Seventeen seconds. That's how long it takes to know that Modey Lemon's new Thunder + Lightning is going to send anxious young cretins and sorrowful maidens running to the bathrooms to vomit joyfully; to burn incense in near-dead automobiles to cover their wrongdoings; to buy the "Here Be Monsters" maps of rock 'n' roll that Phil Boyd and Paul Quattrone are selling. Seventeen seconds into "Crows," Boyd's guitars and Quattrone's drums smash recklessly to herald a wailed "Croooows," and it's money-in-the-bank rock: simultaneously Count Five's anonymous abandoned youth and Aerosmith's bigger-than-life "no, really, look at me!" (Aerosmith pre-Pump, of course).
That's not to say that Modey Lemon's dynamic duo are the 19-year-old dudes hangin' around, thumbs in pockets, by the high school on dance night. But those dudes are definitely listening to Thunder + Lightning -- "Predator," to be exact, dreaming of that innocent carnivore whose soundtrack flips from Britney's Fears to fast guitars and loud cars once the lights go down. No, Modey Lemon aren't those dudes. But they were -- on the duo's last album, the eponymous more rock than roll full-length debut that established "Modey" as an official English-language participant, Modey Lemon understood their rock roots, but never quite got to the promised land that songs like "Jesus Christ" and "Coffin Talk" were pointing towards.
But a hard year of touring the U.S.A. and U.K., critic-slaying and proselytizing to the twisted youths of today has taken the disciples and made them the prophets. Now, the cowbell and low-end guitar riffage of "Enemy," or the synth freak-out that accompanies "Electronic Sorcerer" are as natural and unmitigated as the rock icons (and garage deities) Modey Lemon once worshipped at the feet of. And that's probably because this is a rock record that comes sans cynicism: When Boyd screams about the "E-lectron-ic, Sor-cerer-er" in his best sci-fi '70s-isms, it's f'real.
That's also Modey Lemon's solitary shortcoming. "C'mon, guys," you want to say by the end, "it's only rock 'n' roll." And there are signs that they're feeling the same: Disillusioned by comparisons to some other band with two people in it, the Modey has added a third member (electronic sorcerer Jason Kirker, who also engineered Thunder + Lightning). Perhaps a sign of musical maturation to come? Maybe that's a good thing -- as long as Boyd and Quattrone never forget that rock isn't America's indigenous contribution to world culture for nothin'. This is serious business. Long-haired, disillusioned and ill-adjusted youths don't have much chance of survival in George W.'s post-rebellion America. Thunder + Lightning might be the best shot they've got this year of staying serious about their leisure; their best chance of getting laid, of getting by.