Dubstep and Experimentation, to Say the Least
Modestep’s second album, London Road, exemplifies a group that is clearly creative, but still experimenting to find its core strengths. While dubstep is the predominant feature of their songs, they branch out into other sounds and genres that seem totally disconnected and, at times, random. On the one hand, this demonstrates musical diversity within the group, but on the other, it perhaps indicates a lack of identity; what is the common thread tying all of their songs together, and what is the essential character of their music?
One key example is the song “Circles.” It has a distinctly Latin flare and borders on a tribal type of music at first. This is mixed with electro-dance elements and, of course, dubstep. Then, after several verses, when the listener believes this is the constant flow of the song, it suddenly shifts gears to a brief monologue on war and Uruguay, then concluding with a few measures of screamo. Not only are these moves within the song inconsistent with each other, but this song itself seems inconsistent with the rest of the album. There are a few other misfit tracks as well, some of them utilizing hip-hop in addition to the prior types of music.
One of the most promising songs on London Road, however, is the opening track, “Damien.” Here, Modestep strikes a nice balance of incorporating elements from diverse genres while also flowing well from one portion of the song to another. For example, “Damien” opens with an orchestral beginning, the type that could issue straight from a thriller or murder-mystery film; then it breaks, not into lyrics, but into a shouted soliloquy and powerful dubstep. The contrasts in this song works, for they fit well into their respective places and create an appealing sound.
“Make You Mine” contains more lyrics than the preceding tracks and is very catchy. It creates a more mainstream sound, complete with an attention-getting chorus and tasteful back-up vocals. Several of the remaining songs on the album follow the precedent of “Make You Mine” by projecting more traditional lyrics. It’s notable, however, that none of these songs are for tender ears, since most, if not all, contain less-than immaculate language.
That said, Modestep may still be finding its identity as a group, but the most key elements of its songs come from Josh Friend, singer and producer, and Tony Friend, DJ and producer. They are the only members who have been constant presences since the group’s inception in 2010 and are responsible for the most salient features of the group’s music, such as the dubstep. Only time will tell, however, if they try to draw together the divergent sounds present in their discography, or if they continue to splinter occasionally into different genres.