M.O.T.O., No Way Street (MOTOPAC/Tokyo No)
Finally, there is a new M.O.T.O. album we can all sink our teeth into. No matter that it was actually recorded a few years back before Paul Caporino left Chicago; most of are songs that haven't been released, and the direction seems a little different than before. Overall, No Way Street is (mostly) a departure from the songs about genitalia, cops farting and semen milkshakes—not that I'm complaining about those, far from it. The songs just sound darker, more brooding and cover the nuances of love from very real angles. And there are still two tracks that would have most of those in a juvenile frame of mind—like myself—giggling.
Title track "No Way Street" starts out heavy and hard, lightening up a bit with the vocals. The instrumentation sounds full and complete, with nice "ooh's" at the end. "Ain't No Modern Day Robin Hood" is a song that comes across as a scold, and continues on the darker path. With lyrics like "Come to me tonight or don't come at all," and great guitar work, this one is a real keeper. Wild shrieks and rolling drums kick "Redivider" into high gear, while "Blast of Silence" is definite power pop vibe. It's happier and more optimistic than the previous tracks, and literally begs for handclaps.
"I Talk in Cliches" brings us back to Paul's traditional storytelling style. The wonderful, harmonious chorus seems to be about friendship and those lost: "Scatter the ashes of the friends I have left." But what I don't have to make an assumption about is the rockin' guitar riffs. A classic pop song, "Doing the Things We Want to Do," is a solid number with an inspiring message. "Here Comes My Heart" is a fifties-style crooner for sure, with sincere and sweet vocals. Starting out cutesy, "Climb Up the Eiffel Tower" is an uplifting, moving-forward-in-life kind of song. There are great bass strums and whistles midway through, always a plus.
As the name implies, "Catamaran" is just plain fun, with its "whoa's" and blazing guitar riffs. "Countdown to Menopause" made it back on this release, with "A Hard Day's Night" beginning. This is a great example of a typical M.O.T.O. tune—raucous, funny and fun. A soft spoken but anthemic theme, "She's Gone Nuts" has great backing vocals and guitar work. One more sophomoric but entertaining tune for this release, "Thong Fever" is hyper and rollicking, with semi-sweet lyrics. This one gets the blood flowing, and it seems that Paul is back to his antics.
"Berwyn Rocks" is another previously released track, but a welcome addition. This is the Chicago suburbs version of "Cleveland Rocks," with a great sing-along chorus, "Hey! Berwyn Rocks!" The riffs remind me of Wire's "Ex Lion Tamer" song, which is A-OK in my book. Another darker romantic number, "You and Me Both" lightens up with the chorus: "While we're here, let us be here now." In other words, make hay while the song shines. With the unexpected title, "Cincinnati" is not really about the quirky town, but is another love song. This is a good closer, somber and thoughtful.
Raw Power | Criminal IQ
Plenty of local albums released this year were more polished and ambitious than the latest from Paul Caporino's long-running punk outfit M.O.T.O., but not one of them was more fun. The two decades Caporino has spent sharpening his hooky pop songwriting, precise eighth-note riffage, and so-dumb-they're-brilliant lyrics have paid off handsomely -- if Raw Power had been released in the late 70s it might now be ranked alongside the best of the Ramones or the Undertones. The 14 lo-fi, high-adrenaline tunes charge by in 34 minutes, and the band's boneheaded shtick (the first two tracks are called "2-4-6-8 Rock 'n' Roll" and "Gonna Get Drunk Tonight") belies a rigorous economy and focus. Caporino gets an impressive variety of shades from a three-chord palette: His snotty bubblegum melodies on songs like "Deliver Deliver Deliver" and "Piano Jazz Radio" can trigger surprisingly powerful swells of emotion. He does goofy gabba-gabba-hey punk rock with the best of them ("Getting It Up for Physics," "Flipping You Off With Every Finger of My Hand"), but his wise guy's take on adolescence is as sophisticated as it is funny -- he can invoke the ache of longing by denying that he feels anything. And on "Primeval" -- less a conventional pop song than a mantra -- he manages to make compelling music by repeating a single line for two minutes. Nothing against all the bands out there trying to guess which kind of punk will get fashionable next, but Raw Power is still gonna sound great in 20 years, when everybody's forgotten about Interpol -- it's rock 'n' roll without a sell-by date.