Loud, intense and aggressive are the only words that keep replaying in my mind when it comes to New York’s Ex-Models. But that’s not neccessarily a good thing. The band’s sound, a hodgepodge of non-linear, disjointed, incomprehensible, does little to engage, encite or provoke. Even song titles including “Hey Boner,” “Hott 4 Discourse” and “Sex Automata” don’t help, they just seem to add to the pretentiousness of these so-called “art rockers.”
Each song on Zoo Psychology, the band’s sophomore attempt, is an assault on the senses — intense, blaring guitars, and vocals that are either half-yelled, yelped or rapped in falsetto by lead singer/guitarist Shahin Motia and bassist Zach Lehrhoff. It’s a confusion of feedback and drum-heavy noise, which I assume is a great if you’re one of the purveyors of noise rock. Ex Models has its fans, but Zoo Psychology is just too repetitive, and too unoriginal, to really be enjoyable.
Noise rock can be good when it’s done well, with some form of true expression that actually comes from the soul; this is an angry, aggressive, intense version of a male Yoko Ono. I want to feel the passion of the lyrics and music not be completely turned off by the attempt. It’s like the difference between masturbating and having really good sex. This just seems like a not-very-gratifying hand job, a lot of moaning, groaning, yelling and panting to end up spent, tired and unsatisfied. And while there’s nothing wrong with being intense (Hey, I like intense), this is just a confusion of a cacophony of fuzz and yelling that goes nowhere and gets there very quickly.
The falsetto screaming of Motia, who has a grating nails-on-the-chalkboard yelp, sounds like nobody else in rock today, but the only comprehensible phrases you can make out have something to do with “pink noise” and zoo animals. “Fuck to the Music” begins with 30 seconds of some of the ugliest sounds that can be wrenched out on a guitar, before Motia screams a nonsensical line concluding with, “Everybody dance to the music!”
Lehrhoff and drummer Jake Fiedler provide an extremely taut rhythm section, but it still doesn’t help; with little variation, each song beginning with the same wailing guitars and pounding drums. Zoo Psyhology is a valiant attempt, but is entirely incomprehensible, musically and lyrically, and ends up sounding incomplete and lacking in substance.