Wednesday 19 June 2024

Modern Rifles - LP + B-Sides

Labels: Zegema Beach Records

Formats: Tape/Digital

Release Date: 18 Jan 2019


1. Introplane

2. Terroplane

3. Lie To Me, Ian, Lie To Me

4. Feck Me If I'm Wrong, But Is That A Ham Sangie In Your Hands?

5. United Lead

6. Man The Ramparts! Bananalyze The Trade Winds

7. Illegal Dracula!!

8. Kip Winger

9. Say A Prayer To St. Happenin'

10. Manbird

11. Chuck Woolery Is Leviathan

12. Enter The Craptagon

13. Hot Stone Meat Party

14. Broken Wings Make Broken Things

I've had a surprisingly productive day so I thought I'd ride on the coattails of my momentum and try to at-least nail another Zegema Beach Records roster review. This write-up focuses on US band Modern Rifles and the (I guess) discography release that ZBR put to tape in early 2019. Modern Rifles existed between 2006 and 2009 and then 2011 to 2014 (source: OPENmind/SATURATEDbrain). This tape gathers together the songs from their 2008 album I Was Young, It Was Dark in addition to some extras for the completists. 

CanaDave wrote in his post linked above that Modern Rifles will appeal to those who listen to the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Recover, Hot Snakes and Russian Circles (amongst others). Any band that covers that range of sounds has gotta be good!

With fourteen songs, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth here (hint: at the time of writing there’s one copy still for sale on the ZBR bandcamp page!). ‘Introplane’ kicks things off with some excellent emo/alternative instrumentation that sounds way more cinematic than it should. Modern Rifles definitely had a penchant for expressive music. What an opening! ‘Terroplane’ switches gear and takes things in a more rocking direction, albeit with a heart on the sleeve. I’m getting the Jimmy Eat World/Recover comparisons for sure here, but I’m also hearing subtle nods to Boysetsfire and The Mars Volta too (but maybe that’s just me). I’m going to do my best to refrain from name-dropping now because this has already blown me away.

What’s clear when listening to ‘Lie To Me, Ian, Lie To Me’ is that I’ve been too focused on way too much heavy music lately. This song has such a nostalgic feel and structure to it, that it takes me back to when I was discovering more melodic bands back in the days of the Rock Sound Magazine sampler CDs. Sadly, that UK music mag went a bit downhill and then disappeared altogether. It helped to shape my love for alternative music, for which I’m forever grateful. ‘Feck Me If I’m Wrong, But Is That A Ham Sangie In Your Hands?’ takes on an indie form for a little bit, albeit with a proper upbeat tempo and strong vocal delivery. Even the introspective latter-section is anthemic as it flows into the driving, gang-vox filled ending.

The drums that open ‘United Lead’ sound so raw and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Modern Rifles are about to go full-on screamo but that’s not the case. Instead, you’re presented with a slightly melancholic ballad of sorts. It’s a change of pace from what’s come before but as it builds in volume, it also builds in intensity (as you’d expect). Another thing that’s evident on this release is their way with song titles. ‘Man The Ramparts! Bananalyze The Trade Winds! Is one such title that will probably leave you guessing (as it does me) but what won’t is the classy indie-rock instrumentation and clean vocals, which have been a mainstay of this record.

‘Illegal Dracula!!’ Is one of those danceable tracks that will bury itself in your head thanks to the catchy rhythm and urgency. It’s one of the most furious songs here too, yet it gives way abruptly to ‘Kip Winger’, which itself contains an abundance of off-kilter tempos and lovely melodic guitar, that nods to the mathy end of emo to these ears. Talking of Catchy, ’Say A Prayer To St. Happenin’’ is the epitome. It’s abundantly clear just how good Modern Rifles were when listening to this. It’s criminal that they didn’t reach more people.

Their music was so anthemic and ‘Manbird’ goes the extra mile in that respect. There’s an undertone of genuine angst but also so much elation flowing through it. For me, it sums up everything about Modern Rifles as a band. The pure instrumental wanderlust that emanates from ‘Chuck Woolery Is Leviathan’ is out of this world. This song closed out the I Was Young, It Was Dark and what a way to do so!

I really hoped ‘Enter The Craptagon’ would be a musical commentary about the circus that is UFC, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s actually another great alternative/indie song with enough curb appeal to reach beyond genre lines. That’s what is so good about this band. Penultimate song ‘Hot Stone Meat Party’ gives off extra experimental vibes without being too weird, because we all know that can frighten some people off. Brooding post-punk fills the speakers on collection closer ‘Broken Wings Make Broken Things’. It rounds things out in majestic fashion.

Over 16 years after the original album was released (and over five since this tape release), the music performed by Modern Rifles is still pure class. Thanks to the Internet, it hasn’t been lost to ages. If you’re unfamiliar, please remedy that now. Let’s cause a renaissance like never before! Awesome and genuinely uplifting. 

The full collection can be streamed and purchased digitally below (where a sole physical tape copy also exists, waiting to find it's forever home):-

You can also still grab tape copies from ZBR's US store here -

Modern Rifles -

Zegema Beach Records -

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