Sound — 7
Nikki Sixx is one of those musicians that can't keep still, for better or for worse. Having worked in two bands prior to his magnum opus band Mötley Crüe, Sixx has also jumped in and out of numerous other projects throughout the past few decades while not having his hands full with Mötley Crüe. However, his most recent music project, Sixx:A.M., is the most ego-centric of his laundry-list of bands, seeing as it was originally created to record "The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack," an album that directly correlated with his autobiography. The outcome of this concept worked well, but Sixx wouldn't be able to make lightning strike twice, and as the project's follow-up album, "This Is Gonna Hurt," attempted the exact same strategy of working interdependently with Sixx's next book of the same title, it received substantially colder reception than its predecessor. Though Sixx is currently busy with the final Mötley Crüe tour (for real this time; contractually-enforced!) and the slight possibility of one last album from the veteran metal band, Sixx:A.M. have released their third album, "Modern Vintage."
Based on pattern, the first thought that may come is "what new book is Sixx pushing this time?" Well, they finally broke that pattern here, and "Modern Vintage" is the first Sixx:A.M. album that's just an album standing on its own. Though that pattern may be broken, "Modern Vintage" starts right out the gate exactly as one would expect it to, and the hard rocker "Stars" has Sixx:A.M. putting their best foot forward first with flanger-infused riffs, interesting rhythm sections and frenetic lead guitar work - of course, by putting that best foot forward, they unwittingly eclipse the other hard rockers on the album ("Give Me a Love," "Hyperventilate" and "High on the Music" in particular are rendered lackluster in the later stretch of the album).
However, Sixx:A.M. branch out in their sound in the album, and in contrast to the previous "This Is Gonna Hurt," which detrimentally banked too much on contemporary hard rock, "Modern Vintage" touts a variance of different sound influences. The righteous, gospel-esque power of the group vocals in "Gotta Get It Right" shine strong like Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is"; the primarily-acoustic "Get Ya Some" tries out a different flavor with a strong Latin music influence; "Miracle" wields a funky guitar, groovy bass and dance-inducing drumbeats to provide a splash of disco in the hard rock base; and the ending "Before It's Over" goes from rockabilly-influenced guitar riffing to big swing band elements like piano and horn sections. Even their cover of The Cars' "Drive" provides a new side to Sixx:A.M., being driven by a large arrangement of synthesizers, though this may be particularly jarring for the Sixx fans that don't want to stray far from the good ol' rock. Generally, the numerous curveballs thrown in "Modern Vintage" may feel weird, but more than that, they breathe fresh air into what Sixx:A.M. is capable of doing.
Lyrics — 6
"Modern Vintage" may not technically be a concept album, but it's not hard to realize that the many narratives brought forth in the lyrics are more stories inspired by true events in Sixx's past just like Sixx:A.M.'s previous albums. Amongst the general depiction of debauchery in "Get Ya Some" and the one-night-stand-evoking "Stars," most of the stories told in the lyrics deal with the strenuous situations of relationships; these end up being the most interesting and detailed songs on the album, like the attempts for reconciliation in "Gotta Get It Right" and "Before It's Over," and the plea for a healthy and supportive companionship in "Give Me a Love." "Relief" and "Hyperventilate" are about the more positive outlook of a relationship saving both people from themselves, though this message rings similar to the "This Is Gonna Hurt" song "Help Is on the Way." There's also an overlap of message in the inspirational songs "Let's Go" and "Miracle" but that's more or less because of the general territory of uplifters. And with the bland and uninspired message of world peace in "High on the Music," Sixx:A.M. may need to work harder on the quality of their lyrics that don't lean on stories from the members' past.
Overall Impression — 6
While Sixx has partly helped prolong Mötley Crüe's end to an arduous degree, Sixx shows no desire to retire even after the end of Crüe, and shows that his work can and may continue on with Sixx:A.M., which at this point, seems worthy of continuing on as a project. As opposed to first coming off like a band simply meant to make "happy meal toy" albums accompanying whatever book Sixx had published, "Modern Vintage" has Sixx:A.M. mixing things up to pique proper interest, and ultimately, walking on its own; self-realized and doing what they want to do. Whether or not that final Mötley Crüe album will actually come to fruition, if Sixx still has songwriting oil to drill up, Sixx:A.M. is a suitable vessel for it.