This season starts retro and then fades to Black

A Modest mid-winter
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  December 28, 2011

DOING IT RIGHT Modest Proposal, seen here at the Old Port Festival, are spot-on with their timing.

After a summer and fall that saw local releases at a fever pitch, perhaps it was inevitable we'd see something of a retrenchment for the dark days of winter. While many of the heavyweights got out in front of the holiday season, either plans haven't finalized yet or there's simply a need for everyone to take time to reload, as the first two months of 2012 see most of our bigger bands either out of town or laying low to record.

That opens things up for some new blood, though. There are a number of debut albums on the slate, and there's also plenty of time for everyone to get psyched for the city's first true marquee show at the Civic Center in quite some time, revitalizing a space that really does have a long history of serious rock experiences.

DEC 28 THE MODEST PROPOSAL RELEASE SELF-TITLED DEBUT AT BAYSIDE BOWL | This is just about exactly how you'd like things to happen. High school band win MAMM SLAM, land recording time as reward, release debut album roughly nine months later, just in time to kick off the MAMM SLAM's next round with this here show. Yeah, MAMM SLAM is a battle of the bands, but it's a bunch more than that, too, with an emphasis on all of the business aspects that go into being a band. Everything from the Modest Proposal's timing to its material on this self-titled full-length shows they've learned their lessons well.

That time they won was with Jim Begley and Steve Drown at the Studio, and the pair have helped them create a great late-'60s grit and growl in their guitars, especially, and in frontman Philip Rogers's vocals. He sounds a little like a young Eric Burdon, actually, and the album's proper opener, "Hang Your Head," has a little bit of that shagadelic flavor to it. They'll probably get a lot of Doors references, too, with "Sweet Saline" and the hushed whispers with the organ chords that bounce, but "Sticky Smile" has an R&B flavor to it, even some Morphine vibe when sax player Matthew Creasy gets particularly low-end.

There are a couple tracks here that seem a bit unformed, like "The Opportunist," which has a lot of energy to it, but doesn't seem to go anywhere, and "Season's Change," which features finger-picked guitar and some decent cello work from Charlie Hayes, but actually cries out for that somewhat clichéd full-band ramp-up in the second verse. Better that than flat.

For the most part, though, this is an album that really rocks at points, without getting heavy for the sake of getting heavy, and is pretty unique to these environs, with a mix of jazz (there's a very good sax lead on the somewhat hurdy-gurdy "Soft Girl") and even some Pixies flair, as when Hayes apes Kim Deal on the opening of the otherwise very '70s "Blue and Gold." Throw in the MacDonald brothers, Angus and Luke, on guitar and keys, and these songs are full-bodied, well executed, and generally a lot of fun. Definitely impressive for a group of guys who haven't yet walked down the aisle and picked up a diploma.

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