A Classic From the 80s – Or From Right Now? If this band had been around in the 80s and had recorded this album then – an era it easily could date from, had the band members not been in diapers or not yet born – it would be a cult classic today, and they would be packing clubs full of kids younger than they are now. On their fourth cd, Here, New York art-rockers Changing Modes leap from one radically dissimilar style to another with gusto, guile and a tunefulness that won’t quit. Blending classical flourishes, punk energy, playful and clever lyrics that draw on 80s new wave and a ubiquitous element of surprise, every time you think you’ve got them figured out, they drop something new on you. They have two first-rate lead singers and one of them plays the theremin – in a way that’s not cheesy or precious. The songs here, most of them clocking in at barely three minutes apiece, evoke such diverse acts as Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Adverts, Captain Beefheart, Pamelia Kurstin and the Go-Go’s. Ironically, the simplest song on the album is the best – and it might be the best song any band has released this year. Moles, about the “mole people” living deep in the bowels of the New York City subway, is a scampering, ridiculously catchy, jaggedly sinister punk/new wave hit: “Your life underground is not what it seems, it’s worse than your strangest nightmares and better than your wildest dreams.” It goes out on Yuzuru Sadashige’s screaming, off-kilter reverb guitar crescendo, straight out of the Doctors of Madness playbook. The Great Beyond takes a pensive pop ballad and sends it tumbling into the abyss with some ominous Bernard Herrmann atmospherics, while the title track evokes Siouxsie with its eerie, lo-fi organ and skronky guitar – and a stark, classically-tinged piano bridge that comes out of nowhere but makes a perfect fit. Bookended with a handful of lolcat string synth flourishes, Louise is singer/keyboardist Wendy Griffiths’ stomping powerpop tribute to a furry friend: love ultimately conquers all. Scratchy new wave/punk-pop, like the Cars with a college degree, Cell to Cell features a bizarre, noisy guitar solo from Sadashige, Beefheart as played by PiL’s Keith Levene, maybe. The rest of the album includes an uneasy, ornate ballad sung with effortless, soaring abandon by theremin player Jen Rondeau; a blistering ska-punk number; a playful new wave pop tune with a theremin solo, and a couple of jaunty vaudevillian numbers, one possibly about the evils of gentrification, the other a sarcastic sendup of catty drama queens. Count this among the half-dozen or so best albums of 2010 so far.” - Lucid Culture

Lucid Culture

The ever changing music of "Changing Modes Many people are locked into one musical era, genre or type.  Too bad too, because those people will always miss out on music that is truly interesting and innovative.  If you thought you had my love of pop music pegged by reading or listening to the music reviewed here so far, then hold on to your hats!  Enter Changing Modes and their 2010 CD, Here.  Changing Modes isn't your average pop or rock band. Their influences range from progressive rock to modern rock, jazz and classical.  While the bulk of this review highlights the talents of the vocalists and major instrumentalists, not enough can be said for the roles of David Oromander (drums, vocals, trumpet) and Grace Pulliam (vocals, percussion) who add all the right touches throughout.  There is more to hear than one listen will allow, because there is so much going on.  Whether you are mesmerized by the sometimes haunting vocals and harmonies, intrigued with the instrumentation or just taken away by the lyrics, you'll find many things worth discovering Here. Dissonance is used throughout Here's title track and opener, a song about being in physical or mental distress and looking for a way out.  Band co-leader, Wendy Griffiths, (keyboards, vocals) sounds alternately like Grace Slick, Chrissie Hynde or Kate Bush, depending on the moment in the song. The music adds an appropriate haunting urgency to the lyrics.  Here too is some magical guitar work from the other co-leader of Changing Modes, Yuzuru Sadashige (bass, guitar).  The interplay between the vocals and instrumentals really kicks in when the Theramin is included.Here's theme is dissonant and haunting, and Moles is its counterpoint,  revving up the speed and kicking it up a notch.  It's the kind of song that wants your feet to move, even if the song's lyrics are about mole people in New York City who live in the subway tunnels. Wendy sings "But your life underground, is not what it seems, it's worse than your strangest nightmare and better than your wildest dreams" in the chorus, but that is just one of the images painted here.  You'll need to listen carefully to hear them all.Louise introduces Jen Hammaker (Theremin, keyboard) on lead vocal in a whimsical song about Wendy's cat, which is just plain fun!  "What goes on behind those dark eyes?  Where do you go when I turn out the light?"  Not only is there a lot going on here instrumentally, but the backing vocals and harmonies are incredible too, with a truly interesting shift from major to minor key and back again.  And There's so much more! Cell to Cell is another fun toe tapper that explores carrying on a relationship via text messaging.  Distorted guitar adds interesting texture here that gives it a very punkish feel.  Embers Sweet has an almost "Yes" feel to it, if "Yes" were fronted by female vocals that is.  It definitely has that progressive rock edge to it.  A favorite track for me is the poppy, electronicly noodled One, which describes an obsession with lines like You are the One, you are the one.  White Lightning, again with Jen Hammaker, is a jazzy number with great trumpet fill from Oromander.  The White Room, sounds initially like a cover of Cream's White Room. When I asked Wendy about this, however, she assured me that "It's more of an homage to the Cream song than a cover."  It is a delightful changeup that explores sleazy politicians and their abuse of power.  Closing out the set is Meow Situation which has a swing piano feel that ends things on a light-hearted note.Writing this review, I've been afraid that after listening to these tracks so many times, they would start to wear thin; They don't.  If anything, you begin to hear more nuances and textures that were hidden from your ears on the first listen.  Changing Modes deserves grand recognition for a diverse, haunting and playful set of music.  Instrumentation and vocals are accomplished and fun to listen to and the lyrics are deceptively simple in their complexity and entirely singable.  Formed in the mid-90's by a happenstance invitation to CBGB's, Wendy Griffiths was pried away from her classical practice room, to hear the band Soul Coughing with a friend.  It occurred to her on that night that she really missed the world of rock; "How that music hits you in the gut, which, as much as I love classical music, the concert music never quite does; At least not for me."  She came back to her room later that night and began to write rock songs, and has never turned back.  We are the beneficiaries of this epiphany, and Here is just one of those gifts.” - Steve Spencer

A little more Vodka, A little less Milk