No one could claim that Mary Timony's career hasn't produced vital and memorable music, but at the same time one would be hard-pressed to say that she hasn't had her share of confounding moments. Despite Helium being one of the best art-rock acts of the '90s, some of her prior band's work felt uninspired, and her prog-ish solo debut, Mountains, had a little too much rough to dig through to get to the diamonds. With The Golden Dove, Timony continued her foray into fantasy themes with much better results, but the album still required more patience than most listeners were capable of giving.
So if the fairytale prog of her first two solo records left you feeling disenchanted, check out Ex Hex. With it, Timony seems to have left behind the swords and sorcery; instead, she's given us a record that blends the deft musicianship of Helium with the energy of her first band, the influential all-girl punk group Autoclave. The album is readily accessible and loaded with some rockin' numbers. The girlish anthem "9 x 3" blazes through its first three minutes and ends with a well-executed minute-long breakdown, while "Return to Pirates," probably the best track on the album, delivers some fine swashbuckle rock with its sick guitar work and catchy chorus. Ex Hex underscores the fact that Mary Timony is an interesting and underrated guitarist capable of writing fun songs, and it's nice to see her revisit a style of music that she helped develop.