Justin Courtney Pierre – ‘The Price Of Salt’

By Sean Reid

It’s been a heartbeat since Motion City Soundtrack front man Justin Courtney Pierre treated us to the consistent and digestible EP that was ‘An Anthropologist On Mars’. Now, just four months later, he’s back with ‘The Price Of Salt’.

The EPs announcement was complemented by an essay from Pierre that sees him recall developing a stutter as a child, going to speech therapy, embracing a book about synonyms and antonyms to avoid using vowels, and how learning the words to Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul Revere’ was the gateway to ending his stuttering. It concludes with him continually being fascinated by how everything is interconnected and has a knock-on effect.

So how does this relate to ‘The Price Of Salt’? Well, anyone familiar with JCP’s songwriting will know how self-aware he is, and this five track collection is no different. Throughout, he sings about being “born again”, “making sense for the very first time”, and second-guessing himself. It gives the impression that the way the world has been over the past 18 months has allowed Pierre to truly reflect on himself.

Opening track ‘Firehawk’, has been cited for its ’90s influences with nods towards names such as Fugazi and Jawbox. Underneath JCP’s familiar catchy melodies are gritty guitars that screech with feedback, fighting to break through – and when they do in the chorus, they provide urgency and drive.

Much like Pierre’s previous EP, his distinguishable vocals bring with them a sense of familiarity supported by plucky, upbeat instrumentation that songs such as ‘The Hunter’ provide. It’s an uncomplicated two-minute slice of pop rock with surging guitars, whereas ‘Get Out of the Woods’ is the longest offering, leaning on a reliable structure. The second half of the track reins things in, allowing Pierre to reflect on addiction and the escape they provide while highlighting his recognisable wordplay.

‘Oxygen Tank’ begins in a hazy manner as JCP sings about being afraid of his oxygen tank and drawing a blank before the repeated line of “I am born again” emphasises his breakthrough, complemented by dense drum work and swirling guitars.

‘At Least It’s Over’ closes the EP, bringing the ’90s influence full circle. Driving, fuzzy guitars, light harmonies, and a buoyant tempo provide a satisfying conclusion, while lyrically, Pierre sings about how he hopes his paranoia is worth the price of salt, and that he hopes to stick the landing from his fall.

While JCP has seemingly gone through a personal transformation, thankfully his music hasn’t. Admittedly, these songs aren’t as strong as ‘…Mars’ highlights such as ‘Dying To Know’ and ‘Promise Not To Change’, yet they still manage to play to Pierre’s strengths – relying on a straightforward and uncomplicated approach allows these five tracks to be listened to effortlessly. Musically direct with his distinctive flair for words firmly intact, ‘The Price Of Salt’ is a noteworthy addition to Justin Courtney Pierre’s solo output. The only lingering question is to see what headspace he’ll be in next time out.

SÊAN REID

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