Reviews

Ex Models + Dance Disaster Movement + The King Cobra + X27

Chris Bailey
Ex Models + Dance Disaster Movement + The King Cobra + X27

Ex Models + Dance Disaster Movement + The King Cobra + X27

City: Chicago
Venue: Fireside Bowl
Date: 2003-10-20

Ex Models
In what has become a weekly exercise in sanctimony, I have come here once more to complain about how I saw a fucking awesome band play live, and not nearly enough of you bastards were there. I arrived at Chicago's Fireside Bowl about five minutes before X27 went on, and it was basically just me and the bands in the bar. So listen: I know it's cold outside now, and I know you worked hard for that eight bucks, but get out there and support your local indie bands. They will inherit the earth when the RIAA is done locking up all the mainstream music fans. Just wait. For those of you who aren't from Chicago, or are woefully uninformed, consider the Fireside Bowl: a decrepit old bowling alley that has, for some reason, decided to put on rock shows six days a week. This "converted industrial space" thing has been done all over, but the Fireside is actually still a working bowling alley. As the bands play, the lanes stay set up and lit up, pins and lubricant and all. When it's crowded, it's impossible to see the stage from any location. It is glorious. It's a well-known place where you can go and feel like you're deep underground. X27 is a nice little rock outfit. Like most local unknowns, they sound a lot like a less polished, harder-rockin' Joy Division. Most of the time, these bands are not good enough to draw praise, but not bad enough to make me pull out my poison pen. I usually just stare into space during their sets. But X27 seems like they're about to hit on something. X27, you see, has some female vocals. Good, gritty, angry, sexy-ishly breathy female vocals. I am getting very tired of guys with mid-length hair who can't sing. Bring on the girls with mid-length hair who can't sing! Hardly are those words out when King Cobra takes the stage. I love listening to girls from Olympia shriek unintelligibly as much as the next man, but please, someone, anyone, keep Rachel Carns away from the mic. She's a loud, bad-ass drummer, and she's got aggression to spare, but her caterwauling grated on me in all the wrong ways. I know I'm supposed to like them, I do, but I'm of the strong persuasion that when indie rock ventures too far down the metal path, nothing, not even sheer rock muscle and coolness-by-association can save it. Dance Disaster Movement, the next band on the bill, took full advantage of the ringing in my ears left by King Cobra. A quick internet search reveals that DDM are "Kevin Disco", who more than earned his name thrashing around the stage in his tight white tee, and Matt Howze, who kept the beat rockin' for him. This whole dance-punk thing has gotten way out of control, and I'm not entirely convinced their shtick would work well on wax, but live they offered just the right balance of beats, attitude, irony, and insanity. Kevin Disco plays simple guitar riffs, loops them, plays a bit of keyboard, and jumps around the stage like a madman. Howze plays the drums, and offers some questionable wisecracks ("Why aren't you dancing? California is on fire, but Chicago is not"). All in all, Ex Models have excellent taste in tourmates, choosing a band similar enough to appeal to their fans, but strange enough to be interesting. Ex Models are part of what's generally called the New York Underground Rock Scene (sometimes with the "Underground" dropped, since even some of us philistines in Chicago listen to them). Of NYURS music that has garnered national attention recently, a large proportion has been called "dance-punk" or "no wave", or various other labels which I, as one of your more pompous rock critics, scoff at. It would be easy to stuff Ex Models into one or more of these generic labels, simply because they happen to be loud, scary, and oddly danceable at the same time. It would be easy, were it not for those guitars. This concert gave me occasion to think about the guitars more, since, tragically, the band was badly miked for most of their set. Or, perhaps, DDM had so blown out my eardrums that I could barely make out the vocals. Either way, I was bombarded solely by the music itself, from the seesawing monotony and unhinged mania of "Pink Noise" to the foot-stompin' "Zoo Love". In other places, you'll hear those guitars described as "angular" or even "mathematical", but not here. They sound precisely as if an army of Apple IIEs have sprouted arms, legs, and razor sharp teeth, and have crawled out of junior high dumpsters across the country, intent on revenge. I've never heard traditional instruments sound so metallic, so impersonal, or so menacing. Those cold, precise guitars do for the Digital Revolution what industrial music did for the downward arc of the Industrial Revolution. Luckily, though, the mic problem was suddenly repaired just in time for the closer, after the Ex Models had ripped through most of 2003's 15-song, 20-minute Zoo Psychology, with the better tracks from their debut (Other Mathematics) tossed in for good measure. They closed with "Zoo Love", which is nothing without the screeching, faux-soul vocals. A short, incredibly dense, incredibly combative set like this one would leave even the most desensitized rock fan in a daze, and that's exactly what the Ex Models want.

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.