The Howling Hex—ex-Royal Trux member Neil Michael Hagerty’s bafflingly brilliant avant-rock outfit—have a new album called The Best of the Howling Hex. It’s not a career retrospective of highlights, but simply a new record documenting where Hagerty’s idiosyncratic brain is of late. Album opener “I Built a Friend” is a warped waltz elevated by Hagerty’s rust-coated, ululating guitar solo. “Primetime Clown” is like some sort of avant-garde oompah music clicking along at pell-mell bluegrass tempo. The time changes are insanely entertaining and surprising, and Hagerty’s ax tones recall those of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band badass Zoot Horn Rollo. Check out the wacky video below featuring "Kurt Cobain" boxing that bumbler who lived in the White House before Obama.
The rest of The Best of the Howling Hex shows that Hagerty continues to set fire to whatever laurels he’s accumulated over the decades. The 10-minute LP finale "Trashcan Bahamas" is another amphetamine waltz, with one guitar upstroked like the toughest ska you've never heard and the other emitting Sharrockian guitar squalls like an ox in distress. Halfway through, it sounds like the Hex are breaking into "Beck's Bolero," just for the hell of it.
Like some underground-rock version of Miles Davis, Hagerty eschews stagnation and keeps finding new mutations and different musicians to help him realize his unpredictable, inventive ideas. He's one of the few rock artists whose creative powers refuse to wane as he progresses through his 40s. How utterly refreshing.