Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Dinosaur Life Album Review

One of the best things about working in a research lab (besides the fact that I’m doing awesome science) is the ability to listen to music while doing mundane things like counting flies and sorting vials. I added two new CDs to my mp3 player to listen to while working, and only got through one. Not because it took forever, but because every time I got to the end of it, I told myself I’d listen to it “just one more time.” I lost track of how many "one more time's" it was.

That was yesterday. Today wasn’t much better. I listened to it again at work, and then as I was walking back and forth across campus, and then when I had a mini dance party to it in my room. That’s how good My Dinosaur Life by Motion City Soundtrack is.

There’s not a bad song on this CD. Honestly. I’ve actually been putting off writing this review because I’m not sure I can really convey how awesome it is. I think the only way to do this and not have my head explode is to do a track-by-track rundown of how amazing it all is.

Worker Bee: This is just a positive, happy song that sets the pace for the entire album. All of the songs are musically very strong, as well as lyrically descriptive and full. There’s true emotion on the whole album, and it all starts here.

A Life Less Ordinary starts with a really, really happy guitar bit, which fills in with drums and mingles with Justin Pierre’s vocals and it’s fun. Once it hits the chorus it’s also smart and it pulls you in with piano keys and this joyful little guitar.

Her Words Destroyed My Planet is a song that I already loved, and I’ve now figured that the synth-guitar-baby is actually a kazoo. A kazoo! I love that MCS has made a song that is so awesome that adding a kazoo just makes it better, rather than ruining it. You can’t do that to many songs. Also, underneath all of the amazingness is a cowbell. This song is lyrically poignant and musically genius and it’s just… awesome? Amazing? I’m only three songs in and I’m running out of adjectives.

Disappear is a bit darker, rougher, faster than the previous songs. It feels a lot like their earlier songs. There’s so much anger and emotion, a tangled mix of love and hatred and a desire to run. The guitars and vocals and drums all race together and the huge deep breaths that Pierre has to take between lyrics just adds an edge of fear and desperation that make you truly feel this song.

Delirium: This song holds one of the underlying themes of the record, of going a little crazy and taking a little medication and losing a little bit of your head. Of course “there’s a buzz, there’s a buzz, there’s a buzzing of bugs, from flower beetles, yellow jackets, silverfishes to slugs, it’s always raining caterpillars from the circular fan” was just an apropos line while at work. The bass line is repetitious and it pounds in the idea of going just a touch insane.

History Lesson starts off acoustic, and reminds me a lot of 90s pop music. It’s musically a little plain, but by this point in the songs, it’s a perfect break, a breather. There are violins and it’s soft and relaxed, a song about contemplating the time that’s gone, or not wanting to.

Stand Too Close also starts with an acoustic, but it also has handclaps and cute, quirky vocals. It calls to mind girls in pastel dresses dancing by subway cars in the rain. Don’t even ask me why, but that’s the picture I have in my head. There’s a tambourine and a beat that makes you want to move quietly and softly.

Pulp Fiction begins to take the music faster again, and it’s also reminiscent of their previous records. With Japanese references and the great lyric “like a slasher film I’m torn in opposite directions, the plot sucks but the killings are gorgeous.” This is a grown up MCS playing with their younger sound and it’s perfect without sounding processed or over polished. They know how to write great songs now that appeal to lots of people, but they haven’t lost who they are.

@!#?@! is my favorite song on the album. It made me laugh a little when I read in their own Track-by-Track that they felt it was “in the vein of Weezer.” I’m so predictable. It’s a song about being losers, geeks, and nerds, and telling the rest of the world to just back off... with a dance beat. I think that just described my life between the ages of 13 and 18. It makes me want to dance and sing along with the chorus, which, while simple, is just brilliant: “You all need to go away, you motherfuckers.” Now imagine that sung happily with snaps and a bouncy guitar and it makes me smile so hard, which is such a fabulous contradiction. Honest to God, I danced down the stairwell at work to this song. And then realized just what the hell I was doing. Thankfully, there was no one around. It makes me want to move and clap my hands and move my hips and tell the world to step off. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Hysteria echoes the sentiment of “Delirium” but with a perfect synth and more clapping and a full chorus. The best part is really the synth and clapping after the choruses, a perfect six seconds of head bobbing, shoulder shaking happy music. It’s going crazy and bubbly at the same time.

Skin and Bones starts to lead the album back down towards the end, and feels like leaving your friends, being stuck on city streets in the cold at 2am. It poses a series of questions, from “What if there is no point at all, what is we just grow up to fade away?” to “What if we’re all just broken shells full of someone else’s thoughts?” to “What if there’s nothing more to us, we’re just carbon based, we’re just pixie dust?” The lyrics range from pseudo scientific to psychological and they’re the exact questions everyone has in the dead cold of loneliness.

The Weakends is the end of a set. It’s the end of the night, the end of the show, with the crowd happy and pumped but getting tired, sleepy, drunk, ready to go to sleep but never wanting to leave the crowd and the venue and the music. It’s one more song, one last dance, one more weekend. It’s perfect.

Five dinosaurs out of five.

My Dinosaur Life is squeezing itself into my top six albums. Motion City Soundtrack just set the bar for all of the music being released this year, and they’ve set it high.

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