Modern Life Is War
Midnight in America


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
August 20th, 2007 | 83 replies | 16,520 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Modern Life Is War produces another great album, but one that falls short of the success of their previous LP, Witness.

Modern Life Is War - Midnight in America

I feel like Modern Life Is War is one of those hardcore bands that gets tagged and filed as a success. In a similar fashion to With Honor, Comeback Kid and less so, Set It Straight, and 108, Modern Life Is War are releasing an LP on a large independent label after very positive responses to their previous LPs, My Love. My Way. and Witness. I'm not the biggest fan of My Love. My Way. It's a little too monosyllabic for me in its stripped down hardcore gesticulations. I appreciate how powerful they can be when they're using slow, heavy riffing against equally molasses drumming, but when I think of most of the hardcore music I truly love, I favor the double-time punk beats and swinging guitar over the crushing chords and slobbering tom-tom hits. And it was on Witness that Modern Life Is War struck gold by mixing their earlier power (The part "so what the fuck..." on "The Outsiders (aka Hell is for Heroes Part I)" or the entirety of "Marshalltown") with the faster, catchier guitar work and melodies (1:54 on "Martin Atchet") and exciting drumming ("John and Jimmy"). Now, they're releasing their third LP on Equal Vision, a label that has released albums from Coheed and Cambria, Bear vs. Shark, and The Fall of Troy, bands that all seem to be singular and bellwethers in their own rights. Modern Life Is War fits into the mix well being a hardcore band with tons of good cred coming from their crushing heaviness, yet enough mass appeal to be marketed to kids who are also excited for the new Fall of Troy album. That balance is almost too good to be true and bands that were similarly appealing like Set It Straight or With Honor have tended to break up shortly after delivering their purportedly flagship releases.

Which brings us all to Midnight in America, an album that is neither any heavier than My Love. My Way or catchier than Witness, which seems to be the crux of the album. Fans are not going to be turned off by Midnight in America being too heavy and dissonant or too catchy and melodic, but rather by the fact that this album is overall less rewarding in both categories. Listeners aren't blessed with the crippling heaviness of "Breaking the Cycle" but also don't get the catchy singalong ending to "D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S." However, even these claims don't really explain the full story of Midnight in America. Great moments do exist throughout the album, and are present in pretty much every one of the eleven tracks, and I'll give them their moment in the sun later, but on a whole this album seems like an imperfect combination of their previous two releases with a few extra twists and turns thrown in.

One nice unexpected addition is the speed and excitement of this record. Where their previous records definitely perfected the sludgy hardcore verse and the epic chorus, Midnight in America features much faster content. From the opening track "Useless Generation" and through "Big City Dream," "Fuck the Sex Pistols," "Pendulum," and "Humble Streets," this album sets a pretty fast and fun pace. The result of these more chaotic and energetic tracks is a more varied and hurried take on Modern Life Is War's typical slow burning style. The slow burners that put Modern Life Is War on the map are still present though, and are some of the better songs on the album. "Stagger Lee" is a chugging song with an equally chugging narrative about the development of a barfight gone to hell that certainly justifies itself with epic, assertive one-liners like "My name is Stagger Lee," "Do you know who the fuck I am?," and "Don't look at me the wrong way / cause I've got nothing to lose tonight." The slowly undulating bass in the bridge perfectly cements the murderous ending of the song. As expected, the last track "Midnight in America" is also a great epic song in 6/8 the wins via power instead of speed or catchiness.

I'm also impressed by how this sound was put together on Midnight in America. All of the instrumentals parts are as concise as possible. There is no extra wanking or self-indulgence, which suits Modern Life Is War's blue-collar lyrics and no-bullshit delivery. The only instrument that seems to get "busy" is the drums on tracks like "Pendulum," but that is more a product of the intensity of the song, rather than an exhibitionist playing-style. Beyond the instrumental performances, which are not impressive technically, but impressive in their appropriateness and tastefulness, the production is also great. After watching the trailer for this album on youtube, I definitely had a newfound appreciation for their sound. In one section, they mention that they like record single-parts that are emphatic in their own right instead of doubling tracks to get a beefier sound. The result is very appealing, because like the actual instrumental performances, there aren't many bells and whistles, but there is a distinct power to it all. The instrumentals and production are nothing new, these techniques allowed Witness to be what it was, but I think they enable particular tracks on this album like "Stagger Lee" that will have moments where one instrument is only playing one-chord or one rhythmic pattern over and over without changing, yet everything remains surprisingly engaging. Another gush about the performances on this album is that I think the vocals here are even better than on the previous two releases. The vocalist, Jeff Eaton, has an undeniably likable and powerful voice, and here he will win yet more fans with his slurring and rasping on songs like "Stagger Lee" and "Screaming at the Moon."

Despite being a band that thrives off of having a "sound," in the past Modern Life Is War have produced some individual songs that are stand outs. Witness is a veritable hit parade. Midnight in America, though better than My Love. My Way. falls short in the songwriting category to Witness. The songs are less memorable on a whole and are somewhat less powerful. For example, "Night Shift at the Potato Factory" is neither epic nor speedy, but is some kind of midtempo that fails to grab the listener, especially when sandwiched between two good tracks. However, to some this may seem like a minor gripe, considering this is still a great album. The difference in quality between the songwriting on Witness versus Midnight in America is marginal, but when the band also seems to be dropping a little bit or heaviness and catchiness, those subtle subtractions can add up to a lot. I still highly recommend this album to fans of both hardcore, and I guess...The Fall of Troy. Modern Life Is War have not produced a true stunner, but they have put out a great album nonetheless. Hopefully being pegged for success will only help the impact of this album. Modern Life Is War deserves it.

Recommended Tracks: Stagger Lee, Big City Dream, Pendulum, These Mad Dogs of Glory, Useless Generation



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Chart.
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Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2007



6073 Comments


Great review, but I seem to like this a lot more than you so far. I agree with a lot of what you said, but there's no one track that I dislike. From Fuck The Sex Pistols to Pendulum to These Mad Dogs of Glory is so awesome. I'll give it a few more spins before I officially decide.

lunchforthesky
August 20th 2007



1039 Comments


I agree with everything you said. As always excellent review.

tom79
August 20th 2007



3347 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Basically agreed, though I still haven't heard MLMW. This album was solid, both the slower and faster songs. Great review.

Digging: Bent Outta Shape - Stray Dog Town

santi3hg
August 20th 2007



440 Comments


Completely agreed. Good review.

pixiesfanyo
August 20th 2007



1223 Comments


Probably one of the few bands not to get fucked by signing to EQV. Fantastic release and it seems like MLIW has stepped out of their small town beginnings and started to observe the scene they are in. Sound wise and topic wise.

manofsuper
August 20th 2007



6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hey, I'm new to sputnik, and excellent job reviewing this. MLIW is one of my favorite bands, but this kind of dissappointed after Witness.

GleamInRanks
August 20th 2007



298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was solid on the first listen. The first album I've heard from MLIW. I guess I'll have to get Witness soon.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
August 20th 2007



2125 Comments


Really nice review. I guess I'll probably get this at some point, I'm actually a pretty big fan of Witness.

Stagger Lee is better as a Nick Cave song though.

StrizzMatik
August 21st 2007



3158 Comments


I have to get this. Get on AIM later Nick, I gots the Planet Of Ice bonus EP for ya.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 21st 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

What's on the EP? Ya Strizz pick this up. I assume you have Witness.

jrowa001
August 21st 2007



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

they killed Stagger Lee. Nick Cave's original version is soo much better

StrizzMatik
August 21st 2007



3158 Comments


Oh most definitely have Witness, but not the first album. I might need you to sendz me all of them since I'm pretty sure Witness got deleted by my pop-punk fag of a friend >

The POI EP has two b-sides ("Electric Rainbow" and "Patiently Waiting", which both rule), the P.O.S. remix of "Knights", and the demo of "Ice Monster". All very cool and only adding to the overall ownage of Planet Of Ice.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 21st 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I listened to the Nick Cave, didn't like it very much. I have never understood al the hubbbub around that guy. The movie The Proposition was awesome though.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
August 22nd 2007



2125 Comments


The 'hubbub' is that he's a fucking badass. And one of the greatest songwriters ever. The Proposition does indeed rule though.

they killed Stagger Lee. Nick Cave's original version is soo much better


It's not 'his original version', it's a folk song that both artists (and presumably many others) adapted.

jrowa001
August 22nd 2007



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ah i c. that makes sense then, i didnt know nick cave adapted it from another song. thanks though for letting me know before i sound like more of an idiot

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 22nd 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Full album stream: http://www.purevolume.com/modernlifeiswar

br3ad_man
Emeritus
August 23rd 2007



2125 Comments


Sweet.

Jawaharal
August 27th 2007



1832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is some dank shit.

Serpento
August 27th 2007



2351 Comments


Wow, these guys just keep impressing.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 28th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

[quote=Jawaharal]dank[/quote]

lollllll



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