Modest Among the Living is the third album from Boston alternative solo act [munk], but it feels like a relic from the distant past. The singer-songwriter Dave Rengel self-produced, recorded and released this follow-up to 2003’s Severed, and he does a pretty admirable job of recreating the sound of alternative rock bands from the mid-nineties. Rengel’s angsty vocals (when he turns the angst on) bring the singer of Stain’d to mind, which is a shame because this singer has a much more interesting range to his voice. But the straightforward, agitated rock doesn’t provide the right venue for showing it off—he’s too often growling, or croaking, instead of singing properly. The cliché-filled lyrics (“I’ll do the dirty work / Roll up my sleeves until it hurts, yeah” is one representative chorus) don’t make you want to pay any extra attention. “Beautiful (I Know You’re)” offhandedly references “I Am the Walrus”, a sweet twisting of the expected acoustic ballad into something more unexpectedly welcome. But most of the time, the songs muddle around in the same staid waters—a place from where nu-metal, back in 1997, seemed something rebellious and thrilling. How wrong we turned out to be.
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