Moods for Moderns – Loud & Clear

Moods for Moderns
Loud & Clear

I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Those of you with incredible memories (or nothing better to do) might remember that I reviewed the three track debut EP from this band, Two Tracks Left, rather well a few months ago. The summer harmonies on that all too brief EP recalled Cheap Trick and a number of other pre-80’s pop-rockers. This time around, the band is playing that whole nostalgia card to the extreme: just check the cover art. Three guys in jean jackets (did they coordinate that?) and one wearing aviator sunglasses standing in an autumn field. The picture looks intentionally dated, as do the haircuts. Anyone who read my recent review of Rick Bain and the Genius Position know that I quickly tire of this limitless nostalgia, But Moods for Moderns make it work, for a number of reasons.

First off, they sound more like the (early) Who than Weezer. So many throwback bands get too caught up in trying to sound like Weezer’s first album, somehow forgetting that while Weezer certainly has some nostalgic tendencies, they are hardly the Buddy Holly soundalikes that so many misinformed indie kids mistake them for. Rather, Moods take their jaunty, downbeat rhythms, add sparkly, bouncy guitars, and sing their summer harmonies. The sound is appropriately thin, as it was recorded all on analog equipment akin to the era they idolize.

Second, and most importantly, the songs are there. I have trouble knocking any band in any genre, as long as the songwriting is there. Unfortunately, too many throwback bands just do not have the talent, which increases their already high gimmick-factor. Besides, I can listen to almost anything as long as the writing is good. And although all the songs on Moods for Moderns debut full-length have that certain 60’s-70’s feel, the songs are too good to be simply gimmicks. The opener, “Lust for Luster,” is about as close as the band comes to big, Cheap Trick style rock. Rather, most of the material strays toward the shameless, catchy pop of mid-60’s Who records, a la “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” or “Substitute.”

Though the tracks occasionally blend together, there isn’t a weak track among the 10 on the album, a testament to the writing of the band. The lovely falsetto of “Whatever She’s Doin'” is one of the album’s catchiest tracks, and the warm guitars of the first “single” “Slacker Ways” make it a standout as well. The wistful, melancholy, acoustic charm of “Popstar” lift its “ooo” harmonies out of the din. “Candy Apples” breaks the format a bit, the distorted vocals and rigid drumming (as well as its relatively short running time) give it the feel of one of those goofy tracks that interrupted the hits on all those old records (but it’s a nice break anyway).

Included from the debut LP are the excellent “Two Tracks Left” and the longing “Halifax,” renamed (appropriately) as “So Long Canada” (both tracks appear to have been remastered). The keyboard-led track “Only on a Saturday Night” is wonderfully catchy, and though “Runaround” often gets lost in the fray, it’s another excellent track, a bit more rocking than most of the rest on the album (with some nice guitar fills). The closer, “Long Distance Dedication,” sounds more like the Who (especially on the verse) than any other song, but the almost spoken chorus speaks of redemption by radio, a sentiment lost in today’s corporate rock world but quite prevalent in the time that Moods for Moderns mimics.

What this all comes down to is beautiful, fun, summer pop that neither takes itself too seriously nor degrades its purpose to the point of comical embarrassment. The bottom line for me is the songwriting, and Moods for Moderns have it in droves (or at least 10 songs worth of it). Despite all the nostalgia, the album sounds fresh, breezy and natural, not contrived like so many of their peers. If you’re unconvinced by all of the throwback music that’s been coming out lately, this album won’t convince you. If you’re a fan of 60’s nostalgia at all, however, or maybe just good pop music, this band is right up your alley. As for me, I’m tempted to break out my own aviators. And don’t forget the jean jacket.