Commit This to Memory
|Commit This to Memory|
|Studio album by Motion City Soundtrack|
|Released||June 7, 2005|
Seedy Underbelly Studios (Valley Village, California)
Sound Castle (Silver Lake, California)
Cello Studios (Hollywood, California)
|Motion City Soundtrack chronology|
|Singles from Commit This to Memory|
Commit This to Memory is the second studio album by American rock band Motion City Soundtrack. Produced by Mark Hoppus, the album was released on June 7, 2005, in the United States by Epitaph Records. Motion City Soundtrack, formed in 1997, had first found success with their debut album, I Am the Movie (2002). The band toured in the interim years, creating positive word-of-mouth. In 2004, the band joined Blink-182 on the road for a string of shows, which led to their bassist, Mark Hoppus, joining the band in the studio for his first producing effort.
Recorded over six weeks in late 2004, Commit This to Memory was created largely at Seedy Underbelly Studios, a suburban home converted into a studio in Los Angeles' Valley Village region. The album was written partially in their hometown of Minneapolis and partially in Los Angeles, during a period in which frontman Justin Pierre was seeking treatment for alcohol abuse. He hoped for his lyricism to better emphasize storytelling, inspired by the lyrics of Tom Waits, Ben Folds and John K. Samson. Hoppus mainly worked with the band on completing song arrangements.
The album became the band's breakthrough, with lead single "Everything Is Alright" becoming the band's signature song. The album peaked at number two on Billboard's Independent Albums chart. The singles' music videos achieved rotation on cable channel MTV2 while the band toured alongside Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco on the Nintendo Fusion Tour, later also joining the Warped Tour for a stint. In 2014, The A.V. Club referred to the album as a classic of pop punk, "full of hook-laden, keyboard-assisted songs whose bright melodies don’t mask the despair and self-loathing lurking beneath them."
Motion City Soundtrack formed in 1997 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band signed to Epitaph Records in 2003 after recording I Am the Movie, their debut, independently and selling copies of it out of the back of their tour van for a year. Motion City became part of a slew of Epitaph signings, including Matchbook Romance, Scatter the Ashes and From First To Last, amid concerns the Southern California label had strayed too far from its roots, and seemed "a little too emo." By the time the band began production on their sophomore record, I Am the Movie had sold nearly 62,000 copies. The group had accumulated significant buzz, and were regarded as a "must-see" act on the Warped Tour 2004.
Mark Hoppus' involvement stems from when an Atticus Clothing employee played him I Am the Movie. He was so taken with it that he raved about the band in Rolling Stone, inviting them to open for his group, Blink-182 on their 2004 European tour. On the trek, he became good friends with the musicians. He told them that he had purchased an abundance of recording gear and amplifiers for the previous Blink-182 album and told the band of his interest in recording music from a production standpoint. At the final show of the tour, guitarist Joshua Cain went to Hoppus' dressing room and asked him to produce their next record. Although Hoppus had never produced anything before, he was excited to be a part of the album and accepted the offer.
Recording and production
The band first began writing songs at their rehearsal space in their hometown of Minneapolis, which they nicknamed the "Dungeon", due to its ability to "suck the life and energy out of the band." For Pierre, the album came at the brink of a transitional period for him, in which he began to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. He left the band during the writing stages for Los Angeles where he moved in with Epitaph founder Brett Gurewitz and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Afterwards, the band rejoined Pierre in Los Angeles to begin recording demos for a month; the change of scenery brought about new energy for the group, according to Pierre. Commit This to Memory would be the first album by the band to feature material crafted by each musician in the group, as previous releases had featured songs written in the years prior to each member joining. In addition, the band had more time and funds to spend time working on the album. "It was also the first time we had a lot more time and money to go in and feel like we were making a real record this time, whereas I Am the Movie was recorded in little segments here and there and eventually pieced together," said drummer Tony Thaxton.
Recording sessions for Commit This to Memory, which were booked by Hoppus, were scheduled over six weeks at Seedy Underbelly Studios in Valley Village, a district of Los Angeles, California, which was actually a rented house that had once belonged to Jeff Porcaro, the drummer for Toto. The band had, according to Hoppus, "a million ideas and a lot of energy and enthusiasm to make a great record". Pierre strove for the record to have a sound that resembled the bands Braid, Superchunk, Jawbox and the Pixies. Living in a suburb, the neighbors had called police to the band and Hoppus several times for being too loud at night time, especially when Hoppus brought a Roland TR-808 drum machine outside to work on a song late at night. According to Pierre, Hoppus was not interested in putting his own stamp on the music, but rather bringing out the best in what he saw in the group. Hoppus generally modeled his production after Jerry Finn (a longtime producer of Blink-182), and therefore it involved much watching and listening. "Mark kept telling us, 'Your name is going to be a lot bigger on the front than mine is on the back'," recalled Justin Pierre, "So he would throw suggestions out there but always say, 'Feel free to turn these down.' And we would!"
Pierre characterized Hoppus as both "very involved and not involved," with his job as producer mainly giving notes on the sound of the instruments and offering suggestions to improve songs. Hoppus mostly worked with the band on arrangements, believing the songs were too packed and "needed to breathe". Hoppus mentioned that label politics had hindered the creativity of Blink's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), and did not want to see the same fate befall the band. He was "meticulous" in his approach, partially due to the fact that it was his first production job. Hoppus was the one who advised the band to merge two previously unrelated songs—a slower, softer song and a pulsating drum track—into one, which became "Time Turned Fragile". The frontman of Fall Out Boy, Patrick Stump, contributed guest vocals to "Everything Is Alright", and Hoppus to "Hangman". With production completed, Hoppus was very excited for the band that he felt was on the cusp of "great things", recalling, "After six weeks of these guys living all together in two rooms of this house with a studio attached they created this amazingly beautiful and honest album. Justin's lyrics are so brutally truthful." The group completed recording in November 2004, and judged final mixes over the interim months. Pierre later called Commit This to Memory his personal favorite album by the band.
In a 2015 interview, Pierre notes that fans have told him that they find Commit This to Memory a "winter album," to which he agrees, noting the unintentional mention of the new year in several songs. His lyricism on Commit This to Memory centralizes around change and, in his words, "being a complete fuckup, yet, at the same time, being somewhat successful". On the record, he "addresses the themes of substance abuse, psychological disorders and failing relationships." Pierre penned "Everything Is Alright" as a summary of his OCD (Obsessive–compulsive disorder) tendencies. He intended to utilize his social anxiety and fears in the song's form, which he has since employed in numerous other compositions. "I don’t think the [phrase] "tongue-in-cheek" is correct, but it’s something where the verses are one thing and then the chorus is another, but it's sort of like giving yourself a pep talk," said Pierre. The song's lyrics include hating such mundane things as "theme parks, flying, strangers, [and] waiting in line," things that Pierre genuinely disliked at the time of the song's writing. For the record, he intended to simplify his lyrics to enhance storytelling and he drew inspiration from Tom Waits, Ben Folds and John K. Samson's writing styles. Keeping in the Waits/Folds inspiration, Pierre strove to write from another person's point of view; in the case of "Time Turned Fragile", it is sung from the perspective of his father.
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Pierre has in retrospect labeled half of the album's writing as being completed while inebriated and the other half while getting sober. For example, he penned the lyrics to "Attractive Today" and "Time Turned Fragile" while drunk in his apartment, in a "sad and lonely place." In this approach, words mostly "just came out," and were not substantially revised. In addition, he was listening to the 2003 album Reconstruction Site by the Weakerthans, and found himself inspired by the songwriting of frontman John K. Samson. Pierre would often take lyrics from other bands songs for song titles; "Time Turned Fragile" is lifted from a lyric in Limbeck's "Julia", while "Together We'll Ring in the New Year" was pulled from the Tom Waits song "Please Wake Me Up". "L.G. FUAD"—which stands for "Let's Get Fucked Up and Die"—grew out of a night on Motion City Soundtrack's 2003 UK tour with The All-American Rejects, in which the latter band's merchandise manager was severely inebriated. He stood on the merchandise stand and shouted what became the song's refrain. All involved found great humor in the "mantra", which went on to be printed on business cards as a joke. "Hold Me Down" was inspired by a former roommate of Pierre's. After she had moved out, Pierre found a portion of her math homework in a couch cushion, leading to him imagining a scenario of finding a letter from a departed lover.
The album has been called definitive of pop punk. Joshua Cain dismissed this label, remarking, "I definitely wouldn't consider us a pop-punk band. Our influences are more based on '90s bands like Superchunk and early Weezer."
Upon its release, Commit This to Memory received general acclaim from music critics. Scott Heisel of Alternative Press wrote that "Memory is an inspired, mature sophomore disc chock full of catchy, intelligent pop-rock." Allmusic's Johnny Loftus considered the band more intelligent and sophisticated than their Warped Tour peers: "Motion City Soundtrack['s] wistful memories, tales of breaking up, and frantic searches for answers [are] realer than the next pop-punk combo on the quadruple summertime bill." Jennifer Maerz of Entertainment Weekly ended her review with the note that "MCS' slick, soaring anthems ultimately unite the spirits of those who see themselves, like Pierre, as 'lifeless corners of this empty frame.'" Mark Griffiths of Kerrang! wrote, "It's a bright and invigorating affair [...] and is, in short, fantastic." The Washington Post's Marianne Meyer opined that the record "nimbly moves from skittish rhythms to genuinely tender sentiment." Jessica Grose of Spin favorably compared it to Blink-182's Enema of the State (1999). Tony McMenamin of Blender deemed it the publication's album of the month, calling it "a charged mix of instantly catchy pop-punk lashings and somber acoustic wailings."
The album was leaked to file sharing websites within a day of the final mastering and months before its official release. It debuted on the Billboard 200 in the issue dated June 25, 2005 at position 72, selling 16,000 copies in its opening week. It charted better on the magazine's Independent Albums chart, where it peaked at number two. The last official estimate placed it at 285,000 albums sold in the U.S., but Pierre said in 2015 interview that the number is closer to 500,000. The band's music videos found regular rotation on networks such as MTV2, and the band also performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Rolling Stone's Lauren Gilton considered the album a sleeper hit. Nevertheless, the band’s breakthrough brought naysayers, and the group became targets for critics of pop punk: "[the band was] frequently characterized as the sort of ultra-commercial punk poseurs who water down the genre to the point of drowning it."
Subsequent reviews of the album have continued to be positive. In 2014, The A.V. Club referred to the album as a classic of pop punk, "full of hook-laden, keyboard-assisted songs whose bright melodies don’t mask the despair and self-loathing lurking beneath them." Reyan Ali of Cincinnati CityBeat wrote that Commit This to Memory "absolutely bleeds charm," commenting, "Even with all the dire thematic matter Pierre’s lyrics covered, [...] the band framed the words with music that sparkled, owing to spunky, inspired hooks, full-sounding record production and ample doses of Moog." Alternative Press's Tyler Sharp deemed the record a "classic," while Taylor Morgan of OC Weekly called it "the soundtrack of millennial youth, reminiscent of breakups, making out, goofing off, and growing up." BuzzFeed included the album at number 21 on their "36 Pop Punk Albums You Need To Hear Before You F——ing Die" list. NME listed the album as one of "20 Pop Punk Albums Which Will Make You Nostalgic".
During the recording of the album, the band embarked on their first headlining tour, The Sub-Par Punk Who Cares Tour 2004. After recording, the band set out on the inaugural Epitaph Tour, alongside Matchbook Romance and From First to Last, with appearances by the Matches and Scatter the Ashes on select dates. The tour visited every major US city, and ran from February 2 to March 19, 2005. The band played to larger crowds on the tours supporting the album, including over 9000 fans on a Chicago date in 2005. The group "toured incessantly," including dates on the Warped Tour 2005. Afterwards, the band joined the Nintendo Fusion Tour with Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and The Starting Line, which was their largest nationwide tour to that point. The group had been friends with Fall Out Boy for many years prior, having both played side-by-side before either group found their respective success.
The band embarked on a tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of the album between January and February 2015, playing the album in its entirety. "It doesn't feel like ten years ago, but then it also feels like a lifetime ago," said Pierre. The group later extended this anniversary tour, and further toured the album between June and August 2015.
All tracks written by Motion City Soundtrack.
|Commit This to Memory|
|2.||"Everything Is Alright"||3:26|
|3.||"When "You're" Around"||2:51|
|5.||"Feel Like Rain"||3:34|
|6.||"Make Out Kids"||3:04|
|7.||"Time Turned Fragile"||4:15|
|9.||"Better Open the Door"||3:00|
|10.||"Together We'll Ring in the New Year"||2:13|
|12.||"Hold Me Down"||5:19|
Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.
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