Ex Hex: Rips

25 Oct
Photo courtesy Ex Hex's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Ex Hex’s Facebook page.

Rips, the debut album of Washington, DC-based pop-punk trio Ex Hex, is definitely not about breaking new ground. The song structures are familiar: on mid-album number “How You Got That Girl”, an upbeat first verse leads into an equally energetic chorus, complete with Wo-oh-ohs thrown into the background. The lyrics are rather dated, mostly riffing on men who are disappointing (“Beast”), desperate (“You Fell Apart”) or foolish (“Hot and Cold”). Overall, Ex Hex is perfectly content with using the wheel just as it is.

That being said, Rips is one of THE best debuts we’ve heard all year.

Ex Hex is a perfect testament to an age-old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, the band makes songs with classic, almost predicable elements of pop and punk: but man, does it work. The ballsy opening lines on “New Kid” drip with the derision of Timony’s sneers and instantly draw you in. The sparkly, 70s-glam gem “Waterfall” subtly underline the exhilarating effect of a well-placed, well-timed guitar solo. On “Hot and Cold”, the broad beats, easy guitars and uncomplicated lyrics make you wonder: it can’t be that easy to sound so good, is it?

Photo courtesy Ex Hex's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Ex Hex’s Facebook page.

One of the most striking things about the band is the comfort shared between its talented members. Ex Hex comprises three of punk rock’s women royalty. Mary Timony, singer and lead guitarist, is a punk veteran, starting her career with girl-punk band Autoclave and going on to form the all-women super-group Wild Flag with Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. Bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris have equally impressive resumes, working with bands such as Fire Tapes and The Aquarium, respectively. On Ex Hex’s crisp, concise 12-song run, the three members sync together in a way that belies their one-year common history – and speaks more of the diverse years of experience behind them.

As we wrote about last year’s trio of darling women rockers Haim, Ex Hex is blessed with a sense of what works. Unlike Haim, however, Ex Hex’s members have gained this sense over decades of successful work. In a way, that’s what sets Rips apart: although it is a debut, its comfort and confidence give it the aura of a record that is years and years in the making.

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