They say a band really comes together on their third album and finds their identity & sound. That statement rings true with ‘Modern Vintage’, the third album from Sixx:A.M. It is their first album that wasn’t written based on a book. Finally, fans get to see vocalist James Michael, bassist Nikki Sixx & guitarist DJ Ashba free of any restraints artistically. The results are nothing short of stellar and solidifies Sixx:A.M. as a band, not just a project to provide the audio soundtrack to books. I am a fan of their first two albums but, in my opinion, this is their best work to date!
‘Stars‘ kicks off with a tone that fans of DJ Ashba will undoubtedly recognize as it harkens back to the Beautiful Creatures days! It is an uptempo track with a lyrical theme most can relate to. Singer James Michael described ‘Stars’ as “a quintessential Sixx: A.M. song,” in a recent YouTube teaser video for the track, I don’t think he is too far off. Upon its release as the first single & video, ‘Gotta Get It Right‘ caught me off guard with its R&B vibe and pop flavor. I am a fan of old-school R&B, but this was a departure for the band. It took a few listens but it has grown on me & now I can’t picture this album without it. ‘Relief‘ is a mid-tempo rocker that could have been on one of the prior two albums. I really digg the echoing background vocals and DJ’s layered solo as they add to the overall atmosphere of the song.
What is this, a Sixx:A.M. song with a flamenco inspired intro segueing into doo-wop/R&B ditty? That’s what ‘Get Ya Some‘ is. James Michael breaks out some falsetto throughout. Catchy as hell with very visually interesting lyrics. I can see Paul R. Brown doing a very intense visual story video for this song. ‘Let’s Go‘ has the feel of an arena-anthem to it and showcases my favorite solo from DJ. This song should go over great live with plenty of crowd participation….and now, for the first curveball of the album, Sixx:A.M. presents their take on The Cars classic ‘Drive‘. This version is a bit left-of-center, yet does the original justice. The combination of Nikki’s bass, the synthesizer and James laid back vocal approach drives this tune to an almost gothic territory. It includes my other favorite solo from DJ. It really takes the song to the next level.
Kicking up the pace again is ‘Give Me a Love.’ This song finds James in search of love, lyrically. This song isn’t bad but does not do much for me as a listener. The title ‘Hyperventilate‘ is all-to-appropriate as I’m sure that is what the band will be doing after ripping through this live. It has a punk vibe to it and the fact that it features a human, Jeff Fabb of In This Moment & Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, on the drum kit only adds to it. Yet another rippin’ solo from Mr. Ashba!
Ever wonder what it would sound like if the vibe of Sly & The Family Stone had a baby with the sonic artistry of Queen? The answer would be,’High On the Music.’ It is very interesting between the lead vocal, Nikki’s bass layered over the almost-hidden background voices and the stomp-choir breakdown leading into DJ’s solo. Make sure you stick around for the vocal run James tears into around the 3:22 mark is nothing short of impressive….yowzah! This track is best served extremely loud on a home stereo or with headphones because there are subtle nuances you will probably miss with computer speakers.
‘Miracle‘ channels the ghost of ‘The Gloved One’ circa 1979 in Studio 54! I like this marriage of a disco-vibe on a rock song. Another interesting trip sonically. ‘Before It’s Over‘ it is toe-tapper with its jump swing vibe. I really digg Jeff Fabb’s drumming on it. It almost sounds as if DJ used a Kazoo effect on parts of the solo. I can’t wait until my pre-order arrives so I can read the songwriting credits because between the Kazoo and drums, and this IS NOT an insult, this tune takes me back to “This Is The Life” or some of the Polkas by ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic! An uptempo and catchy way to end the Standard Edition of ‘Modern Vintage.’
I haven’t been this impressed with any material that Nikki has been involved with since his 58 project, DJ’s time on the road with Guns N’ Roses has elevated his playing & brought him back to “guitar hero” status that he almost obtained within Beautiful Creatures and James has come a long way from ‘Inhale’ and continues to impress me vocally, songwriting & production-wise.
In concluding, Sixx:A.M. have taken their years of musicianship, their collective songwriting chops and combined it with their influences to make an album that takes the listener on a sonic journey. The material is very diverse yet has a cohesiveness that only a BAND can capture. The material sonically breathes & features some killer production and mixing. Everyone stepped up their game on ‘Modern Vintage.’ I hope the band will stay away from concept albums in the future. ‘Modern Vintage’ offers a glimpse into what music lovers can expect down the road from Sixx:A.M., something vintage yet modern!
There is some confusion and controversy amongst fans about the track listings of the various formats, digital download, CD and Vinyl. I spoke with DJ last week and he & Jessica from 10th Street Entertainment were able to clear up the confusion. Clearing up the controversy over “what gets what” is up to the fans! I will post my thoughts on the Digital Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks when they are released on Tuesday & after I give them a few spins!!!
02. Gotta Get It Right
04. Get Ya Some
05. Let’s Go
07. Give Me a Love
09. High On the Music
11. Before It’s Over
12. Before It’s Over (Piano Ballad)*
13. Stars (Cinematic)*
14. Gotta Get It Right (Acoustic)*
15. Let It Haunt You (So Beautiful)*
* = ONLY available on the Deluxe Edition of the digital download & on the vinyl!
UPDATED WITH REVIEW OF BONUS TRACKS:
Onto the bonus tracks. The piano ballad version of ‘Before It’s Over‘ is a really cool reinterpretation of the song. Hard to believe this is the same set of lyrics that was vamped up over a swinging drumbeat. ‘Stars (Cinematic)‘ is just that, cinematic. It sounds HUGE cranked to eleven on the home stereo! *Note to listeners* Dial back the bass a smidge so you don’t rattle loose those expensive fillings in your mouth! DJ & James really shine on ‘Gotta Get It Right (Acoustic)‘ and the subtle piano fills are a nice touch. For those who bought the Deluxe Edition of the digital download or the vinyl, ‘Let It Haunt You (So Beautiful)‘ is another funky song with a driving rhythm track. DJ’s most-Les Paul sounding solo is found within.
http://www.sixxammusic.com -Official Sixx:A.M. Official Website