Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"The Future Freaks Me Out" /
Motion City Soundtrack

"I'm on fire / And now I think I'm ready / To bust a move . . . ." It's not exactly this whole song that's been in my head -- just this impetuous, dissonant, frantic opening. Justin Pierre jumps right into this with no intro, and hardly any instruments behind him; the words make him sound all Mr. Confident, but just listen that anxious yelp on "ready." "Check it out, I'm rocking steady," he insists, but he's tripping over his own rapid-fire words. If indie angst's what you after, look no further than Motion City Soundtrack.

There's this girl in the song, Betty, that he's involved with -- which is a polite way of saying they're hooking up (they're sure not in love). "I try to compensate her lack of love with coffee cake," he tells us, "Ice cream and a bottle of ten dollar wine she says hey." Then we get a whiff off their disjointed slacker conversation -- "I’m footloose in my Velcro shoes / What’s up with Will and Grace? / I don’t get drum and bass" -- no wonder he ends that verse with "The future freaks me out." If my life were this random and pointless, the future would freak me out too.

Verse two, beneath the thrashing beat and the hard-edged synths, is poignant: "Betty can’t quit carving question marks in my wrist / How come we’re so alone / We waste away the days with nicotine and television samples / From an era we hate to admit we embrace." He knows he's a misfit, that he's not going anywhere, but turning his life around would just take so much effort. "We fail to represent / We fail to be content / We fail at everything we ever even try to attempt" -- man, this song would be depressing if it didn't have so much spunky energy.

So why are they even together? Because he's on fire, and he's ready to bust a move, and she's available -- and hooking up with her is better than being alone. In fact, she's totally undemanding, narcotized by sugar and caffeine and junk pop culture. This is Sex With No Strings, and though he knows it's worthless, anything's better than being lonely. Self-pity creeps in for a moment: "Betty it’s so hard to relate / To the whole human race / I don’t know where to begin." Jeez, they're coming close here to having a Simon & Garfunkel moment -- ah, but that's just the sugar crash talking, and luckily it soon goes south. "Betty, I’m a dreamer / I’m not a vicious schemer / Oh Betty won’t you.. ah fuck it." Trying to solve the meaning of life requires more focus than he can muster.

This song is from their 2003 debut album, I'm In the Movie. In a sea of emo soundalikes, these guys had their own dark and snarky groove going from Day One, apparently. They actually seem to have some existential perspective on life, though it probably sails over the heads of most of their fans. It's nice to see someone in the indie pack with a little wit.

The Future Freaks Me Out sample


wwolfe said...

Well, from the sample, it sounds like the drummer plays better, and is better produced, than the usual emo band. I like the sample enough that I'll go to iTunes and download the song on my home computer. I think it's the reference to Velcro shoes and "Will and Grace" - as a Chuck Berry enthusiast, I'm a fan of the lyrical detail.

Holly A Hughes said...

You just put your finger on it -- the lyrical detail is where these guys leave the rest of the emo pack in the dust. Plus their energy is really more punk than emo -- MCS really does rock out.

Anonymous said...

amazing analysis! i was reminded of the song this morning when a girlfriend told me "the future... it kinda freaks me out". i was then STUCK with the song, googled it, and came across your blog. what a way to start my day!

Holly A Hughes said...

Alas, there's a lot to freak out about in the future that recent events have us pointing towards. But I'm glad you found this blog because of it, and glad if it gets you listening to MSC.