Michael Epstein, the brains and voice behind the Motion Sick, has spent much of his career to date being opposed to things. In previous bands, Epstein was anti-folk, then no-wave/post-punk, so finding him helming a supremely pro-pop band causes just a little bit of whiplash.
That cognitive vertigo is as close as the Motion Sick comes to living up to their name, though; their output is as inclusive as Epstein’s earlier acts were contrarian. There are hints of ’50s pop and various eclectic instrumentation — horns, accordion, banjo, and Hammond organ — lacquered over mid-’90s guitar fuzz. Also in the mix: lyrical call-outs to Billy Joel tunes, songs named after ’80s cartoon barbarians, and cheeky literary wordplay that Epstein deadpans (his vocal touchstones appear to be Conor Oberst and Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood).
Not everything on the album works. The songs are sometimes eerily familiar — the opening bassline of “The Day After” is so reminiscent of Dire Straits’ “So Far Away” that you expect Mark Knopfler’s slide guitar to drone in. At times, the lyrics tend toward the needlessly polysyllabic and occasionally banal. Some lines — “And the blood flows out while the synapses cried / Stimuli in myelinated nerves / You rearrange the order of the universe” — manage to be both. But the band charms its way through it all, allowing their addictive choruses to linger long after the album is over, and there’s nothing anti- about that.