Handsome Furs @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (29/08/2009)


Perhaps best recognised for the winsome nostalgia of This Is Not My Town, The Model School are a band with real depth and variety. They proved an inspired support choice for the Montreal-based Handsome Furs. On songs like Sweet Tooth and the Prince cover Controversy, they stretch out into funkier territory, while other moments recall some of the arty but accessible Talking Heads singles and the warped classicism of early Sleepy Jackson.

They’re a hard band to pin down, The Model School, as One Way Ticket demonstrated their ability to take several surprising turns in the course of a single song, moving from Elvis Costello-referencing lyrics into a sprawling, improvised rave-up. Best of all, though, was the aforementioned This is Not My Town (which was also given away as a free single) which celebrates a time when 40 cents was enough to buy you a slice of happiness at the video game arcade. The crowd response generally ranged from muted curiosity to mild interest, but this local five-piece once again showed they’re blessed with plenty of musical ideas and a genuinely fresh take on some.

Handsome Furs were immediately greeted with a more animated crowd response, prompting Dan Boeckner to announce ‘Sydney 1, Melbourne 0!’, which only added to the already surging energy levels. They later tried to play into this great rivalry by dedicating ‘Handsome Furs Hate This City’ to Melbourne, but somehow poor old Wellington, NZ ended up copping it.

Dan Boeckner, adorned in a sleeveless black T-shirt of his beloved Australian punks X, proved an excitable and energetic presence throughout. His wife and bandmate Alexei Perry was an equally wild-eyed player, bouncing around stage and attacking her drum machine with sweaty abandon. The moments where the pair almost embraced had a voyeuristic kick, their skinny-limbed sex appeal providing a counterpoint to the paranoia of their music.

All We Want, Baby, Is Everything was introduced as being inspired by that “great Australian documentary” Mad Max and proved only slightly less thrilling than that movie, conveying some of that same eerie sense of isolation and madness. The offbeat song dedications continued with a jet-propelled I’m Confused, which went out to “a true gentleman”, Kung Fu star David Carradine, who recently “died a sexy death”, apparently due to autoerotic asphyxiation.

The militaristic drum machine beats of Evangeline kept the crowd moving while Nyet Spasisba was another thrilling slice of pent-up energy and restlessness and one of their many songs that double as travelogues, described by Dan as being inspired by coming across a group of prostitutes in their Moscow hotel breakfast room.

The hyper-catchy Can’t Get Started was a surprising omission from the set-list, but really, it was hard to find fault with a show that was truly worth the wait. Come back soon guys. And bring Wolf Parade. Please?