Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loud Old-School Rock from Indiana to Nashville

*Obligtory sincere apology: It’s embarrassing, really, how many times I’ve intended to write this post about this band. Sometimes, for whatever reason or array of reasons, your greatest intentions don’t quite come to fruition and this is one of those cases. Until right now. My apologies for the delay – to you, readers, and to Kyle and Modoc.*

I only associate myself with cool people. Maybe that’s not entirely true, but I really like to think it is. Isn’t that sort of the tendency of all of us? To align ourselves with the people who are doing things we respect? This post is about a gutsy adventure one of my oldest friends has been on for several years now.

My old buddy, Kyle (the dapper gelled fellow in the photo), is an outstanding musician. Although he is of a very different vent than myself, I respect, admire and am insanely jealous of what he does. Back in high school, he used to be in a band of other friends of mine called Father Blue Eyes. I was maybe their biggest non-related, non-dating fan. I went to every show imaginable (distance notwithstanding) and brought brownies with me. They were great guys, a good band and wicked fun times. After FBE, Kyle joined a group called Modoc – so named for a small town in East Central Indiana. This is his current adventure. The four boys that make up Modoc and their families made a bold move, picked up their comfortable lives in Indiana and moved down to the bustling music center that is Nashville, TN. It’s my impression that they’re doing very well – at least that’s the vibe I get from their latest album.

Last September, the quartet released a second serious album called Fortune & Fame. I could hardly be more proud of them. And that’s not even just because I know the guys – I’m oftentimes harder on my friends than strangers. Fortune & Fame is a solid old-school rock and roll album. My first thought when I put this album in my car was “They still make music like this? It still exists?” It’s an aggressive album with loud, distorted guitar, serious bass, edgy vocals and lots of cymbals.

The opening track is the ballsiest for sure, with an acappela quartet chorus – and it probably falls the shortest for me. Tough to start an album with the weakest track – and that’s the sort of decision that I think comes with experience – but to attempt it is a move I respect. It moves seamlessly into “Giving In” – a solid, loud, garage band tune with a great back-of-the-beat groove.

The third track on an album is almost always my favorite track. It’s uncanny how often this happens and “Mother Mary” is indeed the track that strikes my ear the most every time. It opens up with a Red Hot Chili Peppers darkness and guitar sound, but has a great feel to the chorus, almost late-Beatles-esque in its feel. It’s a tune I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in my head, or being caught singing walking down the sidewalk.

Several of the tracks have that dual identity – they begin with one feel and have a point where they switch or break in the middle. The band does it well and quite convincingly – it shows a lot of ability and repertoire for different styles and sounds. “Coward” is another one that stands out in this respect. It’s got a little Charlie Daniels Band to it, but then breaks into something a little softer, too. I would caution the group against doing this for every track. It will eventually lose its charm. Part of why it works is because they go to some pretty unexpected places.

The title track is another serious rock tune. Great guitar licks that builds well. Almost formulaic, but it works. Really well, too. The lyrics are hard and reflect the life of the normal musician – hours spent on the road, away from family, toiling for something that seems to give so little back, one has to take joy in the labor of one’s sunk. The album's closer, "Penance" is a beautiful anthem to a broken relationship.

Overall the sound and songwriting is still young, but the band shows a lot of potential – they have all the basics down solid, the style is great, the balance on Fortune & Fame is brilliant and as individual musicians they have it all together. What lacks is a little bit of solidity and sense of settling into their identity that comes with age, experience and time. Modoc has a smart respect for solid musical influences. What they need to find now is the balance between creating their own sound and stealing what works from other artists. It’s going to take time and a lot of experimentation trial-and-error style. But I’m going to tell you this – I won’t be surprised if you hear about them from somewhere other than me. Rumor has it they just recorded a track for Twilight soundtrack consideration.

Their website is: Check it out, spin some of their tunes and keep up with these guys. If you can see them live, DO IT. I remember when they were a baby group, they put on one of the most enjoyable, high energy shows I’ve been to. Live, loud performance is where they excel. And they’ve got families, so support them.

*Photo taken from band's website.*

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