Release Date: Dec 6, 2011
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Four years after Earth Junk, the Howling Hex returned with Wilson Semiconductors, an exercise in cryptic simplicity: the band’s lineup is down to Neil Hagerty, who plays guitar, bass, and occasional keyboards over the course of just four songs. However, he can be just as challenging with everything seemingly out in the open as he is when burying everything in noise and non sequiturs. As on Earth Junk, Wilson Semiconductors is largely percussion-free, adding to the playful feel of Hagerty's staccato guitar and bass, which tap out clippity-cloppity rhythms that evoke Deerhoof as well as Les Paul and Mary Ford.
For someone who has spent the bulk of his musical life sourcing inspiration from the past, Neil Hagerty hasn't made many backward movements through his own career. When Pussy Galore reformed for one of Yo La Tengo's annual Hanukkah shows this past December, he was nowhere to be seen. The Royal Trux reissues Drag City's put out barely seem different from the original releases.
Neil Michael Hagerty’s more unruly work with Royal Trux in the 80s and 90s shows that he is deep in arrears by the standards of critical ‘adequacy.’ So what do you do when you’re deep in debt and there’s nothing to be done about it? You fuck about and have a good time. Hagerty is like Newton, playing with syringes and his own eyeballs/eardrums so we don’t have to. When he extracts certain elements of a song or overdoes it on others, we, the listener, are shown the ropes of rock ’n’ roll: what works and what just bombs.
The Howling Hex like to play with guitars, mashing together and overlaying different patterns of notes that can appear at times only tangentially related. Their new album, Wilson Semiconductors, contains little percussion and only occasional vocals. The singing – more of a place holder between guitar bouts than anything else—is often limited to repetition of simple phrases.