Exploring Madison's Music Scene
May 28, 2014
11:13 AM
Local Sounds

Teenage Band Modern Mod Releases Strong Debut Album 'Tunnels'

PHOTO COURTESY OF MODERN MOD

Modern Mod self-released their debut album Tunnels last month.

When last we visited Modern Mod (read about them here), they were winding up a Kickstarter campaign for their debut album Tunnels. The ambitious quintet of highly talented high schoolers smashed their goal, raising over $5,600 from 119 backers. They used the money wisely, hiring noted producer Jack LeTourneau to record and produce and to, ostensibly, create a new video. Tunnels was released on Record Store Day, April 19, 2014.

The group plays a smart brand of melodic garage rock with lead vocals by Emily Massey (daughter of Madison music legend and Dracula: A Rock Ballet composer Mike Massey). Songs are all in the three-to-four-minute range with tight arrangements.

The album opens with the very Strokes-like “Don’t.” That band is a strong reference point throughout, although with Massey’s voice I was reminded of German band Nena, creators of the massive hit “99 Red Balloons” if any of you get that reference (and I know some of you do). This is especially true on “Papercuts,” echoing that very European sound.

The twin guitars of Maximilian Werner and Calem Pocernich play well off each other. There are also snippets of keyboards here and there, though those go uncredited. Check the Farfisa on the aforementioned “Papercuts” and the all piano-and-vocal title track that closes the album. Twelve-string electric guitar propels the jangly “Monday Mornings,” a radio-ready hit with the refrain “I could put up a fight / Like John and Yoko.” Harmony vocals really punch up this track, and the group members are quite good singers.

Modern Mod was formed by bassist Livy Kleinfeldt and drummer Ronnie Clarke and the pair’s symbiosis makes for a solid rhythm section. “Nostalgia” pushes these talents to the fore. Sometimes it’s the simplest structures that demand the most of the rhythmic battery—just ask U2.

This is a strong debut from Modern Mod, made more so when factoring in their teenage status. The band has worked very hard to position themselves and the hard work shows. They face the critical juncture in life of becoming graduates. It will be quite interesting to watch them develop should they hold together. There is little to stand in their way.

You can buy Tunnels locally at B-Side or download it here. Stream samples here

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About This Blog

Rick Tvedt has been a performing musician since the age of eight and had regional success with local band The And. He has also been a solo performer and was a member of the Sled Dogs. He launched the monthly local music newspaper Rick’s Café in January of 2003, which is now publishing online as Local Sounds Magazine. That same year he founded the Madison Area Music Association, a charitable organization that raises money to fund music programs for kids and provides musical instruments. The MAMAs also produce the annual Madison Area Music Awards.

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