By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Art sort of hates rock, though it shouldn't—after all, the Talking Heads opened for the Ramones all the time. But nerds don't mix well with Neanderthals, even when they both like to play guitar. For every meathead, nature demands an equal and opposite egghead, and for every "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," you had to go through "Fuck Rock & Roll (I'd Rather Read a Book)."
"But I like to fuck, I like rock & roll, and reading is very enjoyable as well," argues Shahin, guitarist/singer of New York's ExModels. "I don't see any reason why the three can't exist in harmony."
And except for the harmony part—harmony being something better left to castrato choirs or, you know, the Beach Boys—that's actually the ExModels in a thesis statement: oversexed ("Undersexed," corrects other guitarist Shah) no-wave academics from New York City, with brains, groins and strummin' hands all working productively together. Maybe this is evolution?
They won't admit where they got their degrees for the same privacy reasons they won't divulge last names ("You get people showing up at your door, requesting encores from shows that happened a month ago," says Shahin. "And you're like, 'C'mon, man, I gotta go to bed—I got this girl here and . . ."). But let's assume it's what Shahin calls the College of Wailing and Ruling at the University of Sweetness in Awesome, Texas. (Austin, Texas? we ask. "Awesome, Texas," says Shahin flatly.) And let's figure then that the U of S must have had respectable programs in both critical studies (that thing those pale, bony loners at coffee shops major in) and music (that other thing those pale, bony loners major in).
Because their first album—Other Mathematics on Ace Fu, not to be confused with Erase Errata's Other Animals, not that you'd end up disappointed if you bought the wrong one—is pretty shamelessly academic, says Shahin. Not only are the lyrics cribbed straight from someone's dog-eared postmodern reader—"Old Lacan essays, middle-period Fouçault, very late period Baudrillard," Shahin explains sheepishly; you won't be surprised Disneyland rated a whole song of its own—but the songs themselves were scripted on a computer and then painstakingly translated through months of rehearsal into something the band could actually play.
In simpler terms, that's like assuming that because you managed to beat Super Mario a few times, you're ready to kick off a career as a star plumber. But somehow—probably good study habits—the ExModels turned antiseptic calculation into neurotic personality, adding a very literate footnote to a long history of herky-jerky New York art weirdos like Richard Hell (he who'd rather read a book), James Chance and David Byrne. And their newest album—Zoo Psychology on Frenchkiss—abandons that kind of laboratory atmosphere for something more organic and visceral. They still have that misunderstood-genius predilection for intellect dented by irony, but this time around, they're out of the classroom and into the bedroom. Which, we might mention, are both good places to read a book.
"Yeah, you know, it's more the little head, less the big head," explains bassist Zach. "The first album was tackling the tough questions of existence, questions of the modern-age ad technology—everything that goes along with living these days. And the new album has the same ExModels that everyone has grown to love, but this time, we're tackling questions of sexuality and sexual frustration. They were looked at in some detail on the last album, but now it's tipped more in favor of the sexual and less in favor of—oh, how you say? Modern polyrhythmic problematics."
So has all this theorizing had a practical effect on their sex lives?
"No," says Zach, "No, I would say our real lives have had a practical effect on our theorizing. You know—you come home, start beating off and shoot some theory all over the wall."The ExModels perform with Holy Molar and XBXRX at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Sun., 7:30 p.m. $8. All ages.