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Album Review: Justin Courtney Pierre ‘In the Drink’

When Motion City Soundtrack took an indefinite hiatus in 2016, fans were hit. Hard. Right smack in the face. Especially me. I was hoping for a 20th anniversary of the band (co-founded by Justin Courtney Pierre and Joshua Cain in 1997), but alas, they hit the pause button just a year short of that milestone.

Known for their incredibly catchy beats, the Minneapolis alternative rock band managed to find a perfect balance between poppy synths, and dark, dismal, often dysfunctional lyrics. The clouds have cleared, and Justin Courtney Pierre is finally returning to the surface, releasing his debut solo album, In The Drink, via Epitaph Records Oct. 12.

Although Pierre’s been compiling melodies, voice memos, and lyrical scribblings since he was seven years old, Pierre admits he didn’t really think this new album would be a big deal. He just wanted to see if he could write all the material, and perform as much of it as possible.

Inspired to make a record like the music Pierre grew up on, including Pavement, Superchunk, The Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana, Tom Waits, and even Eddie Money, In The Drink plays like a familiar friend — perhaps  voice we’ve heard in Motion City Soundtrack, or Farewell Continental. It’s a familiar voice we’ve missed. Pierre describes the record, and album art as a representation of two completely different ways — the past and the present.

In The Drink begins with “Undone,” and Pierre’s clear vocals start off the song immediately, it feels like an old friend. First taste of this mystery concoction, and it’s smooth, and tasty. The marching drum beat keeps the track moving, alongside quirky lines only Pierre could deliver so convincingly.

‘Taco Tuesday,’ someone yelled to me, and the whole thing came undone.

The second track, “Anchor” opens with a nice feedback-y garage band guitar, a nice ode to those previously mentioned influences. High pitched ‘ooh’s’ add a lighthearted pop element to the punchy tune. Classic squealing guitars appear on “I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away,” which sounds somewhat like a follow-up to Motion City Soundtrack’s “True Romance” from their 2012 Go Album.

I don’t know why she ran away, just when it seemed we were getting a little bit closer as each night fades to day. She seemed to fade in her own way.

Though the song is just a little ditty at 2:10, it follows the perfect pop punk song recipe to a tee – the guitar breakdown in the middle, the constant drum, the final lyric delivery acoustically, the ending guitar notes, and fade to black.

Though years later, Pierre seems to still have a focus on timechanging, growing, reliving, and feeling revived. “Ready Player One” continues on the musical journey of self-discovery — addressing life before sobriety, being scared and finally feeling ready.

Think what you will — I was never as bad as they say. Okay, maybe I was, but back then I was out of my mind. Now I’m all put together, each quivering section of spine. And I’m here to adhere like I never could ever before. ‘Cause I was afraid, but now I’m ready. I’m ready, I’m ready, I just don’t think you’re ready to hear what I’m saying to you.

I could almost picture this going on My Dinosaur Life album, perhaps the place Pierre hoped he might reach, with a little help to get him through it back in “Lifeless Ordinary.” Past elements of empathy, quicksand, being worn down, and wishing he was somewhere else are somewhat lighter this go around — it certainly sounds like Pierre figured it out since all the self-doubt from 2010. And it sounds good.

“I’m a Liar” is the longest song on the record, at nearly four-and-a-half minutes. Undecided. Just tell me what I’m supposed to do. Waiting around for a signal to start. I’m a liar. Can’t tell the truth when I’m with you.

Waiting is another common theme we’ve heard before. Whether it’s in “My Dinosaur Life” with ‘how many lives I’ve wasted waiting for the perfect time to start,’ or simply ‘talking with strangers waiting in line’ from “Everything is Alright,” this record is also blatantly aware of time and waiting.

Comparing the then: alcohol and drug-fueled, with the now: more grounded, sober Pierre is a strange feeling. Especially for him. After peeling back the layers, the bare bones of the person remain the same, with the same quirky lyrics and contemplative themes — yet these sounds still have a brand new feel to it.

“It’s hard to articulate; it’s more of a feeling somewhere in your body,” Pierre said in his bio. “I’ve been telling people I’m currently having a really chill midlife crisis. I’ve crossed a street, turned around, and am now looking at where I used to be. It looks both familiar and completely foreign.”

The second-to-last song, and the title track on In The Drink packs quite a punch even though it’s the shortest on the record at just 1:41.

Shovel me up and take me home. Nowhere to run, just watch us choking down the long December, filled with things no one remembers. I can’t wait to shove you in the drink. Sever all the ties that bind us, just to find more ties behind us.

Years after “Calling All Cops” ‘sever all ties to satellites’ in 2007, to the 2015 Panic Station’s ‘sever all ties like a ghost in the night’ on “Days Will Run Away,” it’s clear all ties haven’t been cut. Longtime collaborator and Motion City Soundtrack guitarist Joshua Cain acted as producer on the record, but Justin called the shots this time around.

In The Drink is a refreshing beverage, even if you never tasted the delicious, quirky lyrics and guitar licks of Pierre before. For newcomers and longtime fans alike, In The Drink provides a thirst-quenching, satisfying experience with smooth notes, and just enough of a kick. It’s definitely not hipster enough to be a La Croix sparkling water, and not as heart attack-inducing as repeated Monster energy drinks — it’s more like a Diet Coke.

In The Drink sounds like a record healthier than the other flavors, but there’s still some bad-for-you goodness mixed throughout. It’s got just enough amount of sweetness, and even though it’s not actually completely healthy — you just don’t care. It tastes good, so grab a seat and crack open a cold one.


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Sarah Spohn

Sarah's a little bit of a rock 'n' roll rebel, almost always at a concert. She loves to soak up the scene, immersed in the music journalism world, still buys CDs and rents music documentaries from the library. Just don't call her a hipster. She's never been that stylish.

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