Modern Vices – If Only
Brazen indie troupe Modern Vices gives us another take from the DIY Chicago catalog with If Only. The band broke into the scene in 2014 with their self-titled debut. Championing a reverb-drenched garage sound which they dubbed “dirty doo wop,” they were able to make something completely unique to them. That was five years ago – what have they been up to? The answer is not clear. There are many possible answers for why we didn’t get any music earlier, but as always and forever in the music business: money is an issue. Irrelevant of their release scheduling, it is clear that they only cemented themselves more into their respective scene with consistent shows (many being free) and getting their money’s worth out of their practice space.
The work ethic is evident on this album, as it moves from song to song in a most professional manner. This is definitely the tightest they’ve ever been as a band, and with those improvements we’ve also seen the production take a one-eighty. While the production has definitely “improved,” meaning it’s cleaner and more professional (some of it being done by Cage the Elephant’s Brad Shultz), whether it is “better” is subjective. Some are sad to see the garage sound go, I being one of them; the proverbial doo wop is no longer dirty, but it tells us that they are hiding behind the reverb and fuzzy garage production no longer. This album is more about performance. The drums are ever-present (something that was nearly lost in the previous mix), the vocals are undeniably better as far as technique and execution, and the guitars have picked up a new tone. It would also seem that the lyrics have gone in a direction of more classic indie as opposed to garage rock subject matter. As a whole they’ve been driven to this sort of hip cabaret sound, and for DIY Chicago to accept this shows a sense of cultured variety that only invigorates the scene.
I sincerely hope the best for Modern Vices. It’s not easy coming out of a blank period lasting half a decade. There’s high risk of fizzling out, and sometimes you’ll find that people have picked up and moved on to the next thing before you got a chance to show them what you created. I don’t think If Only will fall into the dreaded, “too little, too late” category. They have a lot of dedicated fans who understand that making music can be cursed with tedium. Hopefully the release of this album means that they’re back on the horse and ready to ride into the unknown, taking with them only the will to create and outlast: a true musician’s bounty.