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Modey Lemon - Season of Sweets

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Artist: Modey Lemon

Album: Season of Sweets

Label: Birdman

Review date: May. 12, 2008

Somewhere around Curious City, the Modey Lemon made a shift in direction, smoothing its rackety, blues-drunk grooves into a Krautish, hallucinogenic trip. You could pin it all on Jason Kirker, who joined after Thunder + Lightning, but the shift is equally evident in Phil Boyd's vocals, no longer abrasive, and mixed substantially lower in the fuzz. And since Boyd has kindly created a muxtape of songs from artists that influenced him on Season of Sweets (mondoboydo.muxtape.com), we can see that it goes deeper than production values. Alongside oddities, like a track from Jesus Christ Superstar, he's included lysergic, drum-happy drone-merchants like the Boredoms, Oneida, Apes and Kraftwerk – not a scruffy blues-rocker in the bunch. About the only thing that hasn't changed on Sweets is Paul Quattrone's ferocious drumming – and that's a good thing, because the Modey Lemon just wouldn't be the Modey Lemon without it.

Quattrone is one of three or four really distinctive, noticeable drummers in rock and roll right now. At SXSW, someone behind me murmured, "He's like Bonham," in a break between songs, and yes, he hits as hard and as heavy as the Zeppelin drummer. Still there's an element of chaos, of rickety, boxy, falling-down-the-stairs abandon that distinguishes him from all the classic rock guys (except maybe Keith Moon). You watch him (or listen) because it seems like he's going to have to fall off the stool at some point, as fast as he's going. But he doesn't.

What's interesting is how the Modey Lemon incorporates this brutal, chaotic element into a set of songs that are, on balance, fairly tuneful. In opener "The Bear Comes Back Down the Mtn,” the drums give guitar-clanging riffery an almost ritual heft, pounding like a procession of soldiers under the song's slow-churning mysticism. "It Made You Dumb," the album's most immediately accessible cut, submerges 16th notes and slashing cymbals under pop keyboards and vocals. It's a lot like Oneida in spots – placid and dreamy on top, explosively rhythmic and aggressive underneath.

There are two extended jams on Season of Sweets, which enable the band to stretch out its viscous, 1960s-psyche boogie to epic length. "Ice Fields" follows an octave-jumping blues riff over extended improvisatory intervals. The vocals subside after a couple of minutes, and a long duel between guitar and moog ensures, with Boyd throwing down and Kirk answering. "Live Like Kids" is vaster; its notes blossom, waver and disappear like ghost images without really establishing a melody. Yet, even the shorter songs have a zen element to them, finding melody and calmness in the middle of frantic rhythms and distorted discord.

All of which is to say, these are real, well-constructed songs, wrapped in undulating waves of psychedelic turmoil. Season of Sweets rocks as hard, but never aimlessly. The devil, and its horns, is in the details.

By Jennifer Kelly

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