With punk-pop stalwarts blink-182 now out of the running, Motion City Soundtrack could very well be crowned the genre's new torchbearers. Theirs is a punk-pop untainted by emo, unfazed by hardcore, and firmly focused on the latter element -- pop -- which seems to be second language to this melody-driven quintet. To that end, Even If It Kills Me finds the band working with (among others) Cars co-founder and veteran knob-twiddler Ric Ocasek, who piles their harmonies and distorted guitars into crunchy blocks of radio gold. Motion City Soundtrack shares more than a few similarities with Ocasek's former group -- their dedication to the pop genre, for instance, with roots in something harder -- and his presence is a warm tribute to a band whose efforts deserve some veteran recognition. As before, frontman Justin Pierre is the star of this album, whether he's doing his part to liven up a semi-sedate ballad ("The Conversation" -- one of the album's only downer tracks) or channel the commercial spirit of former single "Everything Is Alright." In fact, Even If It Kills Me does seem to consciously aim for commercial acceptance, but rarely at the expense of the quirks and literate lyrics that first endeared Motion City Soundtrack to its fans. There's simply more radio-worthy material here, from the beefy bass-driven "This Is for Real" to the mix of synthesized pop/rock and latter-day Guster in "Hello Helicopter." By splitting productions duties between power pop veteran Adam Schlesinger, Eli Janney, and the aforementioned Ocasek, Motion City Soundtrack also avoids the seventh inning stretch -- that nebulous point on Memory and I Am the Movie where the albums' final tracks begin to suffer from being so similar to their predecessors. There's no lull here, just fast-paced fun -- which, given the band's motion-centric name, is as appropriate as it is tuneful.