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TUE SEP 24, 2013   features   reviews music



Their creative peak was three decades ago, but the music of Melbourne band the Models has remained timeless, writes Michael Witheford. Photos by Mark Bakaitis.




The Models

Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne

September 21, 2013


Here’s what I think about Models. They’re the best band this country has ever produced. The most original, the most entertaining, the most innovative, the most cluey, the most dada and flat-out talented. Sometimes quirky can be a good thing. Forget those ropey late singles from 1985 and 1986 when the previously suitable James Freud was suddenly exerting a slightly unhealthy musical influence. (The Out Of Mind Out Of Sight record was no good.) But from 1979-1984 they were untouchable. They still sound incredible. Timeless, relevant, NOW.

So what have they got, specifically? Well there’s Sean Kelly’s guitar – an amalgam of David Byrne and Captain Beefheart, and wiry English post-punk along the lines of Gang Of Four (even though Kelly was doing it first). Shards and chops, twangs and whammy bar feedback, then paint-peeling power chords. Gaps and little flourishes. Loud, quiet, loud.

Andrew Duffield’s keyboards provide the melodic smarts. Crazy high-end organ riffs, his own power chords, and brilliant sequencer work. I Hear Motion boasts the best keyboard intro since Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.

Line-up changes, and there were hundreds (OK, 11 actually) never seemed to restrain the band, even though Kelly has been the only constant member. Tonight we have the best line-up of all and ironically it’s one which never existed at any point in the past. Bassist Mark Ferrie, he of the RocKwiz orchestra, left in the early "80s but he’s back. With Barton Price on drums, this is the Models dream line-up. Vocalist Evie Von Bibra adds lush harmonies -- previously the domain of Wendy Matthews, Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne -- which fill out a luxurious sound.

Happy Birthday IBM is the perfect opener tonight. Instantly the crowd is bellowing the first of those irresistible choruses. Two Cabs To The Toucan – bellowing chorus etc. Local and Or General - more singalong-a-Models. This is the key point. For all their experimentation, Models were always a pop band with hugely uplifting tunes, and very strange lyrics and song titles; The Truth About Truth About Scientists, Two People Per Square Kilometre, Unfaithful To The Corps. And tonight’s finale Paté Pedestrian.

They can be quite spooky too. Dying For My Country At The War is minimalist, echoey  and  a bit disturbing, Kelly’s idiosyncratic throaty delivery as effective as it is uniquely and deliberately affected.

Sadly, for me anyway, Duffield’s keyboard screwed up a bit during the encore, and their most popular cover, the Joe Meek keyboard masterpiece Telstar. But what the hell. The packed Ding Dong Lounge was smiling to a man and woman from ear to ear.

There was some new stuff that was more cruisey than the "80s material but still promising as we wait for a new Models record. Hurry guys. We need you.


Watch the video for I Hear Motion here.