Published Mar 20, 2019Take a look at the music video for "Tough Enough" — the lead single from Ex Hex's sophomore LP It's Real — and you'll get a pretty good sense of where the band are at. Showing the trio as they survive the fallout of nuclear war, only to perform thudding, slinky rock in the wasteland, the song is, in the band's words, about "forging ahead through whatever storms are happening, 'cause you don't really have a choice." It's Real is a brash, stylish manifesto of this ethos, as Ex Hex respond to contemporary frustrations with a smiling sneer and total release.
Led by singer Mary Timony — previously of Helium and Wild Flag — along with drummer Laura Harris and bassist Betsy Wright, Ex Hex first emerged with their riotously fun album, Rips, in 2014. Since then, the group have focused on deepening their sound, introducing complex networks of vocal lines with shifting layers of melody.
The result is a direct collection of guitar-heavy anthems, each of which masterfully hides the hours of labour that tangle beneath the surface. This, it seems, is precisely what Ex Hex are aiming for — clean rock tracks that deliver an immediate high, while still growing and unfolding over repeat listens.
Lyrically, It's Real relies on a brute force, if not a particular nuance. When Timony sings "You came in so hot / You broke the ice up" on single "Rainbow Shiner," she does so in an affected, unbalanced meter — sinking her teeth into "hot," sliding high over "ice." As a listener, meditating over lyrical turns such as these for too long is best avoided. Better to let the rhythm of the lyrics hit, following Timony as she goes.
In the kaleidoscopic turns of its riffs and the lofty heights of its choruses, It's Real is a perfect soundtrack for forging ahead at high velocity. (Merge)