There are few bands around these days with a musical lineage as strong as Washington’s Ex Hex. Front woman Mary Timony has previously served as the lynchpin of seminal 90s noise pop outfit Helium as well as seeing action as a key member of Wild Flag, during which she slung axes with Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. So, her new project couldn't have been anything other than an exiting prospect.
Ex Hex’s debut album Rips was recorded in Timony’s basement at the breakneck speed of just two week and it’s this high energy, no fuss philosophy that was apparent during their sold out show at London’s Oslo. Amidst a haze of dry ice and strobe Timony strode onto the stage with fellow Ex Hexers Betsy Wright and Laura Harris before greeting the crowd with palpable excitement. It was clear that tonight was all about Ex Hex issuing their brash, rock ’n’ roll edict and proving they weren’t intending on resting on their laurels as they headed up their set with “Don’t Wanna Lose” - their biggest song to date.
Timony’s delivery dripped with sardonic glee as Wright pounded her bass and even provided a few tongue-in-cheek ‘guitar in crotch’ poses, serving as the leather-clad yin to Timony’s girlish, ponytailed yang.
But it was when the band broke into “Waterfall” that they showcased their twelve-bar infused biker rock. The debt this band owes to the likes of The Stains and The Voidoids was unashamedly apparent as the relentless riffs and tight harmonies shook the front rows. But nobody seemed to care about any derivative moments, as Timony addressed the crowd with “You guys are awesome!” and struck a finger gun pose straight out of the book of Rizzo, it was clear this was kind of the point.
As the band raced through their set, they seamlessly slid into a turbo charged rendition of “New Kid” which saw Timony leave no doubt (if there were any to begin with) that she’s one of the deftest guitar players around at the moment, effortlessly blasting out some guitar work that could quite easily see the definition of ‘killer’ be re-written.
But the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly their mid-set rendition of album stand-out “Beast”. On Rips, the track is packed with enough tightly wound energy to jump start a small city, but tonight the song was given an airing that thundered with ten mile high swagger, and nearly surpassed the limits of the venues soundsytem. Timony and Wright repeatedly met each other centre stage, guitars held high, while Harris crashed the drum kit to within an inch of its life, menacingly up-lit with glowing red. The band seemed to be telekinetically locked into one another as they embarked on a surprising wig out that left the crowd jostling, sweaty and satisfied.
Ex Hex delivered a pummelling, drive-by set of stomping rock ’n’ roll and showed that this band is a formidable addition to Timony’s already impressive list of exploits, and not only that, the band clearly loved very minute of it.