CMJ - "[Their] self-titled debut album weaves together raw energy and tight control."
Recording information: Bauer Mansion, Chinatown, San Francisco, CA (08/2012).
Photographer: Bekah Cope.
Once upon a time, when someone said "punk rock," it was pretty clear what musical boundaries they were discussing, but in the 21st century, punk has taken on enough influences that it can encompass just about anything, and that probably suits Ex-Cult just fine. A five-piece from Memphis, Ex-Cult sound tough, nasty, and reckless, just like a good punk band should, but an unholy variety of sounds bubbles beneath the surface of the 12 tunes on their self-titled debut album. The vocals are informed by a Darby Crash/Keith Morris level of snot, but the musicians have thrown together shards of garage rock, psychedelia, art rock, noise rock, hardcore, first-generation punk, and even hooky pop into a gumbo that's at once menacing and wildly celebratory. A thick fog of echo holds the pieces together as Ex-Cult whip these tunes into shape, with an attack that's impressively tight without sounding as if they worried over it. Friend and fan Ty Segall produced the band, which clearly shares some creative ground with him, but while Segall's work sometimes sounds noisy and overloaded for its own sake, there doesn't seem to be a single bit of distortion here that's not purposeful and put in place with great care, and primitive as the songs may be, they're also powerfully effective, and "Young Trash," "Post Graduate," "Don't Feel Anything," and the epic-scale (almost six minutes!) finale "Future Victims" have sharp, engaging tunes to go along with the constantly exploding guitars and drums. Memphis has become home to one of America's most interesting punk scenes in recent years, and with this album, Ex-Cult have quickly moved close to the head of the class; this is great, raw rock & roll with just as much brains as guts. ~ Mark Deming