Various SA Artists
Mode of Obscurity
WIN: Playing the Angel HampersFokofpolisiekar's take on "Shake the Disease" is a fine treatment of a classic song. It is the sole occasion on Mode of Obscurity that a band finds the middle ground between its own strong identity and the emotional congestion of Martin Gore / Depeche Mode's post-gothic chic.
Add to that an oblique, but crushingly elegant revision of "Blasphemous Rumours" by Kobus, and you have the two reasons to buy Mode of Obscurity... at least you should if you were old enough to know anything about Depeche Mode.
And therein lies the rub with Mode of Obscurity's claim to feature "South Africa's best bands" paying homage to the most successful electro-pop band of all time. In reality, most of these artists are merely South Africa's "hippest" young bands - and one wonders if many of DM's fans will actually be in awe of their "re-interpretations".
The short answer is: probably not. Mode of Obscurity often feels like the bands featured are too concerned with their own ingenuity, and not enough with capturing the spirit of the songs.
That's not selling the artists short, either. The performances and musicianship and production are mostly more than competent, and if you take a less literal approach to the concept of "tribute", then there's space for several of the tracks to be regarded favourably in their own right.
Yet there's a fundamental contradition in making a purposely anti-rock band into a vehicle for rock bands to give themselves a self-promotional hand. This is not a record for Depeche Mode fans or fans of their music; this is simply another South African contemporary rock compilation disguised as a "tribute" project, and the subject might have been better considered.
Think, for example, what such a lineup might have done with a tribute to the Springbok Nude Girls, or even David Kramer. Surely covering those bands would be more relevant - if not more so - to these bands' audiences than some electro pop ensemble from the eighties?
- Anton Marshall
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