Guitarist Phil Boyd and drummer Paul Quattrone have been putting out amazing and blistering proto-punk under their Modey Lemon moniker since the dawn of the 21st century. They are quite possibly the best thing to come out of Pittsburgh since the classic piece of American cinema, Houseguest starring Sinbad. They have returned with a new set, and it should be noted that all rhythm aficionados will need to pick up a copy of their new record The Curious City so that they can hear how awesomely psychotic Quattrone’s beats are this time around. And this time around, they have added Jason Kirker on bass.
Kirker more than proves himself, adding a walloping bass attack on the opener “Bucket of Butterflies” as Boyd sings, “When I look into your eyes/Skeletons get weak in the knees!” Dude, skeletons are naturally going be weak in the knees, just saying. They have no muscle on them. If you’re a fugitive or a wanted man on the run from the law, what better song to fit the mood of your high speed cross country trek than “Sleepwalkers.” Meanwhile, “In Another Land” goes into a trolloping be-bop strut with an eerie resonance.
“Mr. Mercedes” is like something from the salad days of Mudhoney and “Fingers, Drains” has the voodoo feel and lyrical deliverance of a Dr. John track. Kirker’s bass lines in “Red Lights” sound like one of the many gazillion remixes of “March of the Pigs” that Trent Reznor has done but is way better than anything that he has done in the past ten years. Psychedelically-laced tunes like “In the Cemetery” has Boyd singing like Bruce Banner talks before busting out of his lab coat and them boom!—a huge backlash comes in the form of a big twisting slab of noise like something off the Tzadik label. On “Trapped Rabbits,” the bass and drum rhythms start out the song with a groove that would suggest Zach de La Rocha is going to come in at any given second, screaming and before the Modey Lemon turn it out into a sprawling and mind-boggling abyss for 18 long minutes.
On their previous efforts, The Modey Lemon has proved to be a rockin’ good band by using a basic formula. But this time around, they allow their sound to evolve without alienating their seasoned fans. The Curious City is truly a curious album indeed.