When last we visited Modern Mod (read about them here), they were winding up a Kickstarter campaign for their debut album Tunnels. The ambitious quintet of highly talented high-schoolers smashed their goal, raising over $5,600 from 119 backers. They used the money wisely, hiring noted producer Jack LeTourneau to record and produce and to, ostensibly, create a new video. The CD was released on Record Store Day, April 19, 2014.
The group plays a smart brand of melodic garage rock with lead vocals by Emily Massey (daughter of Madison music legend and Dracula: A Ballet composer Mike Massey). Songs are all in the three-to-four-minute range with tight arrangements.
The album opens with the very Strokes-like “Don’t” and that band is a strong reference point throughout although with Massey’s voice I was reminded of German band Nena, creators of the massive hit “99 Red Balloons” if any of you get that reference (and I know some of you do). This is especially true on “Papercuts,” echoing that very European sound.
The twin guitars of Maximilian Werner and Calem Pocernich play well off each other. There are also snippets of keyboards here and there though those go uncredited. Check the Farfisa on the aforementioned “Papercuts” and the all piano-and-vocal title track which closes the recording. Twelve-string electric guitar propels the jangly “Monday Mornings,” a radio-ready hit with the refrain “I could put up a fight / Like John and Yoko.” Harmony vocals really punch this track up and the group are quite good singers.
Modern Mod was formed by bassist Livy Kleinfeldt and drummer Ronnie Clark and the pair’s symbiosis makes for a solid rhythm section. “Nostalgia” pushes these talents to the fore. Sometimes it’s the simplest structures that demand the most of the rhythmic battery, just ask U2.
This is a strong debut from Modern Mod, made more so when factoring in their teenage status. The band has worked very hard to position themselves and the hard work shows. They face the critical juncture in life of becoming graduates. It will be quite interesting to watch them develop should they hold together. There is little to stand in their way.