After a stunning (not to mention “daring” – I certainly wouldn’t have tackled a Lady Gaga album my first time out) Bollocks! debut, new contributor Justin Koeppen sent me the following review of a record he actually likes by a band he actually likes: Seattle’s Motopony. My favorite thing about this review is that I’d never heard of Motopony before reading it and now I want to listen to them. That’s one our chief goals here at Bollocks!, along with finding and destroying all of Peter Frampton’s recorded output. Enjoy!
What does it take these days to be original? Hell, what does it take these days to even stand out against the background anymore? In entertainment today, the shelf life of an idea is on an ever-tightening downward spiral, increasing in speed and inertia every time something is remade, revisited or (ugh) “rebooted” to the point where a piece of work is barely created, consumed, critiqued and passed out of sight before it’s brought back around and resurrected, in irony or in earnest, to pull a few more bucks out of our jeans. Film (or rather “movies”) is notorious for this as everyone is aware but it happens in music just as often, though on a much slower and lazier scale. Each year, there’s a new batch of well-meaning, sedulously hopeful bands who arrive with the intent of making something real, honest and relevant. They have a sound, they have a hook, they have something to say. The poor bastards.
It seems that what a lot of these bands don’t realize is that there’s very little left to say, very little left to explore, in the realm of music; at least from a purely mathematical standpoint. The odds are stacked against you from the moment you pick up your instrument. You think you’ve come up with something original only to find out that Neu! or Zappa or even Wham! did it earlier and did it better. In a fit of emotion, you scratch down what must be the most biting, caustic, piercing verse about that girl who dumped you for that guy only to hear your own pain and longing thrown back at you a hundred times over by every guy in every band who’s ever had a broken heart. Not to mention that, for some reason, to stay “relevant” in today’s musical quilt, you have to model yourself in the image of the picked-over corpse of whatever decade you choose from the last hundred years. Neat, you’re a band. Do you have an 80’s New Wave sound? Are you more 70’s hard rock? Are you 60’s pop? Rock-a-billy? Depression Era folk? Prohibition Jazz? Are you Southern Rock like Skynyrd? Are you NYC punk? In a lot of ways music stopped making noise at the end of the 90’s and is now just echoing back and forth across history, weakening and quieting with each pass until it stops completely and everyone looks around and wonders why the only thing you hear is the shit served to you by record company focus groups and executives; old guys who can’t play music who listen to the new Black Eyed Peas or Ke$ha single and hear nothing but cash registers. Bleak right? Right. But there’s a secret that I’ll let you in on; scoot in for this one. Underneath the rehashed synth bands, behind Kings of Leon’s stacks of retro Marshall cabinets, quieter even than a thousand ironic indie-chick ukelele covers, is the sound of good, honest music being made, right here in our time. It’s true! One such band is the (long awaited) subject of this review: Motopony.
Following closely on the trail traveled by fellow Seattleites Fleet Foxes, Motopony takes the weary trope of minimalistic rural folk and forces it, bitching and moaning, into the modern era by pairing warm thumb-strummed acoustics and teased piano with subtle electronic beats, drum loops and ambient hums creating an unlikely but seamless merger of a truly rooted American sound with the forward-looking musical spirit Seattle is famed for. It’s even alluded to by vocalist Daniel Blue in the band’s bio: “A lot of people run from machines into nature, and a lot of people run from nature into machines. Somewhere in there, there has to be a balance.” Motopony is a rare record that plays somewhat hard to get, seemingly simply for formality’s sake; it’s not going to hit on you before you make the first move but it’s also not going to make you beg. By the third track, the stomping-good jam “Seer”, Motopony have revealed themselves; you’re on board, you’re with it, you get their deal man, and then, somewhat appropriately, you hit a track titled “Intro”, leading into “God Damn Girl”, and it’s the musical equivalent of the moment you suddenly see the girl you like as the girl you love. The record to this point was a no-strings-attached, casual date with some good-timey ragtime folk. Now you’re thinking about settling down, now you’re noticing a depth and intensity you always hoped was there.
The record is stuffed with excellent tracks, the dreamy “Wait for Me” and perfect soft closer “Euphoria” for example, but the heart of the matter is that Motopony are a band that are trying. In a climate of copycats, sellouts and cash cows it’s unbelievably refreshing to find a band who gets it right the first time. Motopony is music that is familiar enough to get your guard down but inventive enough to set itself apart and stand out strongly against a background of grey static. That’s enough to give me hope and drown out the rest of the noise for a while.