When Sixx A.M. released their debut album in 2007, The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, I was completely blown away. I knew nothing about Nikki Sixx’ new band members at all and therefore I had no expectations at all. Fact is, Sixx’ other side project Brides Of Destruction had left a whole lot to be desired so this new group didn’t actually increase any expectations for me. I only knew singer James Michael by name, having seen it on the credits next to Nikki’s on the tedious Mötley Crüe album New Tattoo (2000) and a couple of Meat Loaf tracks and guitarist D.J. Ashba I knew from being a hired hand in Axl Rose’s band that he likes to call Guns N’ Roses and also from a decent band called Beautiful Creatures, but nothing that would arouse me much. Also, when Sixx A.M. started, they were merely anything more than a studio project to accompany Sixx’ book “The Heroin Diaries”. But being a Crüe-fan, I couldn’t keep my hands off of Sixx A.M., of course and boy, was I glad that I didn’t. Their debut album is a masterpiece and to this day my hairs are all standing on an end when I hear that record – fucking fantastic! Still, no one knew if that band would do anything beyond that record. They did play live just a few times, but they only existed as a studio project. But when Sixx decided to release a book of his photographs the idea of releasing another Sixx A.M. record to accompany that one as well rose. In 2011 This Is Gonna Hurt was released at the same time as the book with the same name and even though my expectations were Mount Everest high, they still managed to come up with a record just as good as the debut. No, they actually bettered that record. Even though they used programmed drums, just as on the debut, This Is Gonna Hurt felt more authentic and alive and more like a band than its predecessor. And the songs then – WOW! This Is Gonna Hurt is one of the most clear cases of a 10/10 review I have ever written. Despite my problem with programmed drums, on this album it didn’t matter one bit. Mostly because they were very well done, but also the fact that the material was so strong that almost nothing could have ruined that album. It still holds a place in my heart as one of my favourite albums of all time. But still, only few concerts and no sign of being anything more than a side project for the band members. Fast forward to 2014 and all that would change. When it was time for a third record, the guys decided it was time to let Sixx A.M. stand on its own and be a REAL band, to cut a record that had nothing to do with any book and just make music for the sake of making music. With Mötley Crüe taking its last breaths as a touring act and Guns N’ Roses touring and recording most sporadically, the time was right to make Sixx A.M. the real band they deserve to be. And this time they decided it was time to use a live drummer as well. Say hello to Jeff Fabb – drummer.
So with their two first albums getting a 10/10 rating from me, I was wondering whether the guys would be able to step up to the task of repeating that for the third time in a row. I mean, getting a 8/10 rating after two 10/10 could look like a failure even though 8/10 is really, damn good. Besides, no one would blame them if they didn’t come up with a masterpiece this time. Still, knowing what these guys are capable of, a damn good record from them is expected and it’s something you could actually demand. The first time I heard anything from this album was when their first video for “Gotta Get It Right” was premiered and it was with great expectancy that I watched and listened to that tune the first time. Afterwards my reaction was a big HELL YEAH! because the song is quite superb. To me, this is a hit, it has the Sixx A.M. sound all over it, but with a big 50’s pop influence and the catchiness is instant. Putting on this album for the first time had me keeping my fingers crossed, hoping the rest of the album would keep what the first single had promised. First track “Stars” told me it would be so. An amazing track that apart from the usual Sixx A.M. sound has lots of both Sweet and Cheap Trick all over it. In my book, this is another single. To some people, American radio rock is an ugly moniker, but everything depends on just what you make of it. “Relief” is just that, American radio rock, but damn what a fantastic tune it is. Bands like Shinedown (which I really like) would sacrifice their moms for a song like this. “Get Ya Some” takes an even more unexpected turn with its mix of rock, 20’s cabaret and swing on an acoustic foundation, a turn I totally surrender to – this is a stroke of genius. The album’s only halt comes next, a cover of the old The Cars song “Drive”. Ok, so it’s not bad and I can see the reason for a cover like that on an album with a title like Modern Vintage, it’s just that the song itself isn’t good enough for a Sixx A.M. album, even though I’d take the cover over the original any day. The production on the song, however, isn’t all that clear and I find myself think about Mötley Crüe’s Generation Swine (1997) when I hear it. Now, I am one of the few who actually like Generation Swine, but it still doesn’t make sense. Cheap Trick comes back into the game, even though with a rougher edge, on the brilliant “Give Me A Love” and the Sixx A.M. meets Cheap Trick is really a match made in heaven. “Hyperventilate” is a Sixx A.M. rocker that sounds like it could have been written during the Heroin Diaries sessions, great stuff. “Miracle” takes an almost schizophrenic turn, mixing everything from funk to Saturday Night Fever kinda disco and Stock, Aitken & Waterman kind of pop, all wrapped up in the sound of Sixx A.M. – I can only smile about the fact that they actually pull it off. The closing track “Before It’s Over” brings us back to cabaret / dance hall with melodies not a far cry from what My Chemical Romance used to do – and they still made it rock. How damn brilliant!
If you decide to put your money on the deluxe edition, you get stripped versions of “Stars”, “Gotta Get It Right” and “Before It’s Over” which are all cool if you think it’s worth it. What’s worth it though, is the bonus track “Let It Haunt You (So Beautiful)”, a song that I wouldn’t want to be without. It’s a fantastic song that swings like crazy and I imagine the guys listening to Earth, Wind & Fire before writing this one. It really should have been in the regular track list, dammit! As a whole, this is – again – an amazing album. It grows after each listen, but for me, I was hooked after the first hit. It only takes one spin of this record to get where the title Modern Vintage is coming from because that is exactly what this record is – modern vintage. The influences, as you might have guessed from reading this review, comes from everywhere and it’s a totally unpredictable album. However, nothing here sound schizophrenic or split up, it always sounds like Sixx A.M. all the way through. I have no complaints about the production either. I love the smooth sound that still has a lot of raw moments, the way the album sounds clean, but never sterile and it’s very much alive much because the acoustic drums makes it even more living. I can’t find one song on this album that is even close to bad, even though “Drive” comes close to lower the rating, but no, that song isn’t mediocre enough to do so and the rest of the stuff is so high in quality its frightening. I think I wrote the same thing as an end note for This Is Gonna Hurt, but here it comes again: Good luck following this up, guys…
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
02. Gotta Get It Right
04. Get Ya Some
05. Let’s Go
07. Give Me A Love
09. High On The Music
11. Before It’s Over
Deluxe Edition bonus tracks:
12. Before It’s Over (Piano Ballad)
13. Stars (Cinematic)
14. Gotta Get It Right (Acoustic)
15. Let It Haunt You (So Beautiful)