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Mary Timony - Ex Hex

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Artist: Mary Timony

Album: Ex Hex

Label: Lookout

Review date: Apr. 6, 2005

It’s pretty incredible that Mary Timony scooped everybody on the big psych-folk revival with her magic ‘n’ special unicorn worship solo records, and latter-day Helium output, for Matador. Not incredible in the sense that she couldn’t do it, but more in the sense that she did when she did. I’ve seen Animal Collective pounding on the floor, and Devendra Barnhart braying into a microphone; that type of junk is big business today. And I remember Mary up there, strumming away with a purpose. But yeah. She’s over that now.

So where to go after you turn your back on the Fairie Kingdom? You take a shower, you clean up your act, you shake off any unnecessary production and you go back to your indie rock roots. Which is just what Timony’s done with her latest, Ex Hex. Jumping ship from Matador to Lookout, she’s shed a skin of sorts, stripping down to a duo with her on guitar and mathrocky drummer Devin Ocampo (Medications, Faraquet), who knows his way around polyrhythms as well as forceful, straight-ahead drum patterns. It’s the kick in the ass Timony needed to move on; she tends to meld together a bit too well with who she’s playing with (remember how ropey she got when she was playing with Ash Bowie from Polvo?), and it’s to her benefit that Ocampo has the energy to carry his half of these songs to the finish line.

But moving on sometimes means moving back, which is why Ex Hex plays with the kind of energy you might have expected of a project of hers between her early 90s stints fronting DC popsters Autoclave, her somewhat caustic, druggy-sounding days in Helium, and her axe-wielding in Mind Science of the Mind. There’s very little indirect or lilting here, as both musicians charge forward with the Spirit of 1994 (or the power of Simple Machines – cough) at their backs. Perhaps the Spirit of Radio strikes them as well, as there’s more than a little bit of stadium-strength prog riffage rifling through certain tracks that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a late ‘70s Rush album, such as the geometric tumble of the album closer “Backwards/Forwards.” Likewise, Timony channels another guitar hero, Pete Townshend, throughout the record (to particularly masterful effect on “Return to Pirates” and in the verses of “Hard Times Are Hard”), with a particularly effective rhythmic lead technique.

It’s particularly satisfying to hear confident music like this, played with the fiery purpose of those who pioneered it over the last two decades. Of course, in doing so, Timony places herself ahead of the curve once again. Which isn’t too bad of a place to be in the long run.

By Doug Mosurock

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