Panic Stations kicks off with a growl of, "Let's do this." "Anything At All" is bouncy and danceable, a perfect first track. It builds; it's diverse; and the song ends when it should and not a moment before. It ends on a high note. With dynamic vocals and a sense of completeness to the composition, it's a solid song. I wish the same could be said for the rest of the album.
Every song following "Anything At All" is a photocopy, and not even a good one. It's a photocopy you really didn't have time to make so everything is slightly blurred and barely legible. Motion City Soundtrack seems to follow a simple formula they hardly ever veer from: open power chords + a basic synth sound + unremarkable drums and bass. Every track leaves you wanting more and not because they left you so satisfied. Almost every track feels like it's missing something, and that something is usually development. It almost feels like a demo album; nothing is fleshed out enough. There are few dynamic changes, and nothing ever fully develops. Nearly everything on this album, whether it's the tone of the guitars or the lyrical content, is a copy of something from a song or two ago.
What is possibly most frustrating about Panic Stations is that the sound never changes. The guitars start and end slightly distorted, only changing to become more distorted when a lead riff or a solo begins. The synth remains on the same settings throughout the entire album, and it's noticeable. The bass is mostly mixed out, only really noticeable when it's isolated. The same goes for the drums. You know the drummer's doing something different each time, but nothing that really stands out. Even the lyrical content remains relatively similar, repeatedly referencing bodies of water and feelings of hopelessness.
The only track worth listening to again, other than "Anything At All," is "Days Will Run Away." Every aspect of this track is different from the ten tracks preceding it. The guitars are soft, fingerpicking rather than chugging away at the same four chords. Each instrument enters one by one, and no part is similar to another. The bass and drums occupy any empty space with fills, and even the breakdown is full and rich with ambient noise. By the time the track ends, you're given that rounded out, completed feeling once again.
Panic Stations had promise. It started strong, and it ended strong, but all other tracks are reminiscent of the cookie cutter, watered down emo bands everyone listened to in eighth grade. When I realized I couldn't tell the difference between each song, I was ready to shut my laptop down. Nothing stands out. And in music, is there a worse sin than that?