‘X-Men: First Class reviews itself’ – an exhausted line that’s difficult to un-hear these few years later when Ex Hex’s terrific debut, Rips, so aptly describes its modus operandi. The album is comprised of twelve, playful-but-still-focused songs, conveyed with scorching riffage and inimitable choruses. ‘Waterfall’ is a defining excerpt from the tight trio’s record.
An aural signature of Brooklyn-based indie rockers, Real Estate, is the use of a guitar as a second vocalist. Ex Hex does much the same thing, whereby both duties fall upon the effervescent Mary Timony. Her vocal efforts (besides making one imagine what the Gun Club would have sounded like if they were female-fronted) and punchy guitar work share the limelight, with the last-mentioned stealing the show.
Despite becoming more and more nebulous, the term ‘Strokesian’ generally applies to that band’s sculpted, pre-First Impressions sound. While bits of Rips openly wear the influence of Nick Valensi’s meandering leads, this particular track draws upon a Strokesian rhythm section – the memory of which was made all the more painful with Casablancas and co’s lazy aural reminiscence in ‘All the Time’ off the sub-par Comedown Machine.
On the other hand, Ex Hex pull off this track with a refreshing sense of urgency and quickly change the topic from disillusioned Strokes fans to the fact that their debut is one of 2014’s finest guitar-grounded pieces.