The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Ex Hex
Rips Julian Marszalek , October 17th, 2014 09:53

As long as those big wheels keep on turning to keep the big machines rolling, then why the hell would anyone try to reinvent them? Sure, you might tweak them here and there to increase power or conserve energy, but the crucial thing is that those wheels are round and will take you from one place to another with the minimum of fuss and with maximum effectiveness. And if anyone knows anything about not re-inventing the wheel to create one hell of an impact, then it's Ex Hex.

Rips, the debut album from this Washington DC trio, stuffs 12 sparkling gems into just over 35 minutes. This is an album totally devoid of filler and maxed out with instantly memorable hooks, melodies and riffs that will move into your head and take up residence for quite some time to come.

Not that Ex Hex has appeared from nowhere. Singer-guitarist Mary Timony has previous form, most notably in Wild Flag, the short-lived project that brought together Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss along with The Minders' Rebecca Cole, as well as Helium and Autoclave, while drummer Laura Harris and bassist Betsy Wright played with The Aquarium and Fire Tapes respectively. But here's the thing: the music contained within these grooves is so perfectly formed and captivating that it sounds as if they've been together for a lifetime.

Theirs is a reductive view of rock & roll that revels in its simplicity. Indeed the album might, on first inspection, sound like completely obvious music to make but that fails to take into account just how hard it is to achieve that. Seriously, there are so many hooks here, be it choruses, riffs or backing vocals, that you could hang all your winter coats on them and increase the space in your wardrobe. Similarly, though the touchstones referenced might be easy to spot – a touch of Joan Jett here, a smidge of Holly And The Italians there, all mixed up with a dash of The Go-Gos and the economy of The Ramones and some choice glam stomps – the sound that they make is entirely their own.

Opener 'Don't Wanna Lose' sets the pace for what's to follow with its primitive beats set against bouncing chords and a chorus that arrives well before the first minute is up. Any doubts that this is a one-off are soon allayed by the one-two of 'Beast' and 'Waste Your Time' with their string-bent riffs and down stroked galloping chords. The 'whoah-oh-oh' backing vocals of 'How You Got That Girl' will melt the hardest of hearts as elsewhere the hammered on strings that drive the chorus of the utterly infectious 'Radio On' are instantly addictive.

You need to stop what you're doing right now, grab a copy of Rips, let it go at full blast and jump around until you puke. And then go and do it all over again. It really is that good. So what are you waiting for?