By Jonny Golian
March 17, 2022
Art is as much a product of self-reflection as it is an expression towards certain subject matter. For Madison Lucas, the lead vocalist and songwriter of Charlotte’s indie pop band Modern Moxie, the art of crafting each song is taken straight from the heart. The band’s 2019 debut, Claw Your Way Out, used self-reliance as a main theme, but their new EP, Gutter Honey, takes a more introspective look at life and tries to make sense of our place in it, especially as things change as we get older. With arrow-like precision, each track leaves a poetic message for her audience to ponder.
Produced and recorded by Jason Scavone at Sioux Sioux Studio and mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering, the EP leads off with “Horizon,” a track that sets the tone with a slow build-up on guitar by Phil Pucci. Accompanied by Lucas’ vocals, it draws the listener into a vision of a new day while the lyrics take on idyllic imagery. Each set of verses is marked by Charlie Weeks’ thundering drums and Harry Kollm on bass, all of which climaxes at the end with Lucas’ question “Will I wake up from this misery?”
“Weeping Willow” picks up the pace, and delves into depictions of youth and being carefree, before warping into fears of an uncertain future. Lucas longs for easier days: “Do you remember? / We used to play outside, in the middle of the night?” While the message hits home that moving away from innocence is inevitable, she still asks listeners to “rediscover color,” circling back to where the song began with nostalgic childhood moments.
In the singular tonal change-up to the six-track collection, “Big Wave” brings up the tempo with a psychedelic rock vibe, letting the band work more with guitar and drums. Lucas keeps a confident pace, breaking what seems like radio fuzz at the start of the track, and eventually bursts into clearer quality. Near the end, there’s a slowdown that breaks into a personal statement from the band regarding the politics of the moment: “Have you had enough of children in handcuffs / time to wake up.” The message in the repeating core lyrics, when combined with the quick commentary, gives the band a way to speak on how easy it is to hide from the real world in the next popular trend or phenomenon, “Big wave / Big Save / Big deal.”
The title track, “Gutter Honey” features haunting backing vocals layered alongside instrumentals, helping make the finale a memorable one. The song’s bluesy approach reminds listeners to hold loved ones close, but acknowledges that the only thing that may outlast time is the art we create: “All of my friends are gone / All that I have are songs.” The emotions are stirred by a stand-out guitar solo by Pucci that eventually ends in a sonically rich, yet somber tone with Lucas’ echoing croons.
It isn’t so much of a shock that a project like Gutter Honey might be the greater reflection of the time we’ve all spent in solitude. As we enter into more social spaces again, Modern Moxie’s depiction of the anxiety we’ve collectively felt during the first years of the pandemic is sort of a time capsule.
Art, in its strongest form, is something timeless that can, at any point, be tapped into. Modern Moxie’s Gutter Honey makes a definitive case for itself that, while sorrowful at times, there are still glints of gold in the gloom.