Products of Memphis’ storied garage-punk scene — which has hailed the likes of Jay Reatard and Oblivians — quintet Ex-Cult wear their roots proudly to create a thick breed of punk rock that’s heavy while never seeming overbearing. In their most recent LP, produced by relentless garage rocker Ty Segall, we see the band at their peak, creating one of the thickest and angriest records of the year.
Described by lead singer Chris Shaw as being “a nine-track nightmare” and a “death trip in the crystal ship,” it was apparent from the get go that this project would be a no holds barred affair. Kicking things off with the assaulting “Mr. Investigator,” a quick track propelled by its driving drums, thick twin guitars and barking vocals, the group makes their intentions clear: they’re here to play fast and will stop at nothing. This onslaught carries on throughout the album, never skipping a beat and blanketing every track with a thick buzzing fuzz tone. The songs themselves, which bridge the gap between early hardcore, 60’s garage rock and post-punk, are played with the utmost intensity, and dribble with themes of 21st century angst and anxiety. Despite the LP’s relentless nature, Ex-Cult never take things too far, ensuring a kind of listenability in the midst of its jarring heaviness.
While Negative Growth might not be the year’s best record, it should be commended for it’s intensity and dense sound. Producer Ty Segall, who also produced the band’s previous LP “Midnight Passenger,” once again proves his ability to showcase the best sonic quality from the music. By combining his sonic tropes with the band’s signature driving sound, they create a unique batch of songs typical of them. It will be difficult to find another punk album this overblown this year, and rightfully so.
Key Tracks: “Mr. Investigator,” “Panic in Pig Park,”Hollywood Heatseeker”
– LVL Up – Return to Love (Sub Pop)
– Merchandise – A Corpse Wired For Sound (4AD)
– Warpaint – Heads Up (Rough Trade)