February 12, 2013 - Max/Interscope
Smartly anticipating blowback from dubstep purists, U.K. quartet Modestep readily put their true intentions on the record—both printed and musical. Brothers Josh and Tony Friend aren’t afraid to namecheck stadium titans from Michael Jackson to Pink Floyd as inspirations, nor are they loath to make those influences apparent on the widescreen Evolution Theory – a debut you can either sniffily dismiss as “rockstep” or view, more charitably, as a chilled-out Muse with an EDM makeover. The Friends, joined here by drummer Matt Curtis and guitarist Nick Tsang, admit that the electronic elements of their sound are secondary to the songs, something you can even hear in the musical way the bass-dropping is deployed. So that means it’s down to the tunes themselves, which are certainly serviceable, though seldom spectacular. It’s fun hearing a pop effort like “Another Day” or Slipknotted metal such as “Freedom” get a twisted dubstep kick, and “Show Me A Sign,” a blindingly overt invitation to Bic flick, is certainly an arena-ready opening statement. But confessing your mainstream aspirations as PR gambit is one thing; hearing those goals made manifest in a song like “Saved The World” can be akin to leading with your chin. Over 15 cuts, the predominantly polite, reggae-inflected pop wears as thin as it might in other contexts, minus the dubstep rhythms. And while electronic music fans are not always a lyrics-first bunch, the sentiments here will probably sound better shouted at Glastonbury or Coachella than examined via earbuds. So forget snarky critiques based on made-up musical genres: the old-fashioned musical values Modestep espouses lead to the oldest -fashioned musical criticism.