I saw Motion City Soundtrack play a show for the final time on June 16.
Motion City was never my favorite band, but they were consistently amongst the groups I listened to most often in high school and throughout my first couple years of college. They have at least three albums (I Am The Movie, Commit This To Memory, My Dinosaur Life) out of their six studio releases that I would place in my own library of personal classics, and another record (Even If It Kills Me) that stands as an underrated off-course maneuver during a time when pop-punk bands were zig-zagging all over the place; it's interesting as a time capsule of post-radio/post-MTV era pop-punk and an even more interesting LP to revisit.
All this to say, the "death" of Motion City Soundtrack seems like it should really bother me. They were meaningful to me and released multiple albums that are securely lodged in the way I will retrospectively identify myself, from a musical vantage point, as a young adult. Yet their breakup doesn't bother me much, which I am somewhat surprised to realize. I got semi-emotional for a moment during "Make Out Kids" at their show, and I got shivers during the end of "Let's Get Fucked Up and Die" like any normal person would, but other than that, I was totally fine. I didn't "prepare" for my farewell to the band in advance and I didn't mourn losing them as I took the train home.
On June 14, The Wonder Years' Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing turned five years old.
Suburbia had a huge effect on me in college, as great an effect as any other album released during my three and a half years at the University of Florida. I can identify different points of my young adulthood with landmarks around the releases of The Upsides, Suburbia, and The Greatest Generation, and each of these records hold a unique and specific stake in the ground in my emotional memory of those chunks of my life.
I'm going to make a connection here, and it's a connection that I only put together when I revisited Suburbia with a full-length listen the day after I watched Motion City Soundtrack. Listening to the album made me dig up my review of the record, which I originally published on AbsolutePunk in 2011 and which I more recently ported over to Chorus.fm, primarily for posterity, and because it's one of the only decent reviews I ever wrote. Here's the beginning of that review:
If you’ve ever seen The Wonder Years play a live set, you can probably agree with me when I say the Philadelphia-based sextet puts on quite an enjoyable performance. But as good as their live shows are, those only last one night.
Frontman Daniel “Soupy” Campbell, along with bassist Joshua Martin, guitarists Casey Cavaliere and Matthew Brasch, drummer Michael Kennedy and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Steinborn, are also well-known for giving their fans tons of attention, from hanging out before and after shows to posting on this website. But those interactions only last a little while.
The Wonder Years also always go the extra mile and come up with other cool ways to interact with the community; most recently, a life-sized pigeon that hides in record stores and hands out free 7-inch records. But even those things only last a day, a week, or a month.
I’m not belittling anything here, but with the release of Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, it’s obvious to me The Wonder Years know one thing very well: the record lasts forever. The records a band puts out are the only things that last forever. Every pluck of a guitar string, every booming snare drum, every thumping bass line and every drawn-out vocal note will be left behind as a band’s legacy for years.
With their third full-length, The Wonder Years have made a record that’s as timeless as they come.
The record lasts forever. The record lasts forever.
This is why the "death" of Motion City Soundtrack doesn't bother me, and it's why the inevitable final performance I'll one day see The Wonder Years play will be a day of celebration rather than sadness. The record lasts forever. We'll always have Commit This To Memory and Suburbia and My Dinosaur Life and The Greatest Generation; a band breaking up, calling it quits, taking a hiatus or hating each other forever (usually) doesn't overwrite the art they created and published.
There's proof that the record lasts forever, and I saw it while watching Motion City. Their set began fairly raucously, with early cuts getting the crowd energized, and "Her Words Destroyed My Planet," the song that provides the climax to My Dinosaur Life, providing an early highlight. But during the first track they played from Commit This To Memory, "Make Out Kids," the crowd was whipped into a frenzy unmatched by the older cuts and the other hits. Every song from that album was like this. Commit This To Memory will truly last forever; for many of the twenty-somethings at that show, it already has. It's lasted them at least 10 years, survived high school, college and early adulthood, been there for them for the better part of a decade. Everyone at that show knew every word to that song, and it's because it came from a record that'll last forever.
Last year, watching The Wonder Years perform the three albums they had released to date over the course of a weekend in Philadelphia, I was shocked at how much more energy there was in the room for Suburbia and The Greatest Generation than there was for The Upsides. I figured those older songs, some songs we hadn't seen TWY play in years, would earn the biggest stir. But it was clear that day that while The Upsides is emotional, essential and relatable, it won't last forever the same way Suburbia and The Greatest Generation will. The Wonder Years are a rare band that operates on an extreme intimacy and within a close proximity to its fanbase at all times; from Dan Campbell's lyricism to their live performances, everything is about as in-your-face and personal as it can get. They're a rare band that took an emotionally draining debut album and figured out how to become more emotionally draining and more essential and more relatable on their follow-up attempts.
So, no, I'm not bothered that Motion City Soundtrack is going away. I'll miss watching them on stage, and I'll miss having new releases to listen to every once in a while, but Motion City Soundtrack, like The Wonder Years, has already given me something that cannot be taken away. A few records, a few experiences, a few memories, a few moments frozen in time, that I'll never forget, and that I'll always be able to revisit by pressing play.
The record lasts forever.