THUNDER + LIGHTNING - Modey Lemon (Birdman/In-Fidelity)
This Pittsburgh duo with the funny name recently expanded to become a live trio and are about to launch a brief 2003 Australian tour (including the coveted Sydney support to Radio Birdman), so a review of what is their second long-player is well in order. And "Thunder + Lightning" lives up to its name with anguished vocals, squalling guitars and keyboards trying to ride a wave of pounding drums. Modey Lemon draw on a string of reference points back in the dimmer recesses of the '60s but have little to do with the so-called New Rock of the 2000s.

The high points - and for mine none rate more than the third track "Enemy" - cram in more dynamics and rippling guitar action in three minutes than the Datsuns ever will in a lifetime. Little wonder Paul Quattrone is credited as "Lead Drums" - the guy sounds like he's demolishing every trap in sight, and then some. Pity the poor roadie who re-tunes what's left of his kit after every show.

"Predator" kicks in with Phil Boyd's nagging, distorted Moog line (a la the organ in Died Pretty's opus "Mirror Blues") before Quattrone sets about demolishing another drum set. Serrated guitar and a wailing Boyd vocal ("Life was better/Before I met her") shreds the rest of the tune to pieces before the Modeys turn the table on whoever she is and go in search of another victim.

There's no shortage of guitar but it's the spacey keyboards that add colour in places you might not expect (shades of Pere Ubu) and carry a manic tune like "Ants in My Hands", where megaphone vocals and layered distortion take things to a similar place local lads Rocket Science only try to go. The Modey Lemon manage to get there in twice the time and sound like the drugs are having much more effect.

"Slow Death" has nil to do with the Groovies tune of the same name and introduces polyrhythms to a new generation. "Tongues (Everybody's Got One)" sounds like the Magic Band (sans the Captain) in a knife-fight with Hawkwind.

If The Immortal Lee County Killers are Bent Blues then Modey Lemon stake some sort of claim as prime exponents of Fractured Industrial Garage Rock (or some such shit). It's a big ugly sound Modey Lemon invokes over 11 tunes (and the NME quote in the press kit likening them to falling downstairs with 25 aluminium bin lids tied to your body is actually pretty apt). The degree of energy these guys pack into each song/soundscape is impressive, although the amount of time the angst meter spends in the red might demand a little too much from some. Me, my curiosity is raised and I just found a reason to be out of the pub early and at the venue on time when they warm up for Birdman. - The Barman