The sound of gothy post-punk jumping the shark as it turns out is pretty damn good. Because let’s not mince words: Blackened post-stuff as an underground meme is finally reaching its monochromatic saturation point and spelling out band names using crosses is finally going the way of the triangle. (Or witch house. Remember that 2011?)
Which brings us to Mode Moderne a Vancouver outfit that’s been earning Joy Division-lite comparisons for several years. And that comparison is valid though thankfully the band isn’t another troupe outfitted in severe army surplus jackets and Hitler hairstyles. Instead using gloomy British post-punk / new wave as a foundation Occult Delight drifts easily through plenty of ’80s U.K. music tropes: There are whiffs of Johnny Marr melodies (see: the wiry guitar leads on “Times Up”) not-quite-Moz crooning (“Dirty Dream #3”) and when the glacial synths bass guitar and faux-drum machine drums sync into a cohesive unit it’s hard not to think of The Cure (“Grudges Crossed”). On the occasion when the band conjures a cringe-worthy lyric — the spooked-up vibe of “Severed Head” amongst others can feel forced — Mode Moderne is easily forgiven Occult Delight is brimming with earworms even on first spin.
Strong as Occult Delight is though it also feels like the denouement of gothy post-punk. While other bands who play the style continually burrow themselves deeper into subgenre — see fellow Vancouverite post-punks Spectres who nod to the Crass Records school or Merchandise a band hellbent on destroying its classifications — Mode Moderne takes the opposite approach and at moments Occult Delight ’s glossy production feels closer to arena-sized alt rock (though surely the band would cite Depeche Mode’s influence). The four-on-the-floor beat of “She Untamed” could’ve been lifted from a mid-’00s Interpol track; the climax of “Occult Delight” hits an epic apex fitting of modern U2; “Running Scared” could be an is-it-or-isn’t-it-Christian ballad from Live Collective Soul or any band influenced by the latter half of Mellon Collie . These aren’t bad things of course — Mode Moderne are sitting on a winner no doubt — but the album won’t be the apple of the goth fetishist’s eyelined eye. No they’ll be too busy searching up Wax Trax! LPs on Discogs.