Motion City Soundtrack get 4 stars from the Las Vegas Mercury

There is a great pop band inside Minneapolis' Motion City Soundtrack, perhaps the catchiest band on the Epitaph roster. The quintet's debut full-length, I Am the Movie, is an urgently tuneful work that is more concerned with harmonies than it is attitudinal bombast. However, to get away with this and still be considered something of a punk band, MCS has roughed up the edges a little. Fickle rhythms, hardcore spontaneity, self-effacing lyricism and frequent soft/loud seesawing have second-wave emo written all over this release. But the songs are so anthemically delivered, you can't help but smile. The band's sonic enthusiasm places it somewhere between the Get-Up Kids and the New Pornographers, with a tinge of Blood Brothers anarchy mixing things up.

A major component of the band's facade-like happiness is the prominence of the keyboards and Moog synthesizers, helmed by Jesse Johnson. His buoyancy is simultaneously augmented and kept on track by drummer Tony Thaxton, supplying the oomph and drawing in the listener when the guitars are just not enough. And if that wasn't enough, singer Justin Pierre laces the music with tones that are neither melodramatic nor concertedly understated; his vocals sound natural, animated and articulate--the latter quality revealing his gallows humor and penchant for `80s pop culture references such as the TV show "Night Court."

Many of the newer, pop-leaning, synth-embracing indie/punk acts unsuccessfully balance their paradoxes, but Motion City Soundtrack reins in its contradictions with less irony and more genuine pleasure.

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