Ex Hex – Rips // Live at Broadcast, Glasgow, 13/02/2015
Mary Timony seemed half cut from the moment she hit the stage. It took her longer than it should have to work out that she didn’t have a microphone while the band were setting up, and when this problem had been sorted, you could see her scoping out the low beam of the ceiling in Broadcast as if to say, “You could be trouble!”
Having identified this potential barrier to achieving rock godhead, Timony proceeded to accidentally clatter the neck of her guitar off it three, maybe four times. She wobbled back from this each time, played bum notes, flubbed solos, stomped on her peddles a few seconds too late, but it didn’t matter because she was kicking out the jams, leaning in on bassist Betsy Wright, making bedroom rock fantasy vivid, drawing energy from Laura Harris’ drums. There’s a particular pleasure in hearing a tight, worried player like Timony cut loose, and Wright knows how to keep heads bobbing, but those drums were the biggest revelation of the night, so much more powerful than the muffled storm of the album, to the extent that I now suspect that the producer of Rips, Mitch Easter, was trying to save us all from having to buy replacement speakers!
Listening to the album, I keep coming back to the Borges story ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote’ (excerpted above), in which the titular character makes it his life’s work to write not a pastiche of Don Quixiote but Don Quixote itself. As Borges’ narrator tells us, the most radical challenge Menard faced was arriving at the writing of the Quxote while remaining himself: Ex Hex seem to have set themselves a similar set of goals.
The possible iterations of the bad-ass male rock band have been thoroughly tested, and various models have been allowed to age in front of our eyes, but there’s still a wild frontier there for women. Like your man Pierre Menard, Ex Hex are committed to exploring it, and so when they arrive at ‘Crimson and Clover’ or ‘Hold On Loosely’ these songs are rendered new, different, by virtue of the fact that they are now songs about having hot times with deadbeat guys written and performed by grown women who seem to be having more fun than a whole generation of Wyld Stallyns.