Saturday, May 16, 2009

BOTM - Modern Eon

Wow...two weeks between posts - a new punctuality record. Don't worry readers, I won't let it get to my head. NOTE: It's now been about five weeks - so much for punctuality.

This week's band, Modern Eon, falls into the category of music I like to call, "How The Hell Did I Miss This" or HTHDIMT, for short(?). A bit of background first.

NOTE: "Bit of background" = John Galt's treatise on Objectivism in "Atlas Shrugged"

Through high school in the early/mid 80s, I pretty much took what local radio spoon fed. There were a few notable exceptions. For example, in the middle of buying all my Hall and Oates albums, I inexplicably bought a couple of Ramones albums. Inexplicable because I don't have any idea what drew me to buy them having never heard them before. I was a big Huey Lewis and the News fan and went to see them at Kiel Auditorium. I didn't know who the opening act was. Turns out that guy was pretty freaking great - Stevie Ray Vaughn - and I became a fan that night.

But I think back to a total random event that kind of defined my musical awareness. In 1984, while roaming the halls of Chaminade College Prep, we were shown a "promotional" movie for the school. One of the resident hall student was talking about the school, and being the great guy that he was, asked the "audience" if they wanted to listen to R.E.M. I had no idea who they were, but I remember the start of the song and when I later became a huge fan of that band, I realized that song was "Pretty Persuasion". All these seeds were being planted, but ironically, it took the hard, red clay soil of Oklahoma to get anything to emerge.

In the fall of 1985, I met the two Bens that would change my musical life. Ben Birge - a Poli Sci major from Orange County - a fan of all things ska. Ben Mesander - majoring in engineering . . . and nihilism - a fan of all things noisy. In those first four months, Dire Straits was supplemented with Dead Kennedys, Steely Dan with The Specials. My best friend, Chris Coughlin, got a new roommate in the spring '86 semester and he brought with him a Bang and Olfsun stereo, which served to blast out my new discoveries as well as make additional introductions - including R.E.M.

For the next two years, I think I spent most of my time trying to find the obscure, the sublime, the ridiculous - in other words, I became one of those tools who tried to be "professorial" with their musical knowledge - those of you who visited Vintage Vinyl with any regulatity in the late 80s/early 90s might be able to conjure up a name or two here. It took my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) threatening me with forced celebacy along with the purchase of "Bedrock Vice" by Thrashing Doves - bought solely because I liked the name of the band - to snap me out of it.

The funny thing is, my wife ended up having a much better track record of finding new music in the time before we got married and after that, we kind of settled into what we had. Then Napster came along. My nephew introduced me to it on a 14.4K dial-up connection one night in late 1999. The next day I had it, along with RealPlayer Jukebox. And while Napster was the vehicle, directions (and finally our connection to our Band of the Week) came from Jukebox.

Even in the nascent days of these programs, someone with a lot of time and a greater depth of musical knowledge than I started creating the "If You Liked ___________, You Might Also Like." I don't even remember what I was listening to when I eventually got to Modern Eon - much like I would imagine you, the reader, can't remember what you were doing when you started reading this . . . yesterday.

When I searched for Modern Eon on Napster, I came up snake eyes for several days. During that time, a friend of mine told me about Audiogalaxy Satellite, so I tried there. Jackpot! So, I downloaded "Choreography" (at work, since the connection was faster - we had blazing fast ISDN!!!). By the time, the propellant, tom-based and cymbal crashing finale faded I was hooked and looking for more.

Modern Eon formed in Liverpool in 1978. Several other bands, several with greater prominence, were emerging from Liverpool around this same time - Echo and the Bunnyman, Teardrop Explodes, Orchestral Manouvers in the Dark (that is the first and ONLY time that band will be mentioned in this blog ... or your money back!). However, what set Modern Eon apart was a combination of odd, yet familiar-sounding, analog electronic fade ins and outs, sharp toned guitar parts, judicious saxophone, and most importantly, the propulsive drumming of Cliff Hewitt.

While the band had recorded one local album and a couple of singles on smaller labels prior to Hewitt joining the band in late 1980. In early '81, Modern Eon released "Fiction Tales"and rehearsals for a tour supporting The Stranglers were underway...momentum was building for the band, but during those rehearsals, Hewitt suffered a critical injury to his wrist. The dummer gamely tried to continue, helping the band deliver an acclaimed performance on The John Peel Show later that spring, but after a few additional dates, it was clear the injury would prevent him from playing on the tour. The band tried a novel solution - use Hewitt's taped drum tracks on tour and have Hewitt play the tapes. This allowed Modern Eon to finish up the tour and Hewitt was back behind the kit when they began working on demos for a follow-up at the end of 1981. But by the spring of '82, Modern Eon's eon had ended. The band members all moved to other bands or production. Tim Lever, the band's guitarist and saxophonist enjoying commercial success that alluded Modern Eon as a member of Dead or Alive.

So why in the hell would I spend this much time discussing a band that barely registered on the radar? That released one album, had one, essentially regional, tour before breaking up? It starts with Cliff Hewitt's drumming and sonically works its way up to Alix's voice. While most folks would point to Joy Division as the deliniation point in the transition from punk and post punk - as well as its standard bearer, Modern Eon is my dark horse for this title. It's obvious both bands (Modern Eon and Joy Division) distilled similar references.

Modern Eon has a smaller body of work to judge, but to my ear, I hear Modern Eon's influences in many more bands, even though most of those lack Hewitt's unusual drumming technique. I'm certain, for the most part, the bands I'm thinking of, likely had little, if any recollection of Modern Eon - but I hear parts in songs by The Ocean Blue, Lush, Cocteau Twins, Ride, Radiohead, some Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, etc... and can come back to the gripping best parts of Modern Eon's regretfully too few songs.

There's also some appeal to me in the fact that they are still largely 'undiscovered'. In younger days, I would have used the words "criminally underrated", but that's the crutch of writer who doesn't have a good close. In my case, I haven't had a good open, middle, or close. Also, I don't want Modern Eon to be criminally underrated - you can judge for yourself by going to:

THE REASON THIS IS LATE: The site above is a good space - and then there's YouTube. Ijust the last few days, I came across a song by Modern Eon I'd never heard - Splash! - ( - and I like it even more than the four songs you can hear from the MySpace link. While enjoying every second of this song, I can't suppress the melancholy feelings that Modern Eon got kicked to the curb entirely too early.

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