Review Summary: Same ol’ melted black plastic bullshit
The new post-noise-dance-POST-PUNK band is *checks notes* Model/Actriz, and they are from Brooklyn; their first record Dogsbody
offers a slick, discounted, entirely adequate repackaging of a hundred noisy danceable POST-PUNK records you have already heard. That, unfortunately, is very nearly all that matters about it.
Elaborate? Sure - this thing bears heavy resemblance to the noisiest trailblazers of early ‘00s dance-punk (think Black Eyes and Liars), and to other contemporary landmarks that, in turn, bear near-equal debt to these (Schlagenheim
and, to a lesser extent, You Won’t Get What You Want
). There is hardly a moment here that doesn’t recall at least one of these five touchstones, whether it’s a skittering, pulse-raising ordeal of high fretwork, the brisk mechanical pulse of a bassline, an industrial four-to-the-floor pounding, or the inevitable sly, self-consciously smart lyric (With a body count higher than a mosquito
). The intertexts-similarities-commonalities are endless and leave room for little else.
Why does this matter? It does well here to look back to the sounds-like-band-X accusations that have plagued Model/Actriz’s contemporaries (Black Midi above all) since day one. These were never really
about the borrowed notes or the stylistic nods - they stemmed from the stale, overcalculated matrix at the core of the Windmill-era post-punk, from music that rang so void of charisma, with such illusionless self-awareness, boorish performativity and exaggerated acts of complexity that its chief value could only
be citational. Model/Actriz are cut from the same cloth, flock with the same birds, die by the same sword, and all that shit; Dogsbody
is more facsimile than album, and it might as well have been birthed by the same algorithms that will inevitably propagate its success. We could turn now to how seven of its ten tracks recycle the same trade-off between uneasy-skittering-dissonance and all-out-dance-clatter-smash so insistently that they verge on total interchangeability with one another, but the worst damage is done before the pattern even has a chance to set in. This band’s style is at once taste-makingly ambitious and tastelessly concerted - and that
is a shared influence that runs deeper than any.
Any concessions? Well, the queer overtones on “Slate”, “Pure Mode” and “Maria” in particular at least have a distinct voice behind them; there is certainly an opening for the neurotic voicings of burgeoning sexuality that Model/Actriz bring to these, but don’t confuse this with wholesale inspiration on the part of their sound
. Delving further into the barrel, “Divers” gets bonus points for not sounding like anything else on this thoroughly homogenous tracklist, but also infinite minuses for being a directionless apology of a song that should never have made it through the studio doors. Reverb reverberates, guitars reverse as though they have forgotten the notes they were supposed to be playing, drums bang in an artless impersonation of a sarcastic slow-clap, and frontman Cole Haden repeatedly croons such lines as “I seem to find it, but not within myself”, for reasons. The man sounds as though he’s seeking out his smartphone halfway through the world’s least remarkable episode of sleep paralysis; shock of all horrors, this elevates the track not one bit.
“Sleepless” is a considerably stronger take on this kind of atmospheric rock deconstruction, with its eerie mix of foregrounded vocals, lysergic background noises and unpredictable dynamic shifts. There’s a shape underpinning the song somewhere, and Model/Actriz raise genuine intrigue through the thoroughness with which they seek to conceal this. Closer “Sun In” includes by far the album’s most innovative and ear-catching guitar stylings, a mix of glitch and reverse effects that complement Haden’s forlorn vocals with refreshing cogency and tease a knack for melody that, greatest surprise of all, Model/Actriz are not too cool to eschew for their toolkit. There is talent here, and maybe - just maybe - potential for the kind of future offering that might carve out its own identity in this NPC graveyard-scene of dissociated reference artists.