MODOC Hit Sprawling Conclusion on ‘Automatic + Voluntary’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

[rating 7.00]

modocWhenever you have a producer with the credence and credibility of Brendan Benson at the helm, you’re bound to get attention. Of course, from that point on you have to then prove that you’re worthy all on your own. On their sophomore album Automatic + Voluntary, MODOC (singer/guitarist Clint Culberson, lead guitarist Kyle Addison and drummer John Carlson) do just that, churning out a series of spiffy pop rockers at a good clip, any one of which would seem worthy of radio play. There’s a certain retro feel to these songs — a kind of ‘80s redux — that helps reinforce their solid, unpretentious approach to the basics of melody and rhythm. It’s little surprise then that this trio met in the Midwest — Ball State University in Muncie Indiana to be precise — because their’s is a basic no-nonsense delivery and drive that attest to their proficiency and purpose.

That said, MODOC does add some variation to the mix. The kinetically charged “Black Eyed Lover” gets the album off to a rollicking start, while the brassy “No News Is Good News” and percolating pace of “Make the World Wait” keep that energy intact and consistent throughout. The rumble that accompanies “Out of the Blue” adds a certain mystique, just as the more considered tunes like “Get a Taste” and “Slow Films” raise the drama quotient and offer reason for reflection. Still, when Culberson exclaims, “I wanna lose control… I wanna misbehave” on chorus of the aforementioned “Get a Taste,” one clearly gets the impression that any hint of reserve is bound to be short-lived.

That unbridled enthusiasm may be MODOC’s most distinguishing feature. While their tunes don’t necessarily break any boundaries, their ability to go from tentative beginnings to a sprawling conclusion reflects a certain dynamic that qualifies as a signature sound. Benson’s touch is evident, but it’s also to the band’s credit that they can execute that vision so efficiently. It will be interesting to see what MODOC comes up with next.

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