Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Meet The Motion Sick

The Motion Sick just won Best Boston Band in this year’s Boston Phoenix poll (we were rooting for the New Collisions, but that’s ok because these guys are good too). With upbeat, anthemic songs, soaring harmonies, thoughtful lyrics and first-class musicianship, they mine a whole bunch of melodic retro styles while adding a world-weary, Smiths/Decemberists edge. Imagine Fountains of Wayne with balls (an oxymoron, but just try it). In a particularly savvy, generous move, they’ve made their entire recorded catalog available for free download (the concept no doubt being that once you have the mp3s you’ll want to own the cds). Note to all the other bands out there – this is how you gain traction. With corporate radio off-limits to anyone without a payola budget, college radio being hit-and-miss, the best advertising you can possibly get is to put all your best songs in the hands of whole lot of people who will turn their friends on to it! Which many of you will after hearing this.

They’ve got two albums and both are worth owning. Her Brilliant Fifteen, from 2006, has the feel of a band who’ve just found their footing, their catchy hooks and a smart way with a lyric after splashing messily through the unfocused mudpuddles of indie rock for awhile. Frontman Mike Epstein’s vocals aren’t as strong here as they are on the band’s second album, last year’s The Truth Will Catch You, Just Wait, but the songs and lyrics stand out and frequently catch fire. The opening cut, Satellite is a wistful, ridiculously catchy, metaphorically loaded pop song – like much of the rest of their catalog, it captures the exasperation of being a smart person surrounded by idiots, all circuits on halfspeed and longing to get up to full power. Some of the songs, particularly the midtempo anthem The Day After, almost revel in their failure: Epstein would rather lose out than sell out or dumb himself down. Grace Kelly, a fast, desperate accordion-driven waltz, is a savage kiss-off to a drama queen:

The ringmaster twirls his moustache above the crowd

The calliope clamors, the spotlight lifts up to the clouds

Girl leaps to the platform, flies gracefully to her doom

At least Grace was perceived by everyone in the room

The album closes with a couple of ferocious, socially aware tunes. God Hates Kansas is a fast banjo-driven escape anthem: “I can’t wait to go on without every single one of you,” Epstein snarls, then ends up in the middle of nowhere where the rednecks would kill a Jew even if he was the Messiah. My Country ends it, a snide slap at Bush-era paranoia with its orange alerts and mysterious anthrax attacks.

The newest cd, The Truth Will Catch You, Just Wait is more confident, more assured and rocks harder. It’s also more overtly retro and garage-oriented. The best song here, with its snarling bass intro, funky bounce and haunting 60s psych-folk melody is Some Lonely Day. It’s about the price you pay for being a nonconformist:

Some lonely day they’ll break you down and then you’ll pray

They’ll march you out and cut it all away…

When the curtains close and they all go home

You might earn the role of the thief

The opening track, Jean-Paul (written by Epstein’s wife) is a roaring minor-key garage epic with nasty ending. There’s also an apprehensive, smartly lyrical, fast R&B style shuffle, a doo-wop number recast as early 80s new wave, a song that sounds like Squeeze with an American accent, a sad country tune and a Joy Division cover. All this stuff runs through your mind when you least expect it. The more you get to know the Boston scene, the more obvious it is how many excellent bands there are simmering just under the radar or about to bust out bigtime as the Motion Sick seem to be. Watch this space for New York dates.

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July 24, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Meet The Motion Sick The Motion Sick just won Best Boston Band in this year’s Boston Phoenix poll (we were rooting for the New Collisions , but that’s ok because these guys are good too). With upbeat, anthemic songs, soaring harmonies, thoughtful lyrics and first-class musicianship, they mine a whole bunch of melodic retro styles while adding a world-weary, Smiths/Decemberists edge. Imagine Fountains of Wayne with balls (an oxymoron, but just try it). In a particularly savvy, generous move, they’ve made their enti […]

    Pingback by Music Review: Utada – This is the One : Give Me a Music Revolution! | July 24, 2009 | Reply


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