The Vexers

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On their short, sharp, self-titled debut, the Vexers don't waste any time in setting forth their brash, slightly sleazy agenda. In just under 25 minutes the group races through ten tracks that pay homage to the legacy of punk and post-punk divas such as Poly Styrene, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, and Penetration's Pauline Murray. On the Vexers' best moments, such as "Something Dirty" -- in which cleanliness is next to sinfulness -- this breathless approach pays off in spades, with Jennifer Taylor's icy yet impassioned voice leading the charge of prickly guitars and supple basslines that flesh out the rest of the song. Likewise, the tough, teasing "Mutual Masturbation" has an added bite thanks to the album's gritty production and the band's heads-down performance. But just as often, the band feels too rushed and too indebted to its influences to really expand and deliver a sound of its own. Songs like "Human Machine," "City Life," "Fuck It Up," and "Rat-Bite Fever," with their darkly angular melodies and snarled vocals, capture some of the catchy but anti-social atmosphere of the best punk and post-punk without really offering a distinctive twist on it. However, near the end of the album, the Vexers do branch out a bit, with the brooding, slightly more melodic "The Saint" -- which is about as close as the band comes to doing a ballad -- and "Get Up Get Out," a poppier, happier take on their sound. The Vexers is a somewhat frustrating album not because it's bad, but because the band's tight performances, sharp lyrics, and attitude should add up to something more than what it actually delivers. Still, there are enough promising moments here to make it worth a listen for anyone into the current or classic post-punk bands with which the Vexers share musical DNA.

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