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Full Throttle Rock

Album Review: Sixx: AM. - Modern Vintage

Posted on November 21, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Sixx: AM. - Modern Vintage

Written by Antony Scholefield


A producer, an '80s metalhead, and a guitarist who receives two tons of hate-mail daily all walk into a bar. Or somewhere like that. They form a band, and start pumping out albums every three years.

The band is Sixx: AM. and the latest album is Modern Vintage. Singer/producer James Michael does the vocals, Mötley Crüe founder Nikki Sixx does the bass, and Guns 'N Roses-guitarist-who-isn't-Slash DJ Ashba does the axe-work. Given that the production backgrounds of Michael and Ashba, however, there's a helluva lot more happening too.

Overall the album does what it says on the cover. Most songs ride on bruising riffs torn from '80s hair metal, but they're also infused with cutting-edge pop sensibilities. The choruses are catchy enough to make Robbie Williams jealous - or whichever pop idol the 13-year-olds are listening to now. (I have no idea.)

Opening track 'Stars' is a straightforward blast of pop-punk. It's heavy. It's catchy. Ashba delivers the goods during the guitar break. It's just what's needed to explode out of the blocks. The pop-anthemic 'Gotta Get It Right' keeps the energy levels high, while the melodramatic 'Relief' soars to an upbeat finish. Then everything's undercut with the low-key, über-kooky 'Get Ya Some'. If the album opened with 'Get Ya Some', you'd think it was another Nikki Sixx in this band, not the hair metal superstar. But it's still a great song, and nestled between several fuel-injected rockers, it'll keep listeners on their toes.

This intelligent pacing/balance probably stems from the behind-the-scenes experience of Michael and Ashba. The split between modern and vintage influences is decibel-perfect, just like the mix of classic metal and alternative mould-breakers. 'Hyperventilate' is a 50-50 split between old-school rock and contemporary kookiness. It's like Queens Of The Stone Age after a six-pack of energy drinks, with one of the catchiest choruses of the batch.

Another genre-fusing number is 'Miracle.' It boasts a driving two-part riff, half low and shifting, half broad and sweeping, which is all rock. Yet Michael's falsetto and the danceable beat are pure pop. It's like the most hardcore Scissor Sisters cover imaginable. The only problem with Modern Vintage is track six: a cover of the Cars' 'Drive.' It doesn't fit the album and doesn't add anything to the oft-covered ballad. Chop it out and you've got a top-line ten-track album.

A few people probably want to slice things down to nine tracks, because finale 'Before It's Over' is a long way out there. Its semi-acoustic strangeness owes something to alt-pop trio The Cure. (Surely that influence comes from Michael. Can you imagine Nikki Sixx listening to 'Lovecats'? I'd love him to prove me wrong, though.)

Rightly or wrongly, however, I'll back in 'Before It's Over.' Yes, it's country-pop on drugs, but it's like nothing else you'll hear right now. That's good, isn't it? Of course it is. I hope that doesn't make Sixx: AM. seem like a passing curiosity. Modern Vintage went number one on the Billboard rock charts, higher than the final Mötley Crüe album. It's equal parts hip and badass. Sixx: AM. don't just do what they say on the cover. They nail it.

Categories: Album Reviews

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