Lookin’ for a kiss
Supermodel Suicide brings the essential spirit of glamorous punk back to the local scene
On a recent Saturday night, the two lanky, rail-thin guitarists onstage at the Blue Lamp shared a furtive theatrical kiss before kicking into “Foothill Kids,” the leadoff track on their band’s stellar new eight-song CD, Hangtown’s Greatest Hits. The skinny blond guy on the left, Matt Ferro, bit into the lyrics with a characteristic Jim Dandy-like snarl, while he and Joor—pronounced “your”—Bol, the black-haired wraith at center stage, hammered out riffs with a strong metallic aftertaste; together their guitars had a biting tone similar to the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”
On the right, bassist Dan Marquez, and behind them, drummer Robert Torres, kept the jackhammer groove on track, while Ferro and Bol careened out of control with their guitars—Bol’s, some weird Italian model, and Ferro’s, a Mosrite knockoff held together with duct tape. After the song’s crunching finale, Bol began a very funny harangue of between-song verbal abuse, aimed at wallflowers in the back of the tiny club, which lasted the entire set. And when Bol launched into the next number, an autobiographical song about forced teenage exile in Idaho, his voice sounded not unlike the Cramps’ vocalist Lux Interior, a helium and opiate-marinated sepulchral rockabilly howl.
Welcome to a show by Supermodel Suicide, the band with what’s arguably the coolest name in town.
Rock ’n’ roll still remains, as deceased music writer Lester Bangs once put it, at its core a bunch of raving crapola. However, these days, most young practitioners of the dark art seem to be opting for a safer, more careerist path; the carefully crafted, emotion-drenched screeds of jilted boyfriends, inflamed by squalls of electric guitar noise, are the menu item du jour in today’s record-label A&R departments. Only New York fashionistas with some tangential downtown art-damage pedigree appear to be allowed to reference the golden age of glam.
So when a quartet of Sacramento mooks—two of whom, Bol and Ferro, came down the hill from Placerville a few years back to form one of the area’s better-known nu-metal bands, Shortie—serve up a more authentic version of New York Dolls-era glam than you’re likely to find at any rock ’n’ roll toilet in the five boroughs, perhaps it’s time to take notice.
According to Bol, that parallel universe of Dolls-era greatness provided the band’s template. “The Stooges, Iggy Pop, MC5, the Stranglers—we just worship that stuff,” he said. “It’s that era before rock was controlled by fashion and the industry, and people were just playing what they wanted to hear; they weren’t playing to a specific genre. They were playing to have fun and go out and shake their asses. Now people are playing to look cool, or to try and fit into a certain crowd. And, y’know, they’re afraid to really let go.”
Of course, it’s easy to look back on a time before you were born—at 24, Bol is Supermodel Suicide’s oldest member—and assume that no one in that imagined earlier, pristine era had the same crass motives, of looking cool or fitting in, that animates the more craven examples of modern bands. But Bol and company did get one thing totally right: His band sounds like it’s coming apart like a dragster with bolts loosened before a race: The engine may still be redlining, but other parts are separating from the machine and flying into the crowd. There’s an element of danger, which all rock bands should have, but most these days sadly don’t.
For Bol, a self-described former geek who once felt uncomfortable when confronted with the calculated cool of the well-adjusted, Supermodel Suicide provides a vehicle to bring other social misfits into the fold. “Tapping into teenage angst is like shooting fish in a barrel” he said. “To get kids to really let go and just start having fun and forget their problems, and just start really dancing, has been lost in the music scene.”
And here comes Supermodel Suicide to save the day.