Album Review: The Movielife - Cities in Search of a Heart

Written by Daniel Rourke 

Whilst The Movielife have been back together and playing shows for some time now, it’s been fourteen years since they last graced the world with new music. Much like the world, the music industry has changed drastically since the Long Island outfit's last release - and it shows in new record, 'Cities in Search of a Heart'.

The discordantly abrasive Ski Mask opens the record on a positive note, as the sound and lyrical stylings feel like somewhat of a natural progression for the band. It’s loud and it’s aggressive, and it's the only time you’ll hear a song like this on the record.

As the abrupt Ski Mask fades away, the distance is littered with confusion. Lead single Mercy is Asleep At The Wheel sees the band introduce one of the underlining themes of the record, modern America and its problems.

Of course, it’s practically a rite of passage for any band tied to the punk scene in 2017 to denounce Donald Trump and the uprising of fascist behaviour in America, so the fact The Movielife decide to tackle it here isn’t much of a shock. What is a shock is how tame they are at getting their message across; every song that tackles modern America – Mercy Is Asleep…, Laugh Ourselves To Death, Blood Moon - is wrapped up in riddles, and vague allusions to the problems at hand, they never once come out and tackle it head-on.

As the record bounces between commentary on issues in the USA and tales of Vinnie Caruana’s personal life, it becomes inherently clear that 'Cities in Search of a Heart' is a band trying to discover what exactly they are. There isn’t a consistent sound on the album, in fact, it’s bizarre in how much one track can differ from another.

It’s the moments of confusion that define this comeback record, and at times it can feel like watching your father attempt to play the cool kid. Tracks such as Ghosts In The Photographs and Lake Superior sound akin to something you would find on a record produced by Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann, whereas others throw you into a nostalgic trip through the 90s and early 00s before dropping you at the door of a Nirvana-ridden riff.

Of course, the differentiation in sound could be classed as a good thing, but there’s simply too much of it; closer Hearts will make you question if you’re still listening to The Movielife, or have in fact ended up listening to a Flatsound record, then there's the opening verse of Sister Saint Monica, which couldn’t sound any more like Dismantling Summer by The Wonder Years, and lest us forget the orchestral vibes of Pour Two Glasses.

'Cities in Search of a Heart' proves to be bipolar in nature, one minute you’ll be listening to a – musically – hard-hitting commentary on the United States of America, followed by an orchestral track that boasts cringe-inducing lines such as: “I’m not coming home for Christmas // I’m coming home for you.” If the band are planning to continue and develop as a modern band, then they need to drop the cool dad act and go back to their roots.