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Hitsville, MA (continued)

FRIDAY’S MIDDLE EAST BILL includes several groups hand-picked by Baby Strange. Label mates the Good North and the Information will be there. So will Dear Leader’s Aaron Perrino in a solo appearance. Then there’s the Model Sons, whose incendiary stage show has been attracting notice around town of late. Their eye-blackening sonic wallop, all bombastic riff-raff and tricky prog-metal dynamics, might seem a bit at odds with the rest of the bill — but that’s just the point.

"It’s cool, in a way, because we don’t feel beholden to any one scene," says singer-guitarist Ian Vogel over drinks at Bukowski’s, in Inman Square. "We’re just who we are, and we don’t really fit in anywhere. We’ve got one foot in the heavy scene, one foot in the indie scene, and we aren’t really in either. Every single bill we play, we’re either the heaviest band on the bill or we’re the biggest pussies on the bill. We’re sorta like those guys in high school who are friends with the jocks and the burnouts and the nerds. But they aren’t jocks or burnouts or nerds."

The Model Sons’ first self-released EP, The Lies and the Money, found Vogel, guitarist/vocalist Bryn Bennett, bassist Scott Sinclair, and drummer Anthony Mellace playing music that might have been favored by the burnouts: bludgeoning and bloodying old-metal sludge, heavy and mean, punctuated by a guttural "here we go!" or an "all right let’s go!" here, a "yeah!" or a "motherfucker yeah!" there. But their most recent EP, The Story of My Love, eschews the brute force of crunching chords and pummeling drum fills in favor of a nuance that it derives from shifts in volume and intensity and the cumulative power of interlacing instruments. It’s a huge leap forward without sacrificing the visceral punch of their old stuff. On the first track, "Yeah," a phased guitar throbs before being swept into an escalating tangle of tricky time signatures, only then settling into the blistering chug of good old-fashioned rawk — "YEAH!" — as Vogel channels Glenn Danzig the way Linda Blair did the Devil. Driven by Mellace’s measured-then-monstrous drumwork, "Steady Hands" is a tightly wound study in the use of loud-soft Jawbox shifts. The title track manages to be involute and anthemic all at once. And on "Let the Flames Decide," the guys wallow in hedonistic pleasures, clapping and chanting like the Bay City Rollers on steroids — "All right! Let’s go! All Right! Again and again!" — before slinking off into the muggy, Marlboro-smoky night with the Scorpions ringing from their Walkmen.

As Vogel explains, "We were wasted and playing this heavy rock one night. We thought we were like killing it. And we videotaped ourselves and were like, ‘Oh, sweet Jesus.’ It was terrible. So we started shifting our show. Bryn was really good at realizing we needed some dynamics. Used to be, we were 180 miles an hour and we stayed that way for the whole show. It was like, we gotta have some breaks and some builds. We got more articulate about the way we arrange songs. And with all those things in mind, I think it’s gotten a lot more interesting."

Bennett says that The Story of My Love is more reflective of the different forces at work within the band. Although he comes from what he calls an " ’80s-metal-meets-Michael-Jackson background," Vogel himself tends more toward bands like Quicksand and Sparta, and Sinclair has roots in the Florida hardcore scene. These three first met at Irrational Games in Southie, "surrounded with nerds with long hair and fat bellies" as they labored over video games for PlayStation II. Bennett was a programmer, Vogel a designer, Sinclair an artist. Mellace, who answered a Phoenix classified ad for a drummer, used to be a hairdresser on Newbury Street. "We all eventually were like, well, we drink together enough, why don’t we try to [start a band and] meet girls, too?" says Bennett.

"There’s way more hot girls in video games," Vogel deadpans.

In fact, the band are hoping to turn some of their own music to video-game soundtracks. "A few Model Sons things probably will be appearing in games on the market pretty soon," Bennett says. "And we’ve been talking about a Model Sons video game, where the three of us work on it together." They’re even planning, Vogel says, "a rhythm-based music video game that we can then let other bands use for their own purposes, for their own fans, but it would still be our architecture."

"What I wanted to do was make something where people can get it home," Bennett explains. "Any band — you have an MP3, they’re easier to make now, you can do it on your home computer — any band could put their MP3 in the game and create their own game level around it, in an easy way. And then if people really got into it, we would just host it all on the Model Sons Web site. So it would be a really cool way for kids or whoever else to get their music out to the masses. It’s like an MP3 player-plus. You can bring your own visuals and a taste of your own band into it. I’ve put a bit of time into it, but it’s on the back burner for now."

In the meantime, the Model Sons will keep enjoying the rock-star lifestyle. "We played Axis a couple weeks ago, and we had roadies and a room full of beer!" says Vogel. "We were like, ‘Yes! We need more!’ "

Baby Strange and the Model Sons play with the Good North, the Information, and Aaron Perrino this Friday, July 16, downstairs at the Middle East, 480 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square; call (617) 497-0576.

page 2 

Issue Date: July 16 - 22, 2004
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