The Exies

Head for the Door

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The Exies' approach worked well enough on 2003's Inertia, where tracks like "My Goddess" and "Can't Relate" blended brash, grime, slick, and hook for a 21st century blend of Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. Head for the Door is the L.A. combo's second effort for Virgin, and it leaves that sound largely unchanged, even if some variety or experimentation beyond their middlebrow rock sound might've been more interesting. Openers "Slow Drain" and "Splinter" offer grimy, ascending guitar leads as guides for Scott Stevens' Cobain-derived rasp, and "Ugly," "My Opinion," and "What You Deserve" carry the formula through. Lyrically, Stevens is as self-possessed and bitter as any post-grunge frontman. "Are you like me, are you ugly," he sings in the lead single; "I'm to blame, and that's what really hurts," he spits later. "Baptize Me" is equally selfish/searching, intercutting generalized religious imagery with a "need to know just why/You were my meaning." The Exies always find a hard-hitting chorus on which to hang Stevens' angst. And Head for the Door certainly sounds good, with quiet/loud dynamics and a steely sheen that matches the record's claustrophobic mood. But it's rare when any of this material makes a real impression, since it all sounds so similar, both locally to the Exies and contextually to their peers. The late-album ballad "Tired of You" switches things up, but it too is an approximation of what's already more than available, as it sounds like Switchfoot covering the Hoobastank hit "The Reason."

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