Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Two shred-worthy albums and a nerdy reality show

A scene from King Of The Nerds
A scene from King Of The Nerds

Ex Hex, Rips

Ex Hex opens “Beast,” the second track from its irresistible debut album Rips, with a spirited shred of an electric guitar and the line, “Was it my imagination / Or did you come out of the past?” It’s a funny question coming from singer Mary Timony because her latest musical venture sounds like it just got pulled out of a time capsule from 1979. This is catchy, pulsating rock, à la The Runaways or even classic stuff from The Cars by way of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss were bandmates with Timony in Wild Flag). Rips is an intoxicating blend of “whoa-oh”s and riffs, with tracks like “Waterfall” making the most of the album’s nostalgia-prodding sound and really letting the guitar solos fly. It’s a throwback, yes, but also refreshing and a reminder of how fun rock music can be when it thoroughly rocks. It’s all over in a half hour, but it’s a sugar rush and, by the time the guitars fade on “Outro,” you’ll be ready for another spin. It’s the kind of record you’d want to strip down in your underwear to dance to, just to get the full effect. Ex Hex dropped the album back in October, but with the world beginning to thaw after another intense winter, there is no better time to give this brilliant, breezy band a listen. [Cameron Scheetz]


King Of The Nerds

In general, I don’t care that much for reality TV. If I want to watch conventionally pretty people acting ridiculous, I’ll turn on an episode of Friends. Throughout the years, despite the urgings of friends, nearly every reality show—whether competition or general-purpose freak show—has never done much for me. (The first couple seasons of The Real World being the exception that proves the rule.) But on a whim one night last year, I flipped over to TBS and happened to catch King Of The Nerds, and within minutes I was hooked. The brainchild of original uncool-kids Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine (see Nerds, Revenge Of The), the competition show features refreshingly normal nerds going up against each other in a challenge of actual brains, not brawn. Whether the week’s challenges involve physics, geometry, or being able to recite as many characters from the original line of Pokémon as possible, the people involved are wonderfully different from the standard-issue reality TV lineup. For one thing, they’re overwhelmingly nice as nice can be. They treat each other with respect, and the show is at its best when it leans into all the ways it’s not a Survivor clone for the geek set. Even when scheming against one another, they’re friendly and supportive, and seem to (mostly) genuinely like one another. The show irks me when it forces its square-peg oddity into the round hole of reality conventions (for the love of God, please stop forcing the cast to spout corny one-liners written for them during the talking-heads interstitials—you’re better than that, that’s for Kardashians), but when it lets its cast just be themselves, it shines with a warmth and open-hearted fun rarely seen on television in any format. Sadly, by the time this runs, the current season will be over, but I encourage everyone to catch up on past seasons online. [Alex McCown]

Rush’s 2112 hologram edition on vinyl

Last year, Universal Music Enterprises began its celebration of Rush’s 40th anniversary with a vinyl reissue of the band’s self-titled debut. The celebration continues with Rush: R40 Live Tour and “The 12 Months Of Rush,” which will see the reissuing of Rush’s remaining 14 Mercury albums in chronological order between January and December of 2015. This month, and on my birthday no less, UMe released 2112 on high fidelity 200 gram vinyl, with a custom, hand-drawn hologram of the Red Star Of The Federation in the album’s dead wax runout of side two. All you have to do to see it is shine a flashlight directly above your turntable while the record plays. As a pivotal point in Rush’s career—2112 is easily the first record where Geddy, Neil, and Alex truly found their collective sound—it’s a great item for any fan or record collector alike. And if you’re interested in getting in on the rest of the fun this year, the full release schedule for The 12 Months Of Rush is below. October can’t come soon enough! [Becca James]

January 27–Fly By Night
February 24—Caress Of Steel
March 17—2112 hologram edition, All The World’s A Stage
April 21—A Farewell To Kings
May 19—Hemispheres
June 16—Permanent Waves
July 21—Moving Pictures, Exit… Stage Left
August 18—Signals
September 15—Grace Under Pressure
October 20—Power Windows
November 17—Hold Your Fire
December 1—A Show Of Hands