Thursday, September 18, 2008

Review: Neil Michael Haggerty and The Howling Hex

The Howling Hex Earth Junk

(Drag City)


Iconoclastic trailblazer, Neil Michael Haggery, manages somehow to open up even more imaginative trunks of weirdly-shimmying, cracked-grin agitations with this organ-heavy record, his 9th release under the Howling Hex moniker.

It’s a dreamy little float down paranoid lanes littered with dejected ice cream truck drivers and fire-riddled picnic tables – Haggerty flexes his mastery of creating a slightly upsetting or on-edge sensibility while still constructing enough of a hook to keep you listening. The singer/guitarist also played in distinctive experimental southern-style spook-punk projects Pussy Galore and Royal Trux, and has been residing in New Mexico (only a half-hour’s drive from the border) for some time now – and these strange bouncing ditties reflect that ranchero flavor blipped into eerie waltzes and Haggerty’s straight-from-the-poet’s-notebook verbal wrangling.

It goes from the bizarre circus-pop of “Big Chief Big Wheel” (with Haggerty chanting la-la-la’s over a ghostly shredded guitar) to the nerve-wracking gurgle n claw of “Annie Get Redzy” to dreamy desert-road-cruising instrumental “Contraband & Betrayal” to effectively enticing pop-and-folk tunes like “No Good Reason” (with sweet affecting back up vocals from Eleanor Whitmore) and closer “O Why, Sports Coat?” No drums…no true steady rhythm – save the ever-coaxing warble of Sweney Tidball’s fender rhodes and synthesizer and the howl of this gaunt, doe-eyed mad scientist.

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