Robert Christgau:
Expert Witness

Ex Hex / Allo Darlin’ / Alvvays / Shilpa Ray / Courtney Barnett / Girlpool / Potty Mouth


Ex Hex: Rips

(Merge)

Two decades after Helium’s ethereal prog-punk, Mary Timony strips down to an unrelenting forward motion powered by her own economical guitar hooks. Reminds me of an album I loved in 1978 and scarcely think of anymore: the Vibrators’ Pure Mania. But where those guys projected closet-nasty nerd aggression, Timony sounds detached and even dreamy as she tells a male who may be one man or many different ones that he’s not as cool as he thinks he is and would be better off not trying. Lyrically, this is an advance, tensing with principled irony against the thrust of the sound. Whether the voice has enough muscle to propel the music as conceived is a trickier question. A MINUS


Allo Darlin’:
We Come From the Same Place

(Slumberland)

Elizabeth Morris seeks only to find fame as our mellifluous songpoet of sane love—modest fame, because sane she is. If you’re one of the modest number who think it possible to make unfailingly tuneful, moderately uptempo Rickenbacker-rock of such poetic strokes as “I think you’re brave,” “I wanted to impress you,” “I am grateful for that,” and “Please believe me I’ve never said this before,” you will love her with all the suspension your disbelief can muster. If you don’t, she’s too good for you. The latter isn’t great for her numbers and she knows it. But she’ll settle. A MINUS


Alvvays: Alvvays

(Polyvinyl)

Molly Rankin’s wan, naturally flat soprano renders her ironically upbeat cannot-love ditties more credible, and “Next of Kin” extends the cliche to a suitably alarming metaphorical extreme in which a suitor drowns due to Molly’s emotional ineptitude. So no wonder her excited new fanbase is so relieved by “Archie, Marry Me.” Assuming the challenged couple get to cut that cake, I wish them many lubricious years of one-on-one “debauchery”—Rankin’s word, and I sincerely hope it’s no metaphor. B PLUS


Shilpa Ray: It’s All Self-Fellatio (Bad Seeds, Ltd.) Four forlornly sexy, gutsy songs that somehow sound better individually than as part of a whole that maybe just isn’t one (“I Is What I Is,” “Posted by Anonymous”) ***

Courtney Barnett: The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (Mom + Pop/Milk!) So redolent in their way, the EPs’ titles, I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose, suggest neither the irresistibility of her greatest shoegaze nor her ill-conceived tendency to strum when she can’t think of anything charming to say (“Avant Gardener,” “History Eraser”) **

Girlpool: Girlpool (Wichita Recordings) The loneliness of the dirty-minded teengirl (“Blah Blah Blah,” “Slutmouth”) **

Potty Mouth: Hell Bent (Old Flame/Marshall Teller) Spiffy new bratmobile fully equipped with monotone, invective, and unguarded pride (“The Gap,” “Wishlist”) *


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Follow Robert Christgau on Twitter at @rxgau.
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