REVIEW: Ex Models: Zoo Psychology
Ex Models: Zoo Psychology [Frenchkiss, 2003] (mp3)
Three words? The sex models
The Ex Models are best described as complex noise-rock combined with coiled adolescent sexual energy. It is no surprise, then, that the jaw-dropping sophomore effort Zoo Psychology opens with a cut called "Fuck To The Music." Logically extending the "guitar-just-plugged-into-the-amp" intro of Radiohead's disappointing Hail To The Thief, "Fuck To The Music" summarizes exactly what these boys are all about: joyful messes that subvert convential rock structure, but that remain completely melodic and danceable. A large order by any standards, Ex Models deliver with the panache and wit only a few bands within their genre can achieve.
Recorded with Martin Bisi, who has twiddled knobs for all of the experimental rock elite (Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, U.S. Maple), the Ex Models are free to gleefully wreak havoc upon their instruments. Whether tuning the bass so low that it rumbles like a thunderstorm in the praries, manically scraping the strings on their guitars, or barking vocals like newly-neutered rabid dogs, they show perfect musical intuitions. Songs quiet down for a nervous moment, only to erupt into seizures. In fact, to the detriment and the advantage of Zoo Psychology, the Ex Models turn so many corners that you almost forget what came before. By the end of the record the constant sensory assault can be a little taxing, but I can't help but put it on again to catch every detail I might have missed.
The two best songs on the record are also two prime examples of the extremes that the Ex Models reach. "Intro/Pink Noise" starts with an almost unbearable tension - one guitar repeatedly playing the same two note chord over and over - and when the vocals come in it's like a pre-pubescent David Byrne on acid, signalling a series of insanely orchestrated starts and stops. Nothing could more perfectly illustrate just how calculated, executed and well thought-out these songs are. "Sex Automata" shows the "let’s-fuck" side of Ex Models shining through. Danceable, dripping with orgasmic vocals and squalling guitars, "Sex Automata" all but demands that shirts come off on the dance floor.
It’s bands like Ex Models that really get me excited about rock music. Graduates of the somewhat tired and overly obvious math-rock scene that dominated the mid to late nineties, these boys are carving a new path of even more complex songwriting, with one major difference: this time, it’s sexy to be nerdy.