(February 2003) Alternative Press - 100 Bands to Know in 2003 - Despite the sad fact that most of its populace remains mired in '70s classic-rock morass, Pittsburgh has been the unlikely breeding ground for many exciting undergound-rock acts. Right in line with folks like Don Caballero, Karl Hendricks Trio, the Cynics and Anti-Flag come garage racket-teers Modey Lemon. The duo of Phil Boyd and Paul Quattrone aren't particularly subtle, routinely mangling guitars, a wounded synthesizer and a sheet of aluminum, all while putting out more unbridled grimy energy than the Estrus label's 2003 release schedule. This year the band will record their next album for Bomp. Meg and Jack, be very afraid ...
(September 2003) Pittsburgh City Paper - For the past three or so years, the city has put a lot of pressure on the Modey Lemon. Deemed our next big thing, our saviors, the ones who were going to be the band up there with the Cynics, Anti-Flag, and the Swamp Rats in terms of building our reputation as a rock town, it was only fair - to us and to them - that they break out and make it happen. When Jack White claimed they were one of his favorite bands, we thought it was the clincher. Things got even better when write-ups and reviews of the band’s last album started popping up in Spin, NME, and Rockpile, and after Alternative Press named the album and John Peel named the band must-haves this last year.
But over a year has gone by since the self-titled release, and while the boys were busy on intermittent tours through the States and Europe with the Von Bondies and others, we were getting pretty hungry over here. But here comes Thunder + Lightning and with a show lined up for this Friday guaranteed to pack the Brew House to the brim, Pittsburgh has its band back. In comparison to the first, this album is louder, angrier and arguably tighter, stretching their already diabolical noise into over half and hour’s worth of, appropriately, thunder and lightning. “Crows”, the first track, with its climbing guitar riff and Phil Boyd’s full-on crazed vocals, crashes directly into the next song, “Thunder and Lightning” with no warning. Most songs are little over three minutes long; the perfect amount of time to keep the listener hanging on every word and every chord. Modey Lemon have moved from local independent label A-F Records onto Birdman, which houses acts like the Warlocks, Boredoms and a best-of collection from the Electric Prunes, which shows the inevitability of progress and further movement toward the national attention they deserve. Through we’d love to keep them all to ourselves, we still want them to get out there. They’ll always be ours anyway.
Spin Magazine - Bands to Watch - This Pittsburgh two-piedce - "lead" drummer Paul Quattrone and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Phil Boyd - never got the memo that the new garage rock couldn't simply be the old art punk. These dirt buckets do it to death, dumping a mound of scuzz atop the graves of all your favorite long-gone Nuggets wannabees.
(October 14, 2003) - Deo2.com - Spitz London, Show Review (perhaps translated from French) - "Modey Lemon are Rock Resuscitaters" - While muscles are busy obeying the rhythm and a deluge of impressions is savaging senses, the old brainbox is striving to sort out this delicious noise. Avant-rock, surreal-rock, abstract-rock? We dunno but this Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, trio of two guitarists/Moogists and a drummer, brings charisma and hunter's soul back to the genre. Frontman Phil Boyd's all snarling vocals, intense twisting notes and catwalk looks delivering songs that regularly stalk the wild side.
There are too many acts out there that simply comply with the formula and are happy to churn out (increasingly diluted) replicas of their most successful album. Modey Lemon, from the moment of taking to the stage, deliver a set that alternates between kind of noise-fest that�s been missing from the agenda and electro FXs: punk with electronical embellishments, basic riffing with interstellar noodling, revulsion (of mainstream) and revolt connecting with cosmic dust.
Lazy media-types will group this lot with the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club types but this is light years beyond it: the initial inspiration of MC5/The Stooges and Suicide has been re-loaded with elements of Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, The Cramps, Dr John & God (no, not him), one could right a book of names that are recalled in the grooves of the band's sophomore LP.
Behind singer Boyd, and newest member Jason Kirker is sporting a controversial truckers hat of Smith & Wesson company at the beginning, the powerhouse is Paul Quattrone whose drumming style (and energy employed) appears to be just like a more in-control Keith Moon (the late Who stickman) with such huge beats that truly obliterate need for a bass guitar. "Enemy" (from the second album "Thunder & Lightning", out in the US but not until Jan. in Europe) is the first slice of totally ferocious track that creates aural lacerations and cause developing taste for high-maintenance ladies.
Modey Lemon have a rather unusual take on music that is equally complex and minimalist; arrangements are rather composite while the delivery, due to the nature of instruments, remains on the minimalist side. The end result is rock as an existentialist force with lyrics that read more like poetry than the usual emo-crap troubling mainstream musos. "Bread of life" is a line from "Crows", a direct reference to the French poet Rimbaud (Arthur, 1854-91); this is heavy but are women inspired by intel or the size of a comic talent?
"Slow Death" could be the most precious gem amidst many jewels on the disc that will be slightly different than its American original, and thus longer but, alas, not much than about 35 minutes! The lead single of the album, "Predator", is a futuristically rockistic audio slice that paints a (lyrical) picture of a woman who is a cross between a bitch, witch and an alien. Otherwise, a song about carnal knowledge that is such a monstrous track The Darkness members gotta be frightened into hiding behind a sofa as if Modey crew were the Daleks!? Nihilists argue that the planet has met its Waterloo but all we know is that Modey Lemon could provide more than its appropriate soundtrack. We wobble out totally wasted.
(December 2003) LA Weekly - The Modey Lemon at Spaceland - The Modey Lemon rip and also tear. All this fevered yelling-in-tune, all these bust-out, fuzzed-out riffs from Phil Boyd on vocals/guitar/crudekeys. All these continual whappings and bashings by royal virtue of which drummer Paul Quattrone jerks your helpless frame around. They got a third guy now too, Jason Kirker, piling on the guit/keys noise. The Pittsburghers' Thunder + Lightning, which sounds like it was recorded in a dank, hot basement, reminds me a lot of the punky first Replacements album, except darker, heavier, and with evil blues as the dirt floord instead of cupola. There's some Suicide in there too; maybe Dead Boys. Much busted gear lies in these young bastards' wake, along with busted eardrums and emotions and notions of what rocks and what doesn't. This is some bad-ass shit, no lie.
(December 16, 2003) - Jaymz Clements- Live Review - The Tote, Melbourne, Australia -
Fresh from Meredith and a couple of other Melbourne shows, and consisting of an onstage rapport that encapsulates not much more than the words ‘we’re Modey Lemon from Pittsburgh, U.S.A.’, Phil Boyd, Paul Quattrone, and new member Jason Kirker still manage to insinuate themselves into the hearts and minds of an audience through sheer brilliance, manic energy, and pure passion, and even though it was hotter than a Saddam Holetm in a Baghdad summer, they went off like a hand grenade in bucket of whipped cream.
Kicking it off with ‘crows’, the opening track from their album ‘Thunder & Lightning’ and following with stunning tracks such as ‘tongues (everybody’s got one)’, the stirring and abusive ‘predator’ and the brilliantly stoned paranoia of ‘Ants in my hands’, Modey proceeded to redefine why rock music is good, especially when Phil is screaming ‘I’d rather be your enemy/than to be nothing at all’ in the chorus of ‘enemy’ (a personal favourite). With the sweat rolling into your eyes and along your back, you can’t help but agree. Especially when Phil imparts the knowledge that Pittsburgh has already had 14 inches of snow this month; what would you rather?
What clinches the deal for Pittsburgh’s finest is their frantic live show that harnesses the essence of pure rock and the down and out grittiness of swampy blues. When Jason Kirker is throwing himself around the stage whilst playing guitar and the accompanying Modey Lemon ‘moog’ keyboard, at the same time, you know you’re seeing a band that prides itself on it rawness, passion, and DIY aesthetics. Phil commands the stage like no other; his lank hair flailing around his face as his thin, drawn out body is thrown about violently and randomly, in accordance to rules only he knows, and his vocals, what they lose in the translation of his screaming is understood in the zeal with which he imparts them. Yet he seems almost placid compared to the drumming style of Paul Quatrrone. An amphetamine fuelled ‘Animal’ from the Muppets is the closest description that can be imparted.
The trio played through a set that did perfect justice to their new album, playing with a reckless abandon that was befitting a US war declaration, and with as much power to back it up. It culminated in a 10minute sonic assault beginning with the albums title track, ‘thunder & lightning’ and ending in a cacophony of noise.
A great band on a stinking hot summers night at the Tote; it doesn’t get much better.
(March 2004) - Mojo Magazine -Three Stars - Like a chapter of Hell's Angels moving in next door to a suburban semi, Modey Lemon make the recent garage band look rather staid. Drummer Paul Quattrone and Moog-playing singer-guitarist Phil Boyd have only just hit their twenties, but 'Thunder + Lightning' is a scuzz-fuzz statement that has long since lost its rock 'n' roll innocence. As experienced in under-the-counter Black Sabbath riffs as they are in X-rated Suicide static, they also veer into backroom rockabilly with Ants in My Hands, a song that would instantly send Lux Interior's hands down his fishnets. The compact oddness extends to the howled psych-ward lyrics - after all, it's hard not to be seduced by a song called Tongues (Everybody's Got One) that muses "Use it to formulate your phonicss/Burns if you get something hot on it."
(May 2004) - Timeout London - In a way, the bass has become the chintz of rock 'n' roll. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Immortal Lee County Killers, The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Kills all happily chucked it out from the off, in a drive to make their garage rock/bluesy punk all the meaner and more minimal. When Pittsburgh’s Modey Lemon trimmed themselves down to a due around five years ago, they chose a mangled Moog and keyboard sounds to add weight and texture to their thrillingly psychotic take on garage rock, which cuts Suicide and Black Sabbath with Sun Ra, Hendrix with Helios Creed and Cream with the Cramps.
‘We just felt like we could be challenging ourselves more.’ Explained guitarist, vocalist, and Moogist Phil Boyd of their decision not to replace the original bass player. ‘It was a way to make things more difficult for ourselves because we had to work around this…obstacle.’ A while back, Boyd and Quattrone did recruit a third member, but Jason Kicker plays guitar, keys and effects. ‘I don’t mean to say the bass guitar isn’t an interesting instrument.’ Boyd reasons, ‘but what we’ve been doing for a while with a minimal set-up has been working for us.’
Modey Lemon’s musical interests range far and wide, and it’s partly this diversity which makes the forthcoming (UK release) album ‘Thunder + Lightning’ such a revelatory blast. ‘Jason spent a few hundred dollars customizing this little box that has 30 knobs on it and just generates random, weird signals and tones.’ says Boyd. ‘In the studio, we might just plug that in and listen to it, but then we go to something like early T-Rex, while Paul’s really into heavy, psychedelic rock bands and I listen to a lot of folk music.’
Pittsburgh is, according to Boyd, a great place for Modey Lemon. ‘It’s so small there’s not really a spotlight on it and people are into sharing ideas. It’s real supportive and there’s no pressure for one sound that defines the city. Nobody’s really paying attention to Pittsburgh.’
They’re probably still too busy focusing on Detroit. ‘That’s cool - go look at Detroit!’ laughs Boyd. ‘I want my city to be championed and I want everybody there to be successful, but at the same time, it’s a gem as it is now.’
(May 2004) - KERRANG - Thunder + Lighting album review - KKKK rating - Welcome to the wonderful world of sleaze-driven, rock 'n' fucking roll psychosis, as presented by Pittsburgh three-piece, Modey Lemon. 'Thunder + Lightning' kicks up a storm in your mind and does nothing to soothe your soul- and that's no bad thing. Theirs is a world of unsettling, shit stomping, late night (un)easy listening. A steaming brew of punk-fueled '70s rock, moog-saturated dark psychadelic grooves and the kind of swamp blues that Jon Spencer would howl at the moon for. New single 'Crows' gets the storm brewing with its blustering guitar frenzy and rasping vocals, while the chaos and collision from the drums and bass alike drive the rhythm like some kind of fuel-hungry locomotive. Further down the tracks, 'Predator' and 'Ants in My Hand' really get the rock and the hooks rolling, and 'Tongues (Everybody's Got One)' is a drug-fuelled long-haul trip that will send you off into orbit. By the end your senses will have been arrested, your nerves frayed and you'll wonder what hit you.