As a young person in Chicago, I feel very #blessed right now. The local music scene is thriving, with new bands popping up constantly and the old statesmen continuing to prove their worth and evolve in exciting new directions. Even the young bucks are reaching the levels of respect usually reserved for old sages, with bands like The Orwells and Twin Peaks embarking on globetrotting tours before their members are even able to legally drink. Modern Vices are the latest Chicago export to test the waters of a larger scale of public awareness with the release of their self-titled debut.
Modern Vices call themselves a doo-wop group, but that’s more aspirational than anything. The majority of their sound nestles into the type of indie garage rock that Chicago currently has a strong hold on. Vocalist Alex Rebek has a very distinct range that flexes from a warbling guttural croon to an unhinged wail, like a lounge singer who has had far too much to drink. “You’re So Special” showcases the entirety of that range, as well as the powerful drumming of Patrick Hennessey and the dual guitar attack of the Peters (Thomas Peters and Peter Scoville).
The climax of Rebek’s animalistic screeching is the most emotional moment on an album packed with heartfelt lyricism and powerful hooks. “Cheap Style”, Modern Vices’ lead single, is an entire summer packed into one post-punk surf song about spending time with a girl. The lead guitar line on the track is so earworm-y that it’ll invoke envy in every guitarist who didn’t figure it out first, and the rest of the song lifts that riff to amazing heights. There are spots on the album that don’t quite do the job, though, usually with Rebek’s lyrics standing out as the mismatching piece. “Keep Me Under Your Arms” finds him in a better-version-of-Brandon-Flowers mode, ascending into the chorus with so much charisma that the rest of the song struggles to keep up.
For their debut, Modern Vices have found a great jumping-off point. The ingredients are already in place for the quintet to set themselves apart in a city crowded with talent, but they just haven’t quite figured out the recipe yet.
Essential Tracks: “Cheap Style”, “You’re So Special”, and “Taller Than the Sunshine”