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Music Reviews

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Fat Possum
Ex Models
Chrome Panthers

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

September 27, 2005
There were two ways in which the Ex Models might have followed Zoo Psychology, their off-kilter, tightly wound, epileptic, sexy-as-fuck contribution to the year that was 2003. Although those that the record left hungry were surely anticipating an even more deeply serrated interpretation of punk (or post-punk) from such cusp-dwellers of the New York scene - a record to celebrate its intensity without necessitating a descent into the murky depths of art/noise/improv/obscurity - it would appear that the Ex Models have relaxed their previously water-tight grip on their capabilities, and have thus loosely wrapped them in a fashion that bears no clear direction.

Yes, it would appear that the Ex Models are now straddling the two genres known as punk and noise. Despite clear remnants of the band's trademark distinctive personality (its length, just 27 minutes, is but one), in the given context, Chrome Panthers represents an entirely new approach to song writing. In terms of mayhem, it surpasses both Other Mathematics and Zoo Psychology, discovering a largely unexplored terrain of guitar-induced sonic collision; although it may be argued that their progression alone may earn the Ex Models due credit, the fact that so many fans will recognise it as a downward spiral is a fact of the matter.

Chrome Panthers' dissonant poise is explicitly apparent from its offset. The title track briefly presents itself as a disarrangement of spiky guitar stabs and grating shrieks of feedback, before "That's Funny, I Don't Feel Like a Shithead" awakens and, within two minutes, suggests the initial signs of Chrome Panthers' downfall. Fans of the Ex Models' trademarked, almost unequivocally promised frenzy will be disappointed by the tiresome repetition at which it is executed - not to mention their uncharacteristic sloppiness which makes this sound like a drawn-out drunken jam.

"Buy American" is dronesome and liberally monotonous. The remorseless guitar squeaks, while providing the tip to the track's iceberg, bring the group's evident experimentation with pedals to mind and suggest an affinity closer to the likes of Black Dice than such contemporary post-punk luminaries as Les Savy Fav and Q and not U. Granted, it develops into a harebrained explosion of guitars, drums and vocal yelps, but lacks the diversity and odd moment of clarity - which Zoo Psychology incidentally has - to stand out.

While Zoo Psychology exemplified the workings of a band on the edge, Chrome Panthers acts as a soundtrack to the great tip. With the band, sadly, went the excitement, and thus with Chrome Panthers the Ex Models have gone from carefree to careless. The band's progression, lateral or otherwise, will doubtlessly invite listeners of a new ilk, though having since called upon their earlier material I am sure which I prefer.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright



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