Ex Hex - It's Real - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ex Hex - It's Real

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2019-03-22
Ex Hex - It's Real
Ex Hex - It's Real

Back in 2014, Mary Timony’s Ex Hex released a stellar debut of pop-rock with heavy riffage, and an 80s power metal groove to it. To put it more directly: Rips ripped. The album was one of the biggest successes of Timony’s post-Helium career. I managed to catch them a handful of times on tour that year with Speedy Ortiz, and they were by far one of the most fun rock bands to catch live. The energy, the tight song writing, it was all perfect for 2014.

Flash forward to 2019, and Ex Hex return with It’s Real, an album that’s so far removed from the aesthetic of Rips that its hard to imagine it’s the same band. One of the major strengths of Rips was how well all of it came together. There was this glam-rock feel to it, and that’s definitely missing from It’s Real. If anything, It’s Real is just a B-side record to Rips, as very little has changed between the albums, outside of Timony attempting to be a bit more topical with her lyrics. All the necessary components are here, they just don’t align as seamlessly as before.

For example, “Tough Enough” has soaring 80s guitar riffage, and a singalong chorus, but lyrically its bland and uninspired. When Rips came out, we were a different world, enjoying prosperity under the previous administration, so the light-hearted romp that was Rips was energetic and fun. Now that we’re steeped in tyranny, the music takes on a whole different light. In a way, It’s Real is a political album, but the statement recycled to the point that it can be a bit of a slog to get through.

All of this is to just say that It’s Real pales in comparison to Rips, but that’s not to say it’s a total drag. There’s still plenty to enjoy from the record – “Diamond Drive” is an exhilarating, surf rock inspired jaunt, and elsewhere on the record during “Radiate” Timony gives a lively presentation that’s fun and positive. After years with Helium, Wild Flag, and all her various projects, I suppose the expectation was a little high for Ex Hex to deliver another whopper of power pop.

It’s Real just seems unnecessarily safe, with a lot of the same elements that made Rips fun, but 5 years later it comes off as a rehash and makes its audience desperate for the nostalgia of it’s predecessor. Still, if your cup of tea is power chords, hard rocking riffage, and stitched together lyrics, you could do much worse than Ex Hex.

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