MOD CON – ‘Modern Condition’ review: sleek, sinuous rock with something to say

Locked-in Melbourne trio decry the rotten elements of human nature that are the source of modern miseries

Melbourne’s MOD CON are creating sleek, sinuous rock and on their second album ‘Modern Condition’, they chart a course through ’60s garage-surf rock, late ’70s post-punk and ’90s melodic punk-pop. Under Erica Dunn’s gorgeously melodic vocals is a simmering fury that threatens to snap the leash. The bass guitar is sinewy and elegant in Sara Retallick’s masterful hands, while Raquel Solier anchors the delicious melodies with her steady, subtle drumwork. The trio are more than a professional band – they’re friends and that bond shows.

Dunn, songwriter-guitarist-vocalist, might be recognised for her work with cosmic post-punk weirdos Tropical Fuck Storm, or her solo acoustic project, Palm Springs. MOD CON are musically located somewhere on the spectrum between TFS and Palm Springs – neither aggressively frenzied, echoing and all-encompassing à la TFS, nor confessional and pared-back like Palm Springs.

If ‘Ammo’ sounds like the most hooky, sing-along Sleater-Kinney songs (think ‘All Hands on the Bad One’), then the surfer-guitar and pummelling drums of ‘Learner in an Alpha’ raise the ghosts of the B-52s for a raucous party. The roots of ‘Modern Condition’’s influences are broad, but unified. There’s some ’70s post-punk angular guitar, ’80s melodic tragi-pop, and a little sprinkling of reggae and ska. The lyrics excoriate excess consumption and nauseating showiness (“All these cars, they look like corpses / The colour and the size are your big choices”). Car crashes and learners in showy cars: they all play into MOD CON’s disastrous depiction of the the planet.

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The metallic twanginess of the bass on ‘Cool It!’ evokes barrelling waves, hippie surfers idling their hours away on a paradisiacal beach. That dark cloud lingers though, as Dunn reminds us, in the face of all the provocative and infuriating daily microaggressions, to “be coooool, be coooooool!” It follows the theme of ‘Ammo’, which catalogues the many forms of ammunition, physical and emotional, that humans assault each other with on grand and micro-scale without rest.

If hopes of peace are aired in earlier tracks, it is done with resignation and a heavy heart, as MOD CON decry the rotten elements of human nature that are the source of war, famine, inequality, and a litany of other modern miseries. Two-faced, dishonest, lying, manipulative individuals and organisations get a thorough dressing-down in ‘I Saw A Rat’ and ‘Mouth of Stone’. “Can you be addicted to disaster?” Dunn sings on the latter. “Could you bet on it? Could you break your teeth right on it… Is there a smell of something rotten? Is it speaking nonsense?

Antagonising the corrupt powers that be, MOD CON deliver their message through the medium of supple, melodic rock, landing their parts in the right place at the right time. ‘Modern Condition’ is a record made by a band that’s locked in and know exactly what they want to say.

Details

Mod Con album Modern Condition
  • Release date: October 22
  • Record label: Poison City
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