Discovering a band that named itself after a Banner Pilot song sure made me feel old. I came across Modern Shakes at the recent Dopamines show at the New Cross Inn in London and was pretty impressed. Modern Shakes are a London-based melodic punk band whose first proper release, the ‘Murmurs’ EP, certainly demonstrates a lot of those typical Banner Pilot traits: mid-tempo melodic punk with bittersweet guitar melodies, those melancholic yet uplifting choruses, aching vocals and romantic lyrics. The song titles even evoke Banner Pilot, “Red Lines”, “Ivana” or “Sundials”. On “Redlines”, I am pretty sure there is an intentional reference to Banner Pilot too, with the line: “we’re miles from where we wanna be” (“Letterbox”, FYI).
Despite the clear influence though, Modern Shakes do plenty with this Midwest-inspired form of pop-punk. There is much to enjoy here amid the earworm hooks and gang vocals. The guitar leads on “Freefall” and “Sundials” are beautiful, evoking that fine line between hope and regret. The mid-tempo melodies, introspective lyrics and the well-produced yet gritty punk feel brings to mind fellow London punks Burnt Tapes and Triple Sundae. If they haven’t played on a bill together yet, you imagine that they will do in the near future. By far my favourite track on the EP is “Ivana”, a bouncy Fest punk sing-a-long if I ever heard one; it recalls the anthemic qualities of bands like Elway or the Lawrence Arms songs written by Chris, with more than a hint of mid-career Alkaline Trio, too. The chorus is pretty memorable: “Don’t you miss the crowded bars and hangovers? Are you tired of basement shows and all-dayers?” and I love that the track ends somewhat suddenly with a pained wail of “I got a lot of things to saaaaay”. Meanwhile, “Redlines” is the most Midwestern-y, with the verses reminding me a touch of The Manix and the singalong part at the end of the song suggesting The Copyrights: “Can we make mistakes along the way?”
On first listen, Modern Shakes sound a little generic and a little too Banner Pilot influenced, but, while uneven, the ‘Murmurs’ EP is promising and has a lot of positive qualities. If nothing else, “Ivana” is going down as one of my favourite punk tracks so far from 2019.
Check the EP out here: https://modernshakesband.bandcamp.com/releases