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Leverage Models - Interim Deliverable/Forensic Accounting

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Artist: Leverage Models

Album: Interim Deliverable/Forensic Accounting

Label: Home Tapes

Review date: Feb. 3, 2012


Leverage Models - "Fleeced (Before the Lord)" (Forensic Accounting)


In finance, leverage models test how portfolios will perform under various scenarios, given the proportion of debt and real assets in them. (They are at the heart of the very good film Margin Call.) These models failed spectacularly in the run-up to the global credit crisis, entirely failing to predict the dangers that eventually sunk Lehman, Bear Stearns, Iceland and Ireland, among others, and kicked off a worldwide recession that has only recently begun to lift. So, why would you name a band after such a thing? It’s an interesting question and, with very little to base an answer on (building on nothing is sort of the flavor of the day), I’d assume that somewhere along the way, Shannon Fields of Stars like Fleas had a day job on Wall Street. I’d further conjecture that when he left his old band and Brooklyn for a farmhouse upstate, he had on his mind the proportions of reality and falsehood, of the smallness of the world’s actual underpinnings and the vastness of the conditional constructions that rested on it.

In any case, Interim Deliverable and Forensic Accounting are Fields’ first two releases since Stars Like Fleas, but saying he was involved tells you next to nothing about the way they sound. Stars like Fleas had a fuzzy, indefinite spirituality, a cloudy, improvisatory beauty, that seemed, even when created by electronic instruments, to be wholly natural. Here everything is polished and glittery, hedonistic without any real sense of sex and sweat. Every drum sound echoes with gated reverb. Every keyboard blare resonates in a surgically clean, clear space. All the vocals flutter between high tenor and true falsetto. Fields says he was influenced by Suicide, but where’s the darkness? Instead, the aesthetic tends towards the shinier, more commercial end of new wave — bands like Naked Eyes, Duran Duran and Tears for Fears. If you like Wild Beasts, but find them a little too weirdly baroque and fetish-y, if you think Handsome Furs puts too much grit and gut into their dance grooves, then maybe you’ll like Leverage Models. It’s very clean.

Of the two, I’m liking Forensic Accounting the best. In opener “Idiot Grace,” the experimental mesh flowers into a headlong, giddy pleasure cruise, all bell-toned synth riffs, brass blares and subtly gentrified funk rhythms. The chorus is almost huge enough, almost inevitable enough to carry you away, despite whatever reservations you have about empty clarity or silly overblown grandeur. There’s a sense of trebly excitement in “Playing with Models” that might distract you from settling on a “bad Depeche Mode” reference point. Sure, everything’s been puffed up way past its normal size with production and synthetic instruments, but isn’t that the point? Hasn’t everything in our world been inflated like a Macy’s balloon?

Interim Deliverable is even more mannered, breaking out of its own hauteur only occasionally (“Face Down” is intriguingly mental, its falsetto particularly harried and frayed). “Tonight When I Burn” is the big song, as stylized as a catwalk strut, crooning ’70s saxophone over a wall-pounding disco beat. Yet it’s chilled to the core. No one’s burning anything here. I can’t even smell the smoke.

Maybe what the financial crisis taught us applies: that if you put too much nothing in a portfolio, it’s going to eventually crash; that you can’t eat derivatives or use them to gas up your car; that if you make music that only refers to other empty musics, then there will be nothing there to listen to. Maybe the credit debacle just claimed another victim, one Shannon Fields, formerly of Stars Like Fleas.

By Jennifer Kelly

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