The most common complaint about the lyrical content of bands listed under the “pop punk” genre is that they tend toward whininess. The formula for a pop-punk song is often “my life sucks = ‘x,'” with “x” being the reason why. This is a generalization, but it often rings true. Motion City Soundtrack found a new way to musically approach life’s problems in the song “A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)” that might convert those who antagonize the scene.
The verses of the song are standard fare for the genre. Vocalist Joshua Cain lists his problems as expected, but takes it in a new direction during the refrain: “I think I can figure it out, but I’m gonna need a little help to get me through this.” The song is like rehab for the band; Cain’s admitting that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel is the first step to recovery. The album is ironically produced by Mark Hoppus, the Blink-182 bassist whose nasally vocals sowed the seeds for the pop-punk stereotype.
Pop punk is not renowned for its instrumentals, but the band plays well with Cain’s vocals. The simple riff accompanies it well, but drummer Tony Thaxton deserves the most recognition. He keeps it lively throughout, and the energetic lead-in to the refrain is especially enjoyable.
One thing pop punk is known for is its catchy choruses, which “A Lifeless Ordinary” adheres to. Guitarist Justin Pierre adds his vocals to the refrain with good effect.
The song reaches its high point during the bridge, when all of the instruments drop out and leave Cain alone with a single guitar to sing the refrain. The move makes Cain seem even more vulnerable, and all the more relatable.
Motion City Soundtrack has figured it out, and they don’t need any help to get there.