When the power pop movement began to collide with the more commercially acceptable side of the new wave scene in the late '70s, it spawned a new breed of bands who had less interest in blazing new trails in rock & roll than in moving the clock back to a time when hooks, harmonies, and jangly guitars were still the coin of the realm. (Along with songs about girls and cars, of course.) The Modulators were one such band; emerging from Irvington, New Jersey at the dawn of the '80s, the band played with an upbeat energy that was honestly engaging, and wrote classically styled pop tunes that were catchy and full of ringing guitar figures. In most respects, the Modulators weren't doing anything especially unusual, but they were doing it better than most of their contemporaries, and while plenty of skinny-tie bands made forgettable albums with major-label backing, the Modulators cut an album on their own dime, 1984's Tomorrow's Coming, that stands up well to the test of time. Bassist and vocalist Joe Riccardello, guitarist Mark Higgins, and drummer Mark Westlake were an efficient trio who made the most of their Beatles and Byrds influences, and Higgins knew how to fill the spaces in the tunes without making a nuisance of himself. The production is simple, but it also works to the Modulators' advantage, putting their melodies up front where they belong, and the trio's harmonies are strong. And songs like "If You Let Her Go," "Rainy Day Girl," and "Spin Me Around" sound like potential hit singles (and might have made the mark if the band had landed a deal with A&M Records that was once in the offing), while "Own Little World" confirms they could also handle more adventurous stuff when they were in the mood. Tomorrow's Coming is a few notches short of a lost classic, but anyone who fondly remembers the skinny-tie power pop era should give this a listen; this is clever and enjoyable stuff and a reminder of just how many worthy bands were committing themselves to vinyl in the '80s.
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