A sensation when they hit the Pittsburgh low-rent scene in mid-2000, the Modey Lemon explode on their self-titled debut, a bluesy, brutal mess of muddy guitars, rolling Keith Moon drumming, and squealing Moog synthesizer. Singer/guitar player Phil Boyd and drummer Paul Quattrone know only one speed, and steamroll through the 13 songs in a manner so unrelenting that, by comparison, similar groups like the White Stripes and the Strokes sound restrained. It reads like a recipe for cacophonous monotony, but the Modey Lemon beat the rap by turning in a batch of winning, road-tested songs varied enough to make them interesting. "Big Bang," the opener, and the infectious "Bad Neighborhood" are all-out Modey Lemon assaults at their hardest. "Coffin Talk," the macabre standout track, lays a gurgled vocal hook over a marching band snare beat. Through it all, Boyd stretches his guitar and vocal cords to the limit, punctuating his sing-speak delivery with screams, shouts, and howls, with Quattrone matching him stride for stride on the drums, retaining just enough of a semblance of control to be effective. The only chink in the group's armor is its lyrics, the vast majority of which deal with death and the afterlife in B-movie terms. The narrow focus isn't necessarily a bad thing -- the Ramones made a career of it -- but it may limit the appeal of the songs to some listeners and serve to dilute some of the Modey Lemon's raw power. Still, though not for the faint of heart, this is an exhilarating whoosh of a debut, one that transcends its genre and works as a strong rock album.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve May