The Howling Hex: The Best of the Howling Hex (Drag City)

Twelve years after their demise, Neil Michael Hagerty has now spent just about as much time on his own as he spent in Royal Trux with his former partner Jennifer Herrema (currently fronting Black Bananas, formerly known as RTX). It's fairly safe to say that while Herrema inherited the trashy rock, style and swagger from her old band's pantheon, Hagerty got the risk-taking and experimental sensibilities (not to mention his guitar chops). Sometimes, challenging albums are well worth a few listens. Other times not so much.

Best of, Hagerty's 11th album fronting the Howling Hex (not including three initial solo albums) is unfortunately titled: It's neither a retrospective (these are new songs), nor is it remotely the best work that Hagerty has released under the Hex moniker.

Picking up where 2011's Wilson Semiconductors left off, Hagerty is still mining his self-proclaimed "border sound," which in recent years has meant repetitive polka/waltz tempos on drums, bass and organ, along with Hagerty's recognizable guitar wailing and inimitable voice.

Unfortunately, the entirety of Best of is a repetitive and redundant listen. While tracks such as opener "Built a Friend" and "The General Prologue" feature a tight and compressed guitar skronk not unlike that found on Royal Trux's catchy nod to the '80s, 1998's Accelerator (recently reissued by Drag City), the polka/waltz structure is too dominant and limiting.

Historically, Hagerty has shown that he has the tools to construct interesting, if challenging, rock music. Here's hoping he digs deeper into the shed next time around.

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