Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Ex Hex - Rips

 If you're the kind of person who likes to say "They don't make music like that any more," then Ex Hex are the girls for you.

The Washington DC trio are rock'n'roll in its truest sense, all cymbal crashes and clanging guitars, and it's really, really good to hear some new-old 'proper music' still being made, well into the 21st century.

Drums come courtesy of Laura Harris; Betsy Wright is billed as an 'ace piano player' and all-round performer; and Mary Timony is the driving force behind the songwriting.

The result of the collaboration is a slick performance across a dozen tracks with killer hooks and enough rock'n'roll heritage to leave you wondering if this really is a debut album, or a group who have been around for years.

Preorder Ex Hex - Rips on audio CD
Preorder Ex Hex - Rips on vinyl
(Released on October 13th 2014)

Guys, Brawls, and Getting Bent

So what's it all about? The blurb calls Rips "twelve songs about underdogs, guys stealing your wallet, schoolyard brawls, and getting bent".

That's a pretty fair summing-up of the subject matter, and the track New Kid is the perfect example. Lyrics include:

Here comes Johnny, he's your answer man
Says he can read you like the back of his hand
Says he can make you understand
Watch out, he'll be your best friend

Saw him in the woods skipping school
Talking trash and being rude
Smoking up, getting bent
Watch out, here he comes again

You're the new kid in town
Everybody tryin' to knock you down
They thought it hurt when they did it to me
I just laughed and I turned the other cheek
Just trying to get your kicks
And no one understands
You're a warrior, a warrior, a warrior
You're a warrior, a warrior, a warrior


A couple of tracks from Rips have already been previewed, so we're lucky enough to be able to bring those to you - and they're actually the first two songs on the record, which gives you a great chance to get a taste of how the whole thing kicks off (and we can say with certainty that the pace and energy levels don't drop at any point from there on in).

First up is Don't Wanna Lose, which is an absolute classic album-opener of a track. If you listen close you might hear the sound/I would never let you down/I thought you were a man of action/Come on baby, come on give me a little reaction... and it continues from there, a pacey but not hurried introduction to the Ex Hex sound, and an utterly intuitive choice of first track for the album.

Next is Beast, my personal pick of the two tracks, and actually one of my favourite tracks from the album as a whole. The lyrics, the riffs, and the general balance are all spot-on here, and it's a proper 'girl rock' tune too, which I absolutely mean only as a good thing.

You were standing on the corner/You were waiting for the beast/You had stories of prophets/But I didn't want to tease
Come down from your tower/You got tall tree power/Your eyes are on fire/You got no desire

Summing Up

So what's the verdict? Well, going back to the PR blurb, the instructions are "The record happens pretty quickly, so don't blink," but that really undersells it - the tracks have plenty of pace to them, but at anywhere from a brief 2:06 right up to 3:59, each has plenty of mileage, and importantly there's no feeling that anything has been cut short, rather that there's been no self-conscious effort to force extra verses in where they're not needed. All in all, there's 35 minutes of music here, which is plenty for a morning commute or to inject a bit of energy into your evening - and besides, who listens to albums from start to finish any more anyway?

Overall, there's plenty to like, and if you enjoy the tracks previewed above, you'll definitely enjoy the rest of Rips. With a vinyl version on sale, this really is an album with one foot firmly in the past, and Ex Hex seem determined to honour their rock'n'roll forefathers (or foremothers, perhaps...) in every way possible.

Despite this, it doesn't feel too much like ground that's been trodden before, perfectly balancing the old and new influences - and the trio's own unique characteristics too - to create a sound very much of its own time, quite an achievement in a debut album, and one that is deserving of plenty of respect as a result.

Preorder Ex Hex - Rips on audio CD
Preorder Ex Hex - Rips on vinyl
(Released on October 13th 2014)

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