May 31, 2003

Ex-Models "Zoo Psychology"

I must begin this review with a stern warning. As far as pure economics is concerned, this album is a complete rip-off. Letís assume that youíll pay somewhere in between ten and fifteen dollars for this album in your favorite record store. Three of its fifteen tracks are low-fidelity snippets of the Ex-Models jamming in the practice room. One track is fifty seconds of a bass guitar playing one note over and over again, and another is a new version of a previously released song (ìThree Weeksî) that is almost identical to the original. An album in which a full third of its tracks are pointless is already a criminal offense in my book. The fact that Zoo Psychology is ONLY TWENTY FRICKING MINUTES LONG simply adds insult to injury. By all means, I should thrash this record within inches of its life as if I was a rabid Pitchfork Media writer whose girlfriend had just been sexually served by the entire band. However, I am going against my natural instinct by urging everyone who reads this to buy this album anyway and let the Ex-Models screw him or her over just this once. The two-thirds of this album that are devoted to actual new material completely and utterly DESTROY.

The Ex-Modelsí 2001 debut, Other Mathematics, put the goofiest and weirdest elements of early Devo and Talking Heads in a blender and set it on puree. Their songs were intent on cramming as many adenoidal yelps, meter changes, and hard-panned guitar screeches as possible in less than ninety seconds. Their music was already abrasive to begin with, but Zoo Psychology catapults the band into a new sphere of otherness. I canít even compare the Ex-Models to other bands anymore, because they now sound like a malfunctioning factory on its last legs. The vocals are even more unintelligible than before, and this time around they donít include the lyrics in the liner notes. The guitars are run through effect pedals that give the playing a robotic, percussive quality, and theyíre played with the violence of a man picking scabs off of his body with pliers. The drums shift from time signatures that canít possibly be tabbed by hand to hissing blast beats at seemingly random moments. Even though I canít make many of the lyrics out, I can tell by many of the song titles (ìF**k to the Music,î ìSex Automata,î ìBrand New Pantiesî) that the horizontal limbo is the bandís main focus. Zoo Psychology is what it sounds like when white nerds with more nervous sexual energy than their bodies can handle pick up instruments. Somebody needs to put the Ex-Models in a hotel room with a couple thousand dollars and some pretty prostitutes soon before the band spontaneously combusts.

Until the band works out their sexual frustration, anything they make that lives up to this albumís best moments will be essential listening. ìPink Noiseî is a maelstrom of grinding guitars and stop-start drums that sounds like the entire band is falling down a flight of stairs, with the choppy two-note bass line serving as a sort of fire alarm. ìZoo Loveî and ìKool Killerî are the bandís warped approximations of funk: the rhythm is present on both songs, but ìZoo Loveî has no notes or chords to speak of, and the guitarists keep chanting in annoying chipmunk falsettos. ìWhat Is a Priceî sports a mid-song breakdown in which the rhythm section unleashes random long s**t-storms of noise that obliterate the guitars and vocals, an experience that will scare the wits out of you on first listen. ìHey Bonerî tries (and fails) to cram Sonic Youthís entire Daydream Nation album into sixty-seven seconds, and makes a pretty exciting racket while doing so. Last but not least, ìThree Weeks,î despite being a note-for-note retread of the original version is still a masterpiece of tension and release. Its guitars are so harsh, its dynamic changes so extreme that it took me a while to notice that the song only has TWO LYRICS AND ONE ACTUAL NOTE. Iím willing to forgive being ripped off by Zoo Psychology because of the bandís willingness to fly completely off the musical hinges. The Ex-Models have set a new standard for modern No Wave. However, I still demand that they come up with a half-hour of solid new material for their next album, because this is just ridiculous.

---Sean Padilla

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