Words by: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: October 7th, 2014, via Eleven Seven Music
Los Angeles supergroup, Sixx: A.M. have released their third album, Modern Vintage, earlier this month. The album is the follow up to 2011’s This Is Gonna Hurt, and tries to follow in a similar hard rock vein as their previous works, but often fall closer to pop punk.
The album’s first song, “Stars” is a hard hitting modern rock tune. It’s great, and showcases the collective talent of the band, both from a playing standpoint, and song writing. James Michaels’ voice is very powerful, and has a vast range, while DJ Ashba (of modern Guns N’Roses fame) riffs are crisp, and his solo is delightfully over the top. Nikki Sixx, mostly known as the bassist from Mötley Crüe, is one of the few bassist of the industry who is prominently the lead songwriter. Unknown to many, he wrote all of the Crüe’s hits, all the music for his various solo projects, and has co-written songs with many different artists, the biggest being Alice Cooper. Sixx has still got it; each song on this album is different from the last through the use of various textures, techniques, instrumentation, and general vibes. The album takes influence from punk, metal, alternative rock, 80’s hair metal, and the blues. As good as it is that the album crosses so many different styles under the rock umbrella, it is rather unfortunate that a very large portion of the album seems just as influenced from pop rock as it is from the heavy, distorted rock we associate with Sixx. That being said, when the band digs into their heavy roots, it’s pretty great.
Any thoughts of this being a complete hard rock album (“Stars” gives that impression) are gone with the second song, “Gotta Get It Right”. By no means is it is a bad song, but it sounds like a pop rock band trying to be a heavy rock band. It’s a shame, “Stars” had me really excited for everything else to come, but “Gotta Get It Right” had me hoping that only that song would adopt the pop tone. Roughly half the album did, which was unfortunate. On the bright side, the other half was much better. Songs like “Relief” and “Hyperventilate” stand out due to their lack of pop rock structure.
I would say, tracks 3 to 5 are the most enjoyable portion of the album. “Relief” followed by “Get Ya Some” and “Let’s Go” are by far my favorite tracks on the album. “Relief” is a straight forward hard rock song, with a rich harmonic coloring due to the backing vocals from Sixx and Ashba. “Get Ya Some” features some of Michaels’ best vocals on the album, reaching high notes with a tone similar to that of Jeff Buckley. “Get Ya Some” is mostly played on acoustic guitar, featuring both a rhythm and a lead part which blend together seamlessly. The highlight of the song would be during the chorus and guitar solo, where the acoustic guitar is accompanied by an electric guitar. This combination is given the spotlight during the solo section, where the electric guitar solo is backed by a very rhythmic acoustic guitar playing chords. All in all, it’s an excellent combination. “Let’s Go” is probably the heaviest song on Modern Vintage, and the most similar to Sixx: A.M.’s previous albums. It features a driving pulse from the drums and bass, along with the fist raising backing vocals while the main vocals and guitar parts add a feeling of pure intensity.
It’s too bad more songs on Modern Vintage do not have the same hard rock vibe as the songs discussed above; many songs fall short of the hard rock style they have pushed for in previous albums and in songs like “Stars” or “Give Me A Love” (among others). Many of the songs seem to lean to the more clichés of pop punk, as heard in “Gotta Get It Right” and “Drive”, as well as others. The middle portion of the album is the best, with the exception of the opening track, “Stars”. The album ends with some of its weaker songs. “High On The Music” tries to follow suit on the heavy vibe of the previous track, “Hyperventilate” but simply doesn’t measure up, while “Miracle” aims to be funky, but falls short somewhere in between club music and rock and roll. “Before It’s Over”, although a fun take on a classic blues form and style, just doesn’t seem to fit as the closing track. Sometimes, sequencing can be just as important as composition. By all means, Modern Vintage is not a bad album; it’s got some great songs worth checking out, but there are also some songs worth skipping over. I consider myself a big fan of Nikki Sixx, and I really wanted to like Modern Vintage. When it’s great, it’s certainly great, but there are too many filler songs which prevent Modern Vintage from reaching its full potential.
2: Gotta Get It Right
4: Get Ya Some
5: Let’s Go
7: Give Me A Love
9: High On The Music
11: Before It’s Over