LIVE: Model/Actriz @ The Lexington, London

By Jess McCarrick

New York noise rockers Model/Actriz have done anything but come quietly onto the scene from the threads of industrial post punk. Their enigmatic lyricism and unorthodox instrumental arrangements hit harder than a slap that those of us in the crowd of their sold-out Lexington show awaited with eager sincerity.

With the audible rip of shoe soles being lifted from a floor sticky with spilled pints and sweat, frontman Cole Haden clutched a can of fuel for the masses – Stella Artois – as he took the stage. His can hand slowly rising above his head to grant the crowd a good night, for which we resolutely saluted him back. With a drawn-in gasp and a look of red-hot excitement flashing across his eyes, Haden stared into the darkness as the faint ring of a rippling guitar riff met static amp airtime. We cascaded down the rabbit hole of ‘Donkey Show’ with staccato vocal delivery and the dominating high hats of drummer Ruben Radlauer that crashed around the room, while the striking whip crack of ‘Mosquito’ saw the high-pitched guitar notes of Jack Wetmore converge into an alarm like whirring. The room was heavy with movement as the pit tried to keep up with impossibly fast lashings of sound, until as quickly as it began, the room went quiet again; the silence feeling louder against what had come before.

Haden coyly stated that it was the band’s first time in the UK, admitting he “ought to get to know everyone a bit better” before leaving the stage to parade around the far corners of the venue, stopping only to lock eyes with a lucky few. His demeanor was unpolished yet confident, seductive in manner but directionless in tone. Every step, every glance, seemed calculated with a distinctive slowness. There was nothing to do but stare in awe and wait in anticipation.

The ground seemed to melt away as he began to strain under the weight of the line “I’m pressed against the glass, as close as I can take”. Somewhere, lost in the background, was the relentless ticking of drums that set pace whilst a screech of distorted guitar rang over itself, building. The track, a cacophony of industrial elements, created a darkness layered underneath the lyrical content; the walls seemingly closing in around us. Haden began to grunt and strain as tears rolled down his face and his head shook from side to side, writhing in the pain of the moment as the band slowed, jarring against each other and then nothing… But with the simple flick of Haden’s smile and a breath from the band, the room opened up again. Their music so experimental and intense it seems to create its own atmosphere.

Their set was brutally heavy in moments – guitar led ‘Slate’ left the room thrashing around in angst and sweat, living up to their live reputation and playing with genre lines. Whilst ‘Maria’ and its moments filled with exaggerated cadence and bass riffs that buzzed ferociously left a bittersweet taste in the mouth as the vocals bounced around, untied to the set instrumental melody in defiance of musical convention.

The crowd did though have its time to hit back as hard as the band were hitting, as Haden struggled to knock back his Stella to an inevitable countdown chant – perhaps the only moment he was notably out of control. Radlauer subsequently proved his effort level by breaking his kick drum pedal mid set. Haden playfully toyed with his mic’s sound board to give us a melting vocal and a moment of levity.

As the set began to close, song ‘Pure Mode’ was a performance highlight. Wetmore rocked his whole body up and down, up and down, in rhythm with his scuttling fingers running across his fretboard with manic precision, and Radlauer’s arms were a blur with speed, crashing across the kit. Haden bellowed “I don’t mean to scare you, but I can’t talk right now” as he flicked his microphone above his head and mocked firing into the crowd. His precision – combined with the rumbling, scathing bass notes of Aaron Shapiro – created a shocking moment, poignant as the room went black.

They closed with the final song from ‘Dogsbody’ – their latest album – ‘Sun In’ and we were left blinded with the haunting delivery of the track’s closing motif “so bright with the sun in my eyes”. In that final moment, the collective in the room seemed to find a voice in the song – subconscious or otherwise. Long gone was the group’s harsh discordance, what remained in its place was instead the same static ringing that marked the show’s beginning and now its end. Model/Actriz have carved a set contained within its own atmosphere, crafted at every level – bravo. 


Tour Dates:
02 November: Club To Club, Turin – Italy
04 November: Yes Pink, Manchester – UK
05 November: King Tut’s, Glasgow – UK
06 November: Hare & Hounds, Birmingham – UK
07 November: Dareshack, Bristol – UK
08 November: Fabric, London – UK
10 November: Revenge, Brighton – UK
12 November: Le Guess Who, Utrecht – UK
13 November: Helios37, Cologne – Germany
16 November: Gannet, Basel – Switzerland
18 November: Primavera Weekender, Benidorm – Spain
20 November: ZBD, Lisbon – Portugal