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Modern Life Is War - Midnight in America (Cover Artwork)

Modern Life Is War

Modern Life Is War: Midnight in AmericaMidnight in America (2007)
Equal Vision Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: InaGreendaseBrian
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Hardcore bands can't live it down. Ever. "Well, it's not as good as _____." That's the response you're likely to get when a band of this variety tries to follow up a breakout record. Just about every time. Modern Life Is War's Witness was hailed across the board by both fan and critic in 2005, an.
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Hardcore bands can't live it down. Ever. "Well, it's not as good as _____." That's the response you're likely to get when a band of this variety tries to follow up a breakout record. Just about every time.

Modern Life Is War's Witness was hailed across the board by both fan and critic in 2005, anchored by the band's dark, broodingly black and white style and frontman Jeff Eaton's personal and social reflections. It was considerably "slow" for the genre, a few notches below even the faster tempos of the band's debut, but it was also considerably deeper for it, too. It was nine momentous songs, a practice in restraint that arguably spawned as many followers in the last two years since its release as the band's 2003 debut has in the last four.

Having amassed one of the largest followings in its scene, Equal Vision Records came calling, making arguably its biggest hardcore signing in six years. Cue even more hype. Could one of the smartest, most original and creative bands labelled with such a tag in years deliver?

For the most part, yes.

If nothing else, Midnight in America is easily the band's most diverse effort to date without offering any clichéd surprises that might strike fans as grotesque (upbeat melodic singing, forced metallic sheen, unnecessary breakdowns) when it comes to progressing hardcore acts. That isn't to say the band plays it safe, though.

"Useless Generation" comes sprinting out of the gate with Eaton commencing a furious drum roll with the line "cut through the haze," then finds the band experimenting with strange, bouncy riffs that nearly sound like Dillinger Escape Plan at their most raw and simple foundation. "Fuck the Sex Pistols" is as 1-2-fuck-you as the band have been in some time, blasting through an intense, minute-long middle finger to anyone believing music peaked at any given time in its history. "Stagger Lee" is the band's version of a story about a murderer in 1895, a tale that's already been immortalized in countless songs (initially as blues folk) the past century; the band essentially quotes the St. Louis Globe-Democrat's article at the time word for word, but it's narrated by Eaton convincingly and comes off as a wonderful little experiment.

The few times the band seems to stylistically navel-gaze, it ends up sounding like a perfect, well-executed progression on past tendencies. "Screaming at the Moon," arguably the album's best track, is in the vein of Witness's first third with pulsating, stomping guitar chords, while "Night Shift at the Potato Factory" reels forward with a tempo more reminiscent of My Love, My Way, yet with alternating backup screams that give the song an immediate dynamic. "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns" closes as crushingly as the band has sounded since My Love, My Way's "Breaking the Cycle." "These Mad Dogs of Glory" takes any epic trait from Witness and magnifies it tenfold, the group shouts of the song title may as well being a repeated clip of the Spartans in "300." The title track closes the album, a mid-tempo, mammoth, enthralling piece sparked by the gravelly, demonic growl of cohort and Iowan folky Brooks Strause.

Outside of Dan Yemin, Eaton is still possibly the best lyricist in hardcore, by the way. Not once does he force his "small town" persona despite all the critical celebrations for the expressions of his background, but he doesn't ignore it, either. The dreariness of dead-end working class life and the motivation to find something better is conveyed perfectly in "Night Shift," even when rhymes that sound Dr. Seuss-esque on paper flow in stereo like wine ("Pledge no loyalty to anything but your dreams. / Stuck in a rut. / They'll give you just enough to keep your mouth shut. / Waste of talent. / Daily degradation. / You better get moving kid, cause time's a wastin'").

J. Robbins does his part, finishing Midnight in America with a coating that's not necessarily stone raw, but hardly glossy. He doesn't once interfere with the band's sound, merely soaking it with the gray, gravelly finish they sound so well in.

Midnight in America may not cause as big an influence as the band's past records have, and it may not have not quite as much lasting value as Witness, so granted, the band will likely find themselves to be victims of that above quote. However, they've come as close as possible to eclipsing it, and recorded 11 more songs that would make a perfect addition to their explosive live show. They've also added an album to their catalogue that's as deserving of the accolades they've already received for attempting to usher in a wave of forward-thinking acts in a genre stocked with pure past rehashing.

Stagger Lee
The Motorcycle Boy Reigns

STREAM
Humble Streets

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
automatic333 (December 2, 2009)

This album gets better everytime I listen to it. Punk/hardcore needs these guys back.

nebraska (December 15, 2008)

this is one of the best hardcore albums of all time. bar none.

blissguy (July 24, 2008)

All mliw fucking rock. Too bad they broke up. Destination: death or better days........................ Now go buy the new 36 crazyfists record, it'll kick you in the junk

TR (April 10, 2008)

Best HC band since American Nightmare.

victim (October 11, 2007)

I don't know if Eaton is "the best lyricist in hard-core" or not, because I don't listen to alot of hardcore. I also think its subtle because he has a way of turning phrases that sort of come out of know where and surprise you

Jesus Chris looked down on the school kids
And they were duck-and-covering
But it doesn't matter anyway
Cuz the second comings been cancelled
Since sometime around 1982

Thats from memory but its something like and thats besides the more blunt ones like "masturbation: satisfaction guaranteed"

I admit to not being overly stoked for this record because it seems to sound a bit more like My Life, My Way but I can see where they've made some advances too.

Anonymous (August 28, 2007)

Vocalyouth, that's really odd. I mean, I've seen em play trashed a few times, but that usually means Jeff is just jumping around tons more. How was the crowd's repsonse to them? Maybe that had something to do with it.

The crowd response is rarely overwhelming in Western PA. I mean, naturally there are exceptions, especially for local bands, but it's generally disappointing from my perspective.

-Meg

Anonymous (August 23, 2007)

you are acting really aggro. do you act like this at shows? put on your Nike Dunks, track shorts and your favorite tough guy band tee? hit kids standing nowhere near the dance floor?
People like you are the reason I don't attend shows like this anymore. You ruined metal. You ruined hardcore. Move on to the next trend, and leave us alone.
And for the record i think MLIW is a decent band, but the comments on this review attest to how "bro" some of their fans are.

Anonymous (August 23, 2007)

Yeah, everybody's laughing at you. But you're probably used to that.

Hah. You dumb fucker, if anyone's laughing, it's at you. So much tough guy bullshit in your post. Pull your head out of your ass and grow the fuck up.

Or are you going to threaten to "help me eat my words" too? Loser.

Anonymous (August 23, 2007)

sorry but i thought this was terrible.really watered down to me. oh well.

LeightonESmith (August 23, 2007)

Score is for the conversation below.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

No, I didn't say "eat shit". Read harder, you scary-witted internerd.

I shouldn't be listening to hardcore? Trust me, I was involved in the scene when you were asking your mom to sew the Priest backpatch on your sweet denim, douche.

I don't know where you're located but I'd be more than happy to help you eat your words on a face to face basis.

If Hardcore sucks these days, broadband crusaders with nothing to back it up (YOU), are the reason why.

Yeah, everybody's laughing at you. But you're probably used to that.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

did you not just say don't tell people to "eat shit" and then follow it up with "eat shit"? you must be the one chilling in mom's basement wacking it to some obscure band, having no life and plenty of time to expand your impressive "knowledge".

also, if you take offense to things like that, you probably shouldn't be listening to hardcore or on punk news in the first place.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

OK, load. I don't even know what pitchfork media is, but if their assesment of the CD was anything like mine, then they are obvioulsy on the money. Don't tell someone you don't know to "eat shit". Pretend we're standing in a rec hall having this conversation while your favorite band is playing their set. You wouldn't say that to me, would you? Typical message board toughie who probably weighs a buck forty and lives in mom's basement. Additionally, my knowledge of HC greatly exceeds yours. Trust in it.

"Muscular indie-rock? Eat shit. You have some time until your actual stock of knowledge (hardcore especially, and indie apparently) measures up to your ability to sneeze out clever descriptions that you bit from Pitchfork Media."

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

They aren't trying to come across as punk purists; they're criticizing the punk purists. You know, those studded wash-ups who can't stop talking about the "glory days" of punk rock and refuse to acknowledge anything past the early '80s as relevant or worthwhile. I don't think it takes "arrogance" to tell those people to shut the fuck up, and there's nothing "myopic" or short-sighted about doing it. Honestly, the song is a minute-long anyways. Take it for what it's worth: a bratty, barely rehearsed half-rant on douchebags who are stuck in the past.

Muscular indie-rock? Eat shit. You have some time until your actual stock of knowledge (hardcore especially, and indie apparently) measures up to your ability to sneeze out clever descriptions that you bit from Pitchfork Media.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

you can tell from the way the bass drum sounds they're all on coke.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

Eaton and Dan Yemin as best HC lyricists? Come on, bro..you need to broaden your palatte a bit more than that if you're going to be reviewing records.

MLiW have started buying their own press. Fuck the Sex Pistols is so blazingly arrogant and myopic, if the band is not embarrassed by it, they should be.

They are talented and work very hard but how can you try to come off as such punk purists while your band is starting to sound like muscular indie-rock?

elephantdwarf (August 22, 2007)

but overanalyzing music is what reviews are all about! duh!

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

great record!

stop over analyzing music! it's so annoying. If you like it, good, I'm happy for you, if you don't, good, I'm happy for you too.

theonetruebill (August 22, 2007)

This definitely does not fit the definition of "All Go No Slow."

theyounginfluential (August 22, 2007)

I love this album. the best song is Fuck The Sex Pistols

elephantdwarf (August 22, 2007)

you say that people need to make stuff up to dislike MLIW and everything being said about them is based on nothing. but you are clearly illiterate, since i think i recall all of the comments on here about them being a bad band having reasons behind them saying such. stop sucking the proverbial dong.

sirens (August 22, 2007)

Fuck having preferences, right Eliot?

Elliot (August 22, 2007)

It really seems like people have to try to come up with negative stuff to say about Modern Life Is War, because all of the negative comments here are based on nothing.

They don't sound uninterested on the album, they don't have a bad live show, and they are definitely not a doorstop. This band is phenomenal, and everybody needs to stop pretending otherwise.

danperrone (August 22, 2007)

very let down by this...the band sounds so uninterested

LeightonESmith (August 22, 2007)

This is an an alright album. I was so dirty with Witness after liking their first album so much but it grew on me. I'm sure this will grow as well but its certainly not as good as their previous work.

On another point: check out an Aussie band called Samsara.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

"Kiddie-core. Trend-core. Faux politi-core.

You can call it that, as many do.

Or you can also call it like it is with more accurate language: mediocre. Boring. Taking up empty space while the scene sheds its skin.

This band is the proverbial doorstop of mainstream modern hardcore. I can't wait until it's over."

Fuck you.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

Brian, this is an excellent review. With some of the recent rubbish posted on this site I need to give credit where it is due. It's informative, intelligent, and well written. You did your research before the review and it shows. Well done and please keep reviewing.

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

Kiddie-core. Trend-core. Faux politi-core.

You can call it that, as many do.

Or you can also call it like it is with more accurate language: mediocre. Boring. Taking up empty space while the scene sheds its skin.

This band is the proverbial doorstop of mainstream modern hardcore. I can't wait until it's over.

elephantdwarf (August 22, 2007)

where's the Black Cross and Coliseum reviews!?

Anonymous (August 22, 2007)

that brookes strauss guy kicks ass...it kind of bums me out that his part is the part that grabs my attention the most.

i like this cd a lot but my one complaint is that a lot of the songs sound the same, with some of this stuff sounding like any hardcore band in the world could have written it. good, not great.

onegirlarmy (August 21, 2007)

Vocal youth, you've must have seen them on bad nights or have bad luck with them, every time I've seen them they've been incredible. And I've seen them a few times.

xdannylionx (August 21, 2007)

i've seen Modern Life Is War in front of 250 kids and like 30 kids and both times they had everyone singing along and we're playing with more energy then almost any other band i've seen.

vocalyouth (August 21, 2007)

Crowd response was mixed, but I think the crowd was into them, and then stopped being into them since the band didn't seem into it. Either way, all 3 times were awkward and bad. Not even Deadramones got people back on board last time.

colin (August 21, 2007)

i really want to love this but at times the lyrics just turn me off and at others the music. nothing seems to fit yet or feel right, and "stagger lee" just seems awkward with the sudden writing style change.

but the fourth song on this fucking rips.

and it still is better than 90% of modern hardcore

DiscoFucker (August 21, 2007)

Vocalyouth, that's really odd. I mean, I've seen em play trashed a few times, but that usually means Jeff is just jumping around tons more. How was the crowd's repsonse to them? Maybe that had something to do with it.

vocalyouth (August 21, 2007)

Explosive live show, huh? If you mean explosive by standing there looking bored, then yes, MLIW is explosive. Maybe explosive means turning up the amps so loud that you can't hear the drums or vocals. Explosive could mean insincere, too, rolling up to all ages shows completely hammered and lying about how much you loved the opening bands that you didn't even bother to come in and see. Witness is such a good record but they sortof wrecked it for me.

I loved MLIW until I saw them live 3 times and I was really bummed out every time. No energy at all. Sounded like shit and looked like they didn't want to be there. Maybe they just hate this area. I would give them another chance because they are the first hardcore band in ages that I've enjoyed, but it's rare to see a band have a bad night 3 times over the course of like 4 months. I'd think i would see this supposed great live show at some point.

Either way, I'm still interested in this album. I don't mean to sound like a baby either, it just sucks when you get really really into an album or band and the band just plays like shit. Just reading that quote reminded me of how much this band bummed me out live, that's all. Hopefully they come back through and rule, though. Cause I still like them on record, at least.

jt (August 21, 2007)

i need to pick this up

Anonymous (August 21, 2007)

Dan Yemin best lyricist in hardcore? Are you kidding?

If you had said guitarist I probably would've been with you..

conduit (August 21, 2007)

This record is fucking mindblowing. Some of the best guitarwork i've ever heard on a hardcore album as well. Totally not dissapointed, and my expectations were ultra high, so thats saying alot.

Anonymous (August 21, 2007)

this album is way good. the stagger lee 7" is pretty cool too.

Anonymous (August 21, 2007)

amazing band. i just met a girl from marshalltown. what a terrible place.

sickboi (August 21, 2007)

Decent album, but I'd still say Down To Nothing's record is the best hardcore album I've heard so far...

-chris

k-dubs (August 21, 2007)

members of some girls love this album.

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