Band Name: The Five Mod Four
Album Name: Whiskers
Best Element: Humble, affecting songwriting
Label Name: Contraphonic Records (www.contraphonic.com)
Band E-mail: www.myspace.com/thefivemodfour
Whiskers, the latest release by the Milwaukee quartet The Five Mod Four, is comprised of twelve bittersweet tunes. For the most part, the instrumentals of the Five Mod Four, including glockenspiel, farfisa, and cabasa, are admirable. The quartet’s unadorned, un-tampered guitar rock (distortion and effect free) and simple percussion are humble enough to find attractive. That’s the sweet.
All is well (here comes the bitter) until frontman Michael Wojtasiak sidles in with what he has apparently bamboozled people into believing is “sardonic wit.” Apparently what some are naïve enough to believe is “wit,” I call “off key.” And I’m not talking about the give-‘em-a-break-they’re-indie type of off-key. I mean the kind where the vocals are so often out of tune that listening becomes a burden. Unfortunately, the opinion I hold is not based off simply one or two tracks. Wojtasiak’s vocals consistently annoy throughout. There are select times when a vocal harmony is produced and is extremely welcomed, yet if Whiskers is an inside joke, I must be on the outside.
Elliot Smith frequently recorded tracks in his apartment on borrowed four-track cassette machines that would be released free of studio touchups. Although only three of the twelve tracks on Whiskers were actually recorded at home, the rest feel it as well. The problem is that Elliot Smith could pass off home-recordings as “personal.” The Five Mod Four cannot. Whether the recording style used on Whiskers was meant to be, or The Five Mod Four just didn’t have the cash to snag a quality producer, the album seems very distant and very primitive. Of course, that still wouldn’t stop them from playing a quality live show. Maybe that’s where the sardonic wit comes in.
“Rock and roll is here to die,” sings Wojtasiak. Oddly enough, I’m afraid Whiskers is damned for the same outcome.