A Working Model

An End

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There is something perversely satisfying about the title of A Working Model's debut album, An End; it reads as if something progresses, it is already finished. French thinkers and writers such as Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault, and Georges Bataille would have loved it. The title and lovely cover art on both sides of the booklet tell another story and illustrate that title. Musically, A Working Model is anything but an end. The mix of elemental considerations here: very tight songwriting with hard, at times pile-driving -- à la Place of Skulls, Spirit Caravan, Pearl Jam, the Obsessed -- and wily, loose limbed post-rock and metal (Isis, though they sound nothing like them), and the confessional adventurousness of the direction the late Jeff Buckley was taking when he passed away, though they sound like none of these acts. Chris Lawrence is an authoritative frontman, he sings -- he doesn't yell or scream -- with conviction, passion and a kind of insightful phrasing seldom heard today. Tim Lawrence's bass work is an upfront directional force. This band is kept (barely) from lifting off by Rob Logan's iron-fisted controlled drumming (metronymic it's not) holding that search and destroy bassline, and Kenny Mis' unclassifiable guitar playing to the intense, melodic and riff-saturated song structures. From the opener, the nine-and-a-half minute "Way of Life," the listener is enveloped in a rockist soundworld that is at once familiar and yet exotic. The rhythms shift and change, the lyric line doesn't float or hover as Lawrence pulls the musicians to the edge with him and they more than willingly comply. The sheer number of parts in the tuner, the way Tim Lawrence wrangles that bassline and it gets filled in and sprayed with color by Mis, is an obsessive pleasure for the listener. The skittering über-beat of Logan's authority never wavers, he's holding all three men accountable for these shifts in space, texture and time. His fills are big, meaty, nearly furious -- they have to be -- as this band tries to break the time/space continuum.

And yet it goes even further than this. Check the sheer power of "Sneeze, Swallow, Exhale, Blink." Here, dynamics and texture blend and weave through one another and the force of the tune, ever forward into a maelstrom of guitar and bass noise, is infectious, viral. The contrapuntal section in the middle is gorgeous. There is a small host of guest musicians here as well, but basically it's down to the quartet, pulling this storm of sound together and transforming it into a well of emotion, power and even a ragged, dirty controlled rock & roll madness. Tracks four through seven in some sense bleed together, the dynamic range isn't as large, but it's more a sequencing issue than anything being wrong. It feels like a suite of songs one would want to hear played live in order. When "Escape Artist" roars to life, that's a forgotten issue. The riff is constant even as the track shifts itself and twists on a dime, picking up speed and menace as it goes. Lawrence's voice expresses both anger and vulnerability, and the need for redemption, easily moving through each seamlessly. He is a man on a tightrope looking for his band to walk out there with him. Held in check by Logan's kit work, they do just that, as the sonic maelstrom whirls around them and through them. The set closes with the melodic, harmonic beauty of "The Light." It's a track that begins slowly, almost tentatively, with Mis' guitar offering a riff as melody, underscored by an uncharacteristically muted bass by Lawrence. When Logan pops his snare and thuds his floor tom, that all changes and a pronounced rock sensibility comes to the fore. Chris Lawrence heads right for the edge, taking note of the drops and rises in the instrumental flow of language. Of course he interrupts, it's what you would expect by now from A Working Model. But never without getting surprised at how it manifests itself. It rocks, rolls, shakes, shivers, and undoes itself in less than six minutes. An End is a debut to be considered, endured and ultimately encountered by a band from Michigan who seemingly come out of the blue with an identity that is uniquely their own. They enter the picture fully present. Their music is as elliptical and authoritative as its name and the album's title. It is a working paradox, because An End is certainly no more than a beginning of something else altogether in rock.

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