Album Review: Hex Girls — ‘Pop Fluff’

In typically warped Hex Girls humor, the back of the 10” vinyl version of Hex Girls’ new EP Pop Fluff shows a taxonomic chart with the caption “Hex Girls feed off of the energy of heterotrophs.” The food chain presented includes “Evil” and “Truth,” “Death,” “Boredom,” “Sex” which leads to “Scratch,” “Itch” and “Pop Fluff.”

This lampooning of scientific study speaks to the themes of Pop Fluff and really the general M.O. of Hex Girls since their last album, 2019’s More of That — human or animal basic urges and desires set to twitchy and nervous backbeats and guitars. Even at their shiny and poppiest, there is still an air of menace and paranoia below it all. The spiritual antecedent of Hex Girls would be early Talking Heads: songs like “Psycho Killer” and pretty much all of 1979’s Fear of Music. One great example is “Electric Eel” which certainly recalls the first-person feverish rants of David Byrne:

“The snake in my heart / It just wants loose / It just wants you / Plastic brain and I can’t think / I’m on the edge / close to the brink / burning bower of my one desire / Malaria nightmare / I’m on the wire.”

In a recent interview with Tony Dehner from Iowa Public Radio, the band said that the title Pop Fluff came as a joke arising from the fact that they were listening to pop during its recording. It’s clear that while they certainly didn’t create a Top 40 radio-friendly record, Pop Fluff is a more polished effort compared to the feral bombast of More of That. This is at least in part thanks to an expanded sonic toolbox, accomplished by adding Christian Ebintino on drums allowing Ross Klemz to move to keys.

Even with the sheen of studio finish, the record still maintains the band’s signature sinister, propulsive swagger. “Lookin’ For The Facts” is a great example of this, with its driving beat peppered with shakers and gigantic guitar chords dropped right in the pocket. The sneering chorus of backing vocals recalls mid-’70s Alice Cooper.

Clearly by design, it is difficult to ascertain whether these songs are written from human or animal perspective: Lyrics such as “I’d like to feel your spaghetti brains, all over me,” from “Cats With No Teeth (Catch No Mice)” and “Kill or be killed/Eat or be eaten,” from “Rabid Creature” play with that ambiguity.

To paraphrase General Zaroff in Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game”: “The world is made up of two classes, the hunter and the hunted.” Pop Fluff presents the facts in a uniquely Hex Girls fashion leaving the listener to decide whether the tales told are cautionary or celebratory. Either way these toe-tapping trips through the morgue mark an impressive evolution of Hex Girls — and one that certainly scratches our itch.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 296.