Rhythm & Views

The Howling Hex

Back in his Royal Trux days, Neil Hagerty once said, "You've got to really like rock and roll to like our music." On his ninth solo release, and third under The Howling Hex moniker, he continues to challenge listeners, as Mojo magazine has stated, "by never making the same album twice." This isn't to say Nightclub isn't listenable; quite the contrary. But, like a lot of challenging music (Beefheart, free jazz, etc.), the reward follows a necessary initial investment, which is almost always well worth it.

Along for the ride this time are percussionist Lyn Madison, whose junk-yard/tribal approach is reminiscent of, say, the Master Musicians of Joujouka; and guitarist Mike Saenz, who gives some rhythmic foundation for Hagerty's patented skronk-riffing and effortless soloing, which sounds like Greg Ginn doing his best Ornette Coleman. All parties share vocal duties, which gives the record an almost joyful feel.

All seven songs here are nearly identical in form, tempo and length, varying only in melody, which gives the record a very solid, thematic feel. Highlights include the repetitive vocal harmonizing (and nearly chanting) on "Lips Begin to Move" and "Out, Out, Out."

What may have seemed aimless the first couple of times around becomes groovy and catchy with each successive listen. If you don't require the temptation of instant gratification, this stuff just might grow on you.