Before the likes of Brand New, Crime In Stereo and Taking Back Sunday conquered the Long Island punk scene there was The Movielife. Cutting their teeth in sweaty basements the band gradually rose in prominence all the way to their seminal 2003 record Forty Hour Train Back To Penn, after which they shocked the industry and fans alike by calling it a day. Now, having peppered the last half-decade with reunion shows, the reinvigorated outfit has finished work on its first release in fourteen years, Cities In Search of a Heart.
The central song writing duo of vocalist Vinnie Caruana and guitarist Brandon Reilly have been far from idle in the intervening years, the former fronting punk rockers I Am The Avalanche and the latter forming alternative rock act Nightmare of You. The ceaseless creativity of the pair has clearly kept their energy levels up as opening track ‘Ski Mask’ starts proceedings off in riotous punk fashion most reminiscent of their past material, it’s a good start but it isn’t where this record shines. Lead single ‘Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel’ is perhaps the perfect bridge between the old and the new. All crashing guitars and soaring melodies, this cut is placed early on, in a successful bid to please old and new fans alike.
Where this album packs the biggest punch is in the weathered sound of tracks like ‘Ghosts In The Photographs’, that set the ragged hardcore sound aside for something more in keeping with the mid-tempo emo movement. Caruana puts in a career best performance throughout, alternating seamlessly between gravel-toned gruffness and sickly-sweet melodies, backed up by versatile instrumentation. What can only be described as a crunchy guitar tone lends weight in all the necessary moments. Lyrically the pair have left the chin stroke-able poetry to their peers, instead shooting for a more literal, heart on sleeve approach that hits straight in the feels. That exact sentiment echoes across the closing track ‘Hearts’, as Caruana bows out with one last, forceful, tug on the heartstrings.
Cities In Search of a heart is the product of songwriters that have aged like fine wines. Drawing only slightly on their past glories to create a record that is as varied as it is warm and affecting. The Movielife were around before many of their peers and if this album is anything to go by, they’ll be around long after as well.