The Howling Hex Nightclub Version of the Eternal

[Drag City; 2006]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: classic rock, avant-garage
Others: Royal Trux, Pussy Galore, Weird War, Neil Michael Hagerty

Dear Neil Hagerty,

What is this shit? I just listened to Nightclub Version of the Eternal three times in order to find a shred of worth. Guess what? Couldn't find one.

Every time the final choppy garage rock chords and follow-the-leader verse of "Out, Out, Out" drops and the needle hits the label, I feel like I've been duped by the greatest rock 'n' roll swindle of them all: a record much worse than RTX's Transmaniacon.

"Yeah, you got it now, useless vibrations," you sing on "How Many Steps Now." And that's really what Nightclub Version of the Eternal is: useless vibrations. Something that should have never been pressed to limited-edition CDR, never mind wax.

Let me clarify that this is not a personal attack. Even though you chose to slag off this young newspaper reporter instead of answering his admittedly pedestrian questions, I forgive you. I mean, I know I'm an unimportant slug writing for a newspaper, not a writer for The Wire or some esoteric, underground rag.

Thing is, as much of an asshole as you are (wink), I believe in you. I am a strident defender of your solo albums and, up until now, your output with The Howling Hex. Neil Michael Hagerty and The Howling Hex was underappreciated by the general populous and included some of the most precise and passionate songwriting and guitar work you've ever produced. All Night Fox and You Can't Beat Tomorrow both bubbled with great boogie rock and infectious lyrics. The former was bogged down with that female vocalist who sounded like your scratchy, nasal voice doing an impression of Geddy Lee.

Now you shovel this shit down the throats of your fans. Mind you, we've already suffered through a year's worth of limited, vinyl-only releases from HH, only to have them reissued in a convenient package months later. We've sat through your dull solo debut, finding enough merit in tunes like "Oh, To Be Wicked Once Again" and "Know That" to give you another spin. After all, you're the man behind Twin Infinitives, Thank You, Cats & Dogs and the fuckin' Back to School 7-inch; the man who introduced those art school punks in Pussy Galore to Exile on Main St; the man who walked out of The Royal Trux at the peak of its power to do whatever the fuck you wanted.

Guess what you wanted to do was create 30 seconds of an actual good tune and repeat the basic foundation of it for upwards of 8 minutes, only taking a break momentarily to rip out a self-aggrandizing guitar solo. That's what I'm getting here. Same formula for every song. Static. A big middle finger to those who stuck with you after the Trux meltdown. Career suicide. A back firmly turned to those who'll gladly lend an open ear to anything you put forth.

These aren't songs, Neil. They're you jerking off to yourself in the mirror.

Where's the hook? Remember a hook? Fuck, three years ago, on ...And the Howling Hex, your solo-but-not-solo record, you came up with that amazing "I've got that taste in my mouth before the bite" and "I'm up the river/ That's where all the work gets done/ But it was you that made me/ I'm your son." Hell, give me a "Where's the party at/ Peaches and cream/ It's been a while." I'll be happy as a dog chained to his vomit. Is "Six pack days in the USA" the best you could conjure?

And what's with the fucking tambourine? Every song doesn't need the splashing chimes of that eternally stupid instrument. Why does every song have the same vocal melody rhythm — either sped up, kept at the same pace, or slowed down — as All Night Fox's brilliant "Pair the Black Mass With?" You should know magic like that only works once. If repeated, it becomes jive.

Your guitar skills are still intact. They are sometimes awe-inspiring but often require an editor. In fact, the guitar solo on any given song on this piece goes from artful and well-considered to masturbatory in no time flat.

I guess the point of this diatribe is that you can do better than this, Neil. I know you can. We all know you can. Instead of getting a bunch of "yes" men to provide a backing beat to your guitar-ific ejaculations (and, make no mistake, jizz is what they are), find another David Briggs, Jen Herrema, Dan Brown. Someone who understands your music and is willing to tell you when you are carrying on for too long, instead of simply feeding your humongous ego.

Until then, we lowly rock critics will have to do so.

Love You,

S. Kobak

1. Hammer and Bluebird
2. Lips begin to Move
3. This Planet Sweet
4. How Many Steps Now
5. Good Things are Easy
6. Six Pack Days
7. Out, Out, Out
All-Night Fox
Drag City, 2005
rating: 2.5/5
reviewer: matt weir

Hello, young actor! I see you're looking for monologues for stage and screen auditions! Well, here's a modern classic, a monologue taken from the perspective of an exasperated music reviewer speaking to one Neil Michael Hagerty. For some background on the subject, Hagerty was part of such "underground" groups as Royal Trux, Pussy Galore, Weird War, and -- the band he was in when the monologue takes place -- the Howling Hex. The music reviewer is tall, skinny, slightly balding, and wears an Animal Collective t-shirt with his dirty Levi's jeans.

Neil, look at me. Look at me, Neil. Neil? Neil? Will you just sit down for a minute? No, put down that guitar. Hey, at my face. No, look at my face. I see you have a new band and you've recorded a full length after two lickity-split limited edition vinyl releases with them. You've had a bunch of bands in the past, haven't you, Neil? Neil? Neil.

For a man with such little focus, you, the screaming hobo junkie Mick Jagger of the indie rock scene, have created one of the most A.D.D. unfriendly records of the new millennium. Your new album, All-Night Fox, contains 8 songs spread over 40 minutes””stop looking out the window Neil and look at my fingers, no, not your fingers, my fingers””all of which are simple circular guitar riffs, simple bass lines, and rudimentary monotone drumming. You and two unknown women howl over the””don't touch that, it's hot, Neil””mess, spewing subversive and creepy-sad-guy-on-the-bus-whose-loneliness-makes-everyone-laugh lyrics until each song sputters out, usually fading into nothing.

Luckily, Neil””Neil, I'm talking to you, my name is Matt Weir, no, don't touch my mouth, I'm a human man””these bass lines are maddeningly catchy and some of these guitar riffs spin and twist themselves into hippie-exploding grooves.

You only need to listen to the first 15 seconds of "Now We're Gonna Sing," the best song of your album, to know exactly what's going to happen for the next three minutes, but””NO no no no it's a pencil not a toy!””the song somehow manages to hold up rather well. Even "What, Man? Who Are You?!" which clocks in at an unbelievable seven and a quarter minutes, maintains an exciting groove while the reverb-laden female vocalists bounce off your gutter howl.

But these could've been songs, Neil. That's what I don't get. All-Night Fox is less an exercise than an album. I'd recommend it to any of your fans””don't touch your eyeball! your hands are covered in peanut butter!””but it's still simply a tantalizing look at what the Howling Hex, your newest and most exciting project since Weird War, is capable of. Please return to choruses, bridges, builds, breakdowns, intros, outros... just anything to justify the exciting hypnotic feel you've created with this unique band. And, hey! hey! no more juice for you! you're just dribbling all over the floor! and stop tying and untying your sneakers!

1. Now We're Gonna Sing
2. Instilled With Mem'ry
3. Pair Back Up Mass With
4. Activity Risks
5. To His Own Front Door
6. What, Man? Who Are You?!
7. Cast Aside the False
8. Soft Enfolding Spreads
  1. Hammer and Bluebird
2. Lips begin to Move
3. This Planet Sweet
4. How Many Steps Now
5. Good Things are Easy
6. Six Pack Days
7. Out, Out, Out

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