's not exactly incontrovertible evidence to support it, there's a damn good chance that Minneapolis synth-punks Motion City Soundtrack are the reason Weezer decided to hang it up for good. Surely, the band's mediocre latter-day output coupled with MCS' brilliantly over caffeinated post-punk take on Weezer's own hyper self-aware bubblegummy arena-rock was enough to convince Rivers Cuomo to pack it in and head back to Harvard. Maybe that's the case and maybe it's not, but at any rate, Even If It Kills Me is crammed with enough mouth-watering synth-buzzing pop-punk confections to give the aforementioned band's Blue Album a run for its cardigan-destroying money.

Always one of the brainier bands to have been cattle herded into the Warped demographic, MCS' brazenly off-kilter songwriting approach has always meshed well with Justin Pierre's pop culture obsessed motor mouthed lyrical bromides, but here both have reached new levels of refinement -- his brainy everyman and their scrappy pop-punk pedigree culminating in one gloriously destructive three-minute pop firebomb after another. They've always had a knack for hooks and choruses, but "This Is For Real" and "Broken Heart" are easily the catchiest things they've ever committed to tape, with the driving and utterly jubilant "Calling All Cops" following closely behind. Part of that can be attributed to their choice of producers - Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger and GVSB's Eli Janney tag-teamed several tracks, while legendary Cars frontman Rik Ocasek helmed several more - men with more than a little knowledge of how to tweak the knobs to craft pure radio-rock perfection.

But even a great producer can't do much without well-written songs, and even without their dream team's deft touch behind the boards, "Fell in Love Without You" and "Where I Belong" are some of the finest songs of their career, emotionally tangled and steadfastly rocking in equal measure. Pretty piano ballad "The Conversation" recalls Ben Folds in both tone and timbre, and proves a welcome, albeit brief, respite from the whizzing Moog's and stacked power-chords that dominate the rest of the album.

Even If It Kills Me should prove to be Motion City Soundtrack's breakthrough/break-out album. Not to say that they've peaked or reached a creative zenith upon which they will never sit again, but rather, it feels like the next stage in their evolution from spazzy pop-punk prodigies to full-blown arena-aping superstars, which, as everybody knows, is the hurdle most "promising" bands never make it past. With Even If It Kills Me MCS have not only traversed those hurdles effortlessly, but now look set to kick down the door marked "Big Time" and barge their way inside.

"This Is For Real"

Motion City Soundtrack
Epitaph Records

Even If It Kills Me