The great indie-gothic revival has never really taken off, despite Joy Division’s continued influence underlying on the output of many bands (and even more Topman T-shirts). While the heavy baritone/bass mix could be heard on debuts – White Lies as a prime example – later efforts saw them move towards a more dance orientated sound (see Holy Ghost, The Power And The Glory…). In short, they created their New Order in a much shorter space of time.
On their third effort – following last year’s mini-album Strange Bruises – Vancouver’s Mode Moderne step further into the shadows, showcasing a blend of vocal blues with a bass-heavy hum straight from the Curtis & Co book of songwriting. Lead single She, Untamed shows it best; a jumpy drum-beat driven track that highlights the playful relationship between the low-swung bass and the echoed rhythm of the guitar. Not that they should be filed under the “tribute act” category, and not their influences – or own merits – end there.
Opener Strangle The Shadows (featuring a fade-in intro, who doesn’t love a fade-in?) is not the most prominent of introductions to their latest phase, but does offer a more uplifting take on things, riding on a melody straight from the bands who kept ‘indie’ ticking over while Britpop sold itself out. The title track and Dirty Dream #3 soar in the same way, with the latter’s tiny-breaks of synth and bass creating something that would be difficult not to dance to at the underground discotheque, or a sun-soaked festival set.
While frontman Phillip Intilé’s vocals are strong enough to provide the middle-ground between the spotlight and the shadows, tracks where Rebecca Gray features offer a ghostly alternative, as heard on the aforementioned title track, and more so on Unburden Yourself; where a jaunty chorus contrasts the Morrissey-esque lyrics; “I don’t mind your indifference, in fact I want a bit more physical distance.” When not channelling Curtis’ doom or Morrissey’s wit-laced gloom (“Under-thought and overdressed again” Severed Heads), it’s poetry in the style The Manics’ Richey Edwards (Grudges Crossed’s “Abstract discussions; at making no sense you are quite effective”).
And then, just as you’ve become accustomed to the idea of forever dressing in black and jolting about in a room full of Curtis dance-a-likes, Come Sunrise’s country twang (Django Unburdened?) shines over the synthesized fog, shaped around a simple chorus (“Does he like me? Oh well. Does she like me? I can’t tell, anymore”) that’s almost necessary, following the imagery that’s been thrust with the previous ten tracks. It is perhaps to this Mode what Personal Jesus was to the other great Mode.
Closer Running Scared takes a different approach, bringing the synths and strings centre stage as if this is their New Order moment. (Made even more promising by the one-minute instrumental outro, featuring just acoustic guitar and Kraftwerkian keys.) “Like we who see the world in colours three; black, gold, too often grey” Intilé sings over the lush, layered track. If they can introduce the gold of Running Scared’s arrangement without losing the black and grey depth of their lyrics, Mode Moderne’s next effort may be even more of a cult delight.