EX HEX: “Rips”
*Personal bias: It should be noted, that I have always been a fan of Timony’s work, and do not always agree with popular opinions in regards to her solo work. This should not affect the review however, as Ex Hex is three people with very distinct musical personalities.
What else can be said about Mary Timony that hasn’t already? First she was a member of DC proto-riot grrl/math rock visionaries Autoclave, and later frontwoman to seminal Boston Noise pop outfit, Helium. She gained notoriety for her distorted, off-kilter guitar riffs and her unique, and often fantastical lyrics centering around female characters who don’t normally have a voice in indie rock. (Case in point; Helium’s debut E.P. Pirate Prude, was a concept album about a prostitute’s transformation into a vampire.)
Later in Helium’s run however, Timony shed her trademark fuzzbox, in favor of a more melodic, yet experimental Chamberlain-lead sound, which she dubbed “Weird Rock.” Helium’s dissolution in early 1998 (though they wouldn’t formally announce their break up til 2001) saw Timony heading even further left with her sonic palette, with songs now featuring Viola (played by her nonetheless), Harpsichord, Piano, and the aforementioned Chamberlain, as well as significantly darker lyrics.
Fans and critics were surprised, and even disappointed in the new direction, but in retrospect, these records (2000’s Mountains, and 2002’s The Golden Dove respectively) are some of Timony’s best records, and stand the test of time better than nearly everything else she had released previously (with the obvious exception of The Dirt of Luck), or since (exception: Wild Flag, and Rips).
So, This leads us to now. (I’m skipping over The Spells, Timony’s other two solo albums, and Wild Flag’s lone eponymous record. there are far more in depth articles on them scattered over the web on publications much larger than this one. look em up.)
Timony’s newest project, Ex Hex, has just dropped it’s highly anticipated new record. (The group also consists of Indie musicians Betsy Wright on bass, and Laura Harris on drums.) Fans will notice immediately that it is Timony’s loosest, most rawking, and fun collection of songs to date. Even more so than Wild Flag was. And that is really saying something.
Starting out with the one-two-three punch of “Don’t Wanna Lose,” “Beast,” and “Waste Your Time,” the record immediately finds its footing in the form of Proto-Punk song structures, and soaring vocal “melodees” (sorry, see bias above).
Timony sounds downright swaggering on “Don’t Wanna Lose,” as the stuttering riff which opens the track gives way to a rollicking chorus, which is practically the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster. Once the guitar solo comes, you won’t want to play anything else for the next few days. But you must press on, as this is only the beginning of this fantastic disc. But I digress.
“Beast” is pure glam punk circa 1973, with a “Personality Crisis” overtone to the riffs in between the verses.
“Waste Your Time” is pure Big Star a la “September Gurls,” with its jangly riff, and Chilton-esque solo. Speaking of Alex Chilton and Big Star, pre-album single “Hot and Cold” also evokes the spirit of the Memphis Power-Pop trio, with its crystalline verses, and big-muff heavy chorus.
Another unexpected highlight comes when Betsy Wright steps up to the mic to sing “Radio On.” who knew she had such a gorgeous voice? I’m quietly weeping in the corner of the office, thinking of all of the wasted years that have gone by, which could have featured a release by herr Wright.
If any faults with the record are to be found, it is that the “Hot and Cold” single is repeated here in it’s entirety (albeit in re-recorded form.) Given, all three tracks are in superior form here, but that leaves only eight new tracks (mostly) unheard to the general public. (mostly, excluding the lucky few that were able to catch Ex Hex on their autumn tour of last year, or their spring tour of this year. Lucky bastards.)
What more is there to say? A great record, by a group of veterans, that sounds like it has been playing together for ages. I was originally supposed to review Ex Hex’s Merge label mates Caribou’s new record, Our Love next, but now I can’t be bothered to; all I want to do is listen to Rips. They’re probably somewhere laughing about this disservice they've done. Damn you, Ex Hex..