The reverse-fade opener says it all. You’re gonna want to turn Loud & Clear way up. This passionate collection of 10 shiny pop pearls begs for two-story stadium speakers, but as their devoted Detroit fan base knows very well, these guys derive just as much satisfaction blowing their amps in college-dorm basements. The first track, “Lust for Luster,” ushers forth Moods For Moderns’ full-length debut, a giddy escapade through styles of music to which the band members were likely conceived, and a stellar continuation of the promise displayed in the band’s 2000 EP, Two Tracks Left. Exhausted and exhilarated, the CD invites us inside a smoky van headed down a dusty stretch of highway to the next gig. We’ve already gone over last night’s highlights and lowlights, everyone’s top-10 albums made between 1971 and ’79, the analog-vs.-digital and Britney-vs.-Christina debates. There’s a hum of silence as the tires turn and the perfectly positioned cornfields wave hello and goodbye. The opening epic strains of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” squeak through the speakers just in time for the “Welcome To The State Of Our Destination” sign to come into view. All’s forgotten as the driver hits the volume knob, the shotgun-rider drums the dash and everyone in the back mimics the goofy harmonies.
After unloading, we swig a few Rolling Rocks backstage to the sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra. The guys swagger onstage. Cue “Pop Star,” a salaciously delicious tune that fulfills the prerequisite debut-album inclusion, a pop song about — you guessed it — pop stardom.
Cut to “Slacker Ways.” Complete with hand claps, tingly hooks, snapped chords and effects squalls, this is the closest the guys get to Jiffy Pop perfection.
Shortly after comes the psyched-out, tongue-in-cheek, joyful simplicity of the Sgt. Pepper-esque “Candy Apples,” which ends with threefold surf-bored harmonies and makes a lighters-flickering transition into “Halifax”’s stretched-out intro, a live highlight. Smiles all around.
Loud & Clear doesn’t necessarily break any new creative ground, but one can assume that wasn’t really the intent. The band recorded the entire thing in analog — on purpose! The obvious influences (The Who, Beatles, ELO, Elvis Costello, Rush, Squeeze, Badfinger, Cheap Trick) are especially charming because you know these guys were doggie-paddling in the womb (or kickin’ it in the playpen) when Robin Zander and crew rocked it live at Budokan. And you can guess that they picked up a guitar/bass/drumstick shortly after discovering a copy of that deliriously demented and documented hysteria in the used bin. And if the argument’s true that everything artistic regurgitates something that came before (especially apparent with 21st century rock) at least Moods for Moderns is referencing the good stuff — and they do a damn fine job at it.
Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.