A spotty yet emotionally dense pop punk 5-pack
Sometimes, life gets the best of us. Things can quickly reach a point where it feels as if one’s supposedly sturdy surroundings are being upended before one’s own eyes. The cover of Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Courtney Pierre’s newest release, An Anthropologist On Mars, on which buildings are literally floating off into the sky, reflects this sentiment. While the EP might not be 100% musically solid all the way through, Pierre’s pop punk ethos and energy are sure to entertain. Hopefully, they can provide solace for anyone who feels as if the tenants on which they rely have recently been upended.
“Dying To Know” makes for a mildly uncomfortable intro track. While the track quickly reveals Pierre’s interest in technical flourishes and a wide variety of tones, there’s just too much going on here in too little time to make for a cohesive track. Pierre bounces from guitar explosion to the more sensitive “I’m just dying to know who you are” refrain, to a hammering and abrupt outro with reckless abandon.
On “I Hate Myself,” Pierre clearly seems to have a better idea of where he wants to go musically. In the case of this track, it’s in the direction of intense self-deprecation, surprisingly impactful synths and pop influences that were nowhere near as apparent on the first track. It’s definitely one of the best all-around cuts on An Anthropologist On Mars.
While “Footsteps” gets off to a bit of a sloppy start (a great guitar riff propels the quietly brooding track towards an awkward pre-chorus transition), its cathartic and deeply satisfying ending not only makes up for the weaknesses of the track’s first half, it also acts as a lovely halfway point for the project.
“Promise Not To Change” is another solid cut. Buoyed by a brief but fun guitar solo before the track’s closing moments, the song explores romantic skepticism and the desire to avoid becoming a person your significant other can quickly forget. Pierre’s worries feel genuine, and the track will certainly be relatable for anyone who has ever worried that their partner is looking for greener pastures elsewhere.
“Illumination” is a solid closer. It uses the melodrama that pervades plenty of great pop punk to address the vagueries and unreliability inherent to growing old. Pierre is admirably open about his desire to find a way out of this “paradox,” eluding to the role that just one other person can play in fighting this instability. Sometimes a friend is all it takes, it seems. The EP ends with a fittingly contemplative synth solo, optimistically ringing in a better future.
While the results are a bit spotty, Justin Courtney Pierre does do a lot of great work on An Anthropologist On Mars. He manages to hit a few genuinely affecting emotional highs, while working in plenty of impressive technical moments. Simply put, Pierre is a great artist, and there is great music on this EP; he just fails to fully execute and whole-heartedly commit to one lane on the weaker tracks.