Mode Moderne‘s follow up to their 2009 début album Ghosts Emerging, is a body of work whose influences are instantly recognisable and easy to pin point. Whether this is a curse or a blessing, it’s certainly something that’s been an underlying factor in the popularity of the band, even from their now seminal track ‘Real Goths’. The track list could be divided in “The Smiths inspired tracks” and the “Joy Division inspired tracks”, which are easy to pick up and listen, perfectly suiting a melancholic and maybe nostalgic mood. Whilst for the first the listener is introduced to familiar, Marr-esque guitar orchestrations and grand, descriptive and bitter lyrics, that would make Morrissey listen in awe, the latter are instead dark, atmospheric and hollow synth laden pieces, in which the vocals are in that robotic and operatic tone, suited to Ian Curtis.
This sonic imitation creates great, easy listening pieces, but more than once, the echoes of familiarity are almost too obvious. Especially with the syncopated, bass heavy electronic tracks, more than once musical parallels can be drawn between Mode Moderne’s works and Joy Division’s – guitars that seem torn from ‘Ceremony’ and ‘Shadowplay’ are the first that come to my mind. It’s Mode Moderne’s way to celebrate these icons, it seems. The album title rings similar to Unknown Pleasures, and might the band’s name itself be inspired by Depeche Mode? This is all theoretic talk anyway, but it does feel indeed like the band is almost temporarily possessed by the spirits of their heroes. Even Phillip Entilé singing voice changes in tone, gravitas and sound, depending on the track. The title track itself hints at the presence of ghosts in a town, maybe in the band’s own Vancouver, which have taken control of Mode Moderne and created their work for the present time. Although the lyrical bitterness and caustic imagery is a personal feature that emerges throughout the work (“I don’t mind your indifference / in fact I want a bit more physical distance”), it’s musically that the band doesn’t seem to want to show their own personal path, and decide to play it safe with some incredibly listenable post-punk rehash.
Although this might be different for Mode Moderne’s future work, as the closing track, ‘Running Scared’, sounds incredibly different from the work that preceded it. With instrumentation that ranges from string instruments, pianos and a more down to earth drumming, the track first of all sounds incredibly human. The arrangements are great, and the lyrics are emotionally evocative (“Oh Mercy for the ones like we / who see the world in colours three / black gold too often grey”), marking the album with an incredible closing piece. As the track fades out, pulsing with an electronic heart beat, it reprises, accompanied by guitars and reanimated by electronic elements. If this might signal a future more personal garb for Mode Moderne, dusk has never looked so bright.
Occult Delight is released on 20th January 2014 through Light Organ Records