Ex Hex: It's Real (Merge) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, December 5th, 2020  

Ex Hex

It’s Real


Apr 23, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Who would have thought that this is where Mary Timony would have ended up in 2019? The former Helium head honcho was once the poster girl for detuned, anti-pop alternative guitar music, but this decade has seen her soften in her abrasion. The project Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss was a step into the more conformist waters of post-punk, whilst the first Ex Hex album in 2014 (Rips) was positively poptastic, a blazoning, primary-colored bonanza of power chord, New Wave punk that retained the spikiness, but with the melodies dialled to 11, a sort of modern day Cheap Trick.

This follow-up is another few stations down the mainstream rock line, a fulsome embrace of the '70s AOR aesthetic, complete this time with the sort of varnished, sterilised studio production that irons every last wrinkle out of its human performers' imperfections. Guitars do not stab or scrape at the canvas of It's Real, they laminate it. Drums echo in orchestration, vocals are layered seemingly dozens of times over. The album behaves like a situationist experiment with this most maligned of genres; it would not be surprising if it transpires to have been an elaborate dare to see if it is in fact possible to craft cool from these legendarily lame confines.

The melodies are as strong as on Ex Hex's debut and many tunes here will easily linger ("Tough Enough," "No Reflection"). Indeed, many listeners will get a thrill from the laser-pointed precision of the final product, a sort of quest for sonic perfection. But unless the bulk of Timony and Ex Hex fans have been harvesting a secret love for Rainbow or Foreigner for all these years, the sheer bloodlessness, the cleanliness, the emphatic punklessness of it all might just make it a pill too bland for many to swallow. (www.exhexband.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 3/10


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