Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Thursday, 21 November 2013

THE HOWLING HEX - ALL NIGHT FOX album review Plan B Magazine, 2005

(Drag City)
When I last saw Royal Trux, I was unprepared for the sheer danger level that seemed to shoot out from them and suffuse the room. Not danger as in the usual r’n’r hotel-trashing puerility – danger as in it felt frightening, seeing how many possibilities they were toying with. And while Jennifer H was the focus of most people’s attention, the most palpable waves of hostility to the universe were pouring from Neil Hagerty. Or rather, from this fucked-up little Fender box amp and the kind of guitar you’d pick up at Argos. There was a freedom and a fearlessness to what he did with that guitar that I’ll never forget, and it’s reinvoked every time I hear him.
   So The Howling Hex have a lot of love to trash, simply by dint of his presence. Before a note is heard, this is a hip document. But you don’t need to know the Trux to digthis. All Night Fox is a livid, searing lash of aggravation and contact-high noise that welcomes anyone in who wants to hear riffs unshakeable, vocals unbreakable, patterns inescapable. We’re talking lip-smacking hooks courtesy of Hagerty’s constant Eddie Hazel/John McLaughlin homage – his palette limited but kicking against its limitations in pleasingly aggressive fashion. Underneath we have the horniest, holiest, funkiest rhythm section this side of Can or The Silver Apples. Slathered over everything is Hagerty’s whining tones, somewhere between abject filth and religious revelation, and two female voices heavily echoplexed and coming on like The Feminine Complex or Grace Slick wandering the sewers.
   ‘Now We’re Gonna Sing’ kicks things off on a collision of The Pretty Things ‘Come See Me’ and The Creation’s ‘Making Time’, and that should tell you how ace it is. ‘Instilled With Mem’ry’ lives in its dubbed-out space as much as its bustling Beefheart undertow, before ‘Pair Back Up Mass With’ slays ya – a slo-mo, arsepummellingly, toe-curlingly funky take on ‘Sister Ray’-style repetition with enough psychout touches to reach those parts of your brain you’d rather leave unravaged. ‘Activity Risks’ comes on like Tarnation backed by PiL; ‘What Man? Who Are You?!' takes seven minutes of your life and gives you back a holy headache, only slightly relieved by ‘Cast Aside The False’ – Ronettes/Roches-style soul played by dirty, dirty people. ‘Soft Enfolding Spreads’ waves you back to the beginning with the best music Hagerty’s made since Royal Trux’s Accelerator, and perhaps the most mindblowing since their Twin Infinitives. It’s probably best to have never heard Hagerty before – keep The Howling Hex as your first exposure to his unquenchable drive to mutual headfuck. Cos he hasn’t been as locked-on and out of control for too damn long.
   Welcome back to being out of the loop, in no fold, with only this goddamn irresistable sound to hold you up as it frogmarches you into its depths and up into the cosmos. For all the echoes you hear within All Night Fox, what’s truly frightening is that you have to invent your response as it occurs to you. Like all that will truly excite in 2005, All Night Fox is linked to nothing but its own red-eyed commitment to pursue its own tail, swallow you up with it, and devour itself out of existence. Let it pull you under, soon as.