No Motiv

And the Sadness Prevails

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Despite touring and label associations with punk and especially emocore artists like Get Up Kids and Saves the Day, No Motiv doesn't quite fit into either constrictive genre. At the time And the Sadness Prevails was released, the punk world was being turned on its ear by the emo movement led by backpack-wearing oh-so-sensitive fans and artists alike, hoping to twist punk's social relevance into so much middle-upper-class catharsis. All the suburban outsiders wanted their music back from the commercial punk masses so badly that they were completely willing to cry about it, and it worked, as independent emo originators garnered huge critical success while occupying sales charts without so much as a hint of mainstream radio support. Known for their slightly nerdy personal style, and other novel approaches to the punk form (like broader instrumentation that included clean guitar sounds and a smattering of keyboards,) emo bandwagoneers came scurrying out of the American quasi-underground like sad termites hoping to snack on the post-grunge cultural woodwork. California's No Motiv was often lumped into this desperate group, but generally without good reason. It's true that this debut release on legendary punk label Vagrant Records has some of the plaintive lyrics and perky hooks that define the emo genre, but any similarities No Motiv might have shared with their more plaintive contemporaries ended there. The foursome injects a rock sensibility into this 1999 release that their self-conscious punk brethren was busy avoiding at the time. And the Sadness Prevails maintains this old-fashioned intensity nicely without wandering into hardcore anti-music. Standout cuts like "The Waiting Hurt" and "Sunday at 6:00 P.M." provide the best glimpse into No Motiv's rock approach without being blatantly formulaic so as to win skeptical modern rock program directors obsessed with their bottom lines. The band misses their conceptual targets when otherwise fine cuts like "Nostalgia" end up overstating the record's consistent, obvious lyrical themes of heartbreak and, well, nostalgia. Just a little more subtlety would go a long way toward correcting this hindrance to an otherwise strong outing. And the Sadness Prevails demonstrates that while not fully mature, No Motiv deserves credit for trusting themselves and not taking the trendy way out.

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