MOD CON, the Melbourne three-piece spearheaded by Tropical Fuck Storm’s Erica Dunn, make a late showing in 2021 with Modern Condition – the band’s follow-up to 2018’s Modern Convenience.
A long time secret weapon of Tropical Fuck Storm, Dunn’s jagged vocals, swirling synths and crunching guitars are vital contributions to the cause, adding the dimension that separates the debaucherous proto-rock odyssey from just about everything else in modern day guitar-based music.
While certainly thriving under the tutelage of Tropical Fuck Storm band mate and Australia’s greatest polemicist, Gareth Liddiard, on Modern Condition, it’s evident that Dunn possesses a unique voice.
MOD CON is an avenue for Dunn to showcase her ideas without being overshadowed by the more well-renowned Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin. Joined by Sara Retallick (bass/vocals) and Raquel Solier (drums), on Modern Condition the multi-instrumentalist does just that.
“Choose your weapon and don’t take another minute taking your aim,” screams Dunn on the wiry playful opener, Ammo – the kind of post-punk number that X-Ray Spex may have written once upon a time.
Dunn intersects politics and relationship breakdowns better than most in the current artistic landscape. With regards to the latter, rather than wallow in self-pity, Dunn gives the whole idea the two finger salute. “Give me salvation on a plate,” she sings during the trampling rocker, Cool It!, while Is Your Heart a Joke? sees us in a private room in Monaco as Dunn questions the protagonist’s heart and whether it’s like a bank going broke.
Then there’s the politically charged volleys, which is where the sparks really fly on Modern Condition. Learner in an Alpha (“All these cars look like corpses”), I Saw a Rat (“You know what I think / That was no conspiracy / Making up history / Telling the story anyway” and “It’s not in my DNA to give in to the CIA”), and X-Ray (“You feel the need to see under me / To say you can see something I can’t see”), are all poignant offerings questioning those in positions of power, also calling out toxic masculinity.
During these songs there are echoes of early Sleater-Kinney, no doubt, but MOD CON are more direct; Dunn’s messaging stings and bruises instantly. Meanwhile, the likes of Mouth of Stone and Agadir 1960 contain the kind of rhythm sections that meld together the screaming mess of Shellac and even Mission of Burma, and with that MOD CON’s mission is complete.
Overall, MOD CON don’t stray too far from the sound world of Modern Convenience. It’s the same world Cable Ties dragged us into with their 2020 release, Far Enough, which is certainly no bad thing. The riffs and grooves are something we’ve all heard before, but the difference with MOD CON’s Modern Condition arrives with Dunn’s razor-sharp narratives and clever wordplay. These facets alone are worth your time.
Modern Condition is out now via Poison City Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.