by SashaS

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The Herculean effort in rock music has almost disappeared and there’s been a dearth of truly innovative outfits and the ones that are striving are being undermined by the major industry’s stronghold on global wallet. But, rock is raising its proud and rebellious head again with updated-retro of Young Heart Attack, experimento-noiseniks Kaito, Brit-rockers Amplifier and mclusky… Protest-funk of !!!… Cerebral rockers such as …

Musicians can easily be distinguished into two groups: retroists and futurists. Modey Lemon belong to the elite, i.e. the latter; hailing from Pittsburgh, a town that hasn‘t been renown for producing high calibre rockers and especially not instigators. This lot’s second album, ‘Thunder + Lightening’ - follow-up to the 2002’s self-titled disc on A-F Records - sounds raw, punky, pretty loaded and plainly demonstrating that this tempestuous trio are united in their distaste of the mainstream.

Reference points of Phil Boyd (vox, gtr, Moog), Jason Kirker (gtr, moog) and Paul Quattrone (drums) are as wide as an almanac of the past three decades: MC5, Suicide, Led Zeppelin, Gang of Four, The Cramps, Can, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Beck… The best way to appreciate them is to view their offering like a sonic version of the David Lynch’s films.

Modey Lemon’s a brilliant album that might have been low on budget but high on avant-inspiration! The only true complaint is that the LP is too short; that is probably due to it initially coming out on vinyl in their home country a year ago?

“I suppose so,” Boys weighs before parting with his thoughts, “but the main reason is that all our favourite albums are short… The Euro-version is also longer with a couple of new songs that show where we are at, right now. Jason is also playing on these tracks and it indicates the direction will be going on in the future.”

“The new songs tend to be more melodic,” Boyd continues, “instruments are played in a more melodic way and also, rhythmically, we can explore it more as it has become our priority. Nothing really elaborate, just a little more complex, fuller sounding… It reflects in a live show, that is stronger.”

“I also feel that it is good to make people want more, so they come to the show… But, as I said, a lot of records we were listening as we were growing up… Like Van Halen’s ‘1984’ lasted 30 minutes exactly…”

Well, we’d rather not walk that memory lane… You are pulling my leg!?

“No, not at all,” Quattrone interjects. “The Dr John’s album ‘Gris Gris’ is less than 30 minutes…”

Now, you are talking mythical quality…

Absurdist blends

Alike in the days of Patti Smith and other 1970s NYC’s punkers, ML find inspiration in poetry and intriguing expressions pepper their lyrics, such as - “Bread of Life”.

“Thinking behind it is about an eternal relationship and what would feed it…” Boyd gets more subliminal. “But, that particular song was inspired by French poet Rembaud. It hit me all at ones, the melody and lyrics. I like the imagery and moods to be combined in a strange pairing.”

There are also very curious and very different perspectives on ‘Tongues (Everybody’s Got One)’?

“Well, yeah, there are…” Boyd agrees. “What I like to do is to take a familiar concept and make it into an almost absurd song. Some of our songs are very vague, on purpose, and that is because we’ve always found fascinating that artists look differently at things… There are so many ways of looking at the world…”

“We are creating an imaginary world that you can come in to and encounter some familiarity but get a different interpretation.”

Surreal rock? We’d gladly go for it!

Aural wounds

Listening to ‘T+L’ one is reminded of interconnectedness of all cultural fields and not being ghettoised into its own little micro-universe…

“I feel that a lot of bands,” Boyd sounds way too knowledgeable for his reported age of ‘early twenties’, “are afraid of being described as ‘arty’. I talk to a lot of people in America and they tell me that so-&-so act is good but a ‘bit too arty’ and they say it as if it is a dirty word. It is like putting ‘em down…”

“I think that some of the most interesting music we’ve listened to has been intelligent but also - energetic. It doesn’t need to be complex but it is good to create something different and otherworldly… I really liked The Doors a lot and a lot of the bands in the 1970s, Patti Smith, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Television, they were always reading a lot of poetry.”

Listening to your album one gets a lot of references, from Led Zeppelin to The Cramps, from Suicide to Frank Zappa, from Captain Beefheart to Primus, from MC5 to…?

“True, all relevant,“ Quattrone agrees, “and you look at the collection we bring out on tours - it is all over the place. We all like similar music but at the same time our tastes differ and we bring our likes in…”

“We draw inspirations from everywhere,” Boyd takes over, “because we like so many different kinds of music. I believe it is good to get inspired by direct opposites, figure out what is the new rhythmic idea, or new kind of energy. That’s what keeps us progressing, looking at all the new and varied inspirations. We don’t wanna get stuck into one thing…”

That’s very commendable but aren’t limitations imposed all around?

“There are and that’s why,” Boyd baritones in a laidback manner, “a lot of bands we know and meet are looking farther back in time for inspirations when people were more free and able to explore different avenues. I can listen to the modern rock radio and I can hear why they sound the same: when a major label puts millions of dollars into a band and they have made a lot of money on a formulaic rock, they gonna work a band that fits their record of successes.”

The newish guitarist, he’s been with them for the two of the five-year-career, quiet during the conversation, was sporting a promo hat for Smith & Wesson!? Only then he wanted to talk but we don’t discuss weaponry. Peace, man! And, musical chaos!

Press release informs us that lyrics are inspired by “mythological imagery of early mythology” (Boyd), doesn’t make ‘em seem like a laugh a day. But they do have a sense of humour to go with their avant-rock. My summer drink is the Modey Lemonade.

Modey Lemon‘s album ‘Thunder + Lightning’ is released 17 May 2004 by Mute