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Album Review: Motorcade - Motorcade
by Robin Reynolds

This eponymous album by Motorcade is their first as a group, but individual members have previously been involved in a wide variety of bands including St. Vincent, The Apples in Stereo, The War on Drugs, The Deathray Davies, Baboon, Daniel Johnston, Cliffs of Insanity, Pleasant Grove, and The Baptist Generals. The 80's tend to come up when describing Motorcade’s sound but I think that does them a disservice. James Henderson (keyboards) has acknowledged this was one of their influences, but they've done what all good artists do and have transcended their influences.

 

The band's lyrics tend to contain a lot of apparent contradictions.  This can be puzzling, but there is a Zen quality to it that I think they use quite well. It not only captures the conflicting emotions we often feel but hints at an idea central to Zen - that there is truth that lies beyond what words can express. You start to see this in the first stanzas of the first song on the album, "Walk with Me". Initially it sounds as if he wants his lover to stay with him and work through their problems. "I want you to wait / And walk with me / (So we could) Walk past every chance in misery / Heaven knows we lost our way / (These) Troubles stay, they find away"  The idea of walking together past every chance they could have seems like a contradiction. To want to do so in misery is even more curious especially if the intention is that they be together.  But then we come to the chorus and as the last line hints, what he's really saying is very different. "I’m not your kind of light / I’m not your shining star tonight / I’m not your shade of blue / I’m not the only one for you" You find this kind of tension in most of their lyrics and it can either be refreshing or disconcerting.

 

Like pretty much all of the songs on this album, "Walk with Me" has a steady, driving beat with well placed, artful breaks. The overall sense you get is that you're listening to deeply harmonized, minor-key synth-pop in a medieval cathedral. In 7.1 stereo, it's almost ethereal. The sound is spacious and airy, and the lilting rhythm is belied by the melancholy tone and slight discordance. This is a wonderful reflection of the tension found in the lyrics.

 

You get the same kind of oscillating meanings in "Deliver" but here you're never quite sure what exactly is being expressed.  There are lines like, "Some day is coming soon / It's a long, long way, we're going to make it through / You come ready when you're time is due / You come ready when they call for you".  You're left feeling that the writer is contemplating 4 different events or possibilities but yet wants you to consider them as one despite the apparent incongruities. The song seems to be talking, once again about loss and the end of a relationship.  So each line could represent one stage in the process that is about to unfold. There is a bit of a hint in the music since there is a small break after the second line and the music becomes noticeably more buoyant and cheerful for just the 3rd and 4th lines. Those lines seem to point to a time in the future when his partner will have made peace with their separation.

 

The song has a fairly consistent galloping rhythm that changes slightly during the breaks. The transitions, though, are incredibly smooth. The bass line is simple but powerful and anchors the melody. Like 'Walk with Me,' this song is also typical of the album.  The rhythm is telling you that this is a happy upbeat song, but the music and lyrics are telling you to beware. There are any number of messages the band may want to convey with these contrasting elements but I would like to think that this is a metaphor for being able to find joy in the midst of every kind of pain.

 

Overall, the album is very consistent.  If you like one song there's a good chance you'll like them all. Some songs may share certain stylistic elements but each is still uniquely original. And although I wouldn't characterize this as dance music, it is nevertheless very danceable.