The NYC-based garage rockers Dr. Ex & the Break-Ups released their debut album What the Hex Is Going On? earlier this spring, and the nine songs speed by at a dizzying fever pitch, like cruising through a high-speed cartoon chase. It’s not surprising that the release is named for an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You (season one, episode six, if you’re curious). The music here shimmies and spins around you with plenty of spooky craziness, wacky humor, and a clear mission of madcap fun. One of the band’s fans, Patrick Marton, described their sound with this question: “What if the Scooby Doo gang was super into garage punk and beat up Question Mark and The Mysterians and stole their instruments?” What if? Clearly, you end up dancing with vampires and werewolves while Dr. Ex and The Break-Ups rock out with the same frantic energy that their cartoon selves apply to solving mysteries
The album kicks off with “Mystery Machine,” an up-tempo track featuring the band’s signature mix of fuzzy guitars, driving bass lines, tight drum fills, and organ-esque freak outs on the keys. A direct homage to the slapstick humor of Scooby Doo is found in the lyrics: “Scooby-Dooby-Dooby / Roll another doobie / Gotta keep it groovy / Gotta keep it moving.” Apparently the crime-fighting dog always has a dime bag on hand so that when things get intense with those ghosts, you can hit a joint and then dance your ass off. Dig it!
The lead single and second track, “Jeepers, It’s the Creeper,” delivers more delirious energy to get you dancing. The song’s video shows the band playing live to a club full of people getting down, intercut with images of the group running through the NYC streets (presumably running away from creepy love). Sometimes the four of them appear with strange bug or alien-like masks, creepy love indeed! The entire sonic whirlwind culminates in a big organ/synth outro which drives the audience wild.
The title track percolates with more pop-focused energy, like a 60s girl group on speed. Once again, the lyrics are describing monster adventures, like what happens when you turn into a werewolf after being cursed by your witchy lover: “Baby, can’t you see I’m turning / My fangs are bloody / My claws are muddy.” The horror unrolls quickly though—at just one minute and fourteen seconds—and then poof, you’re on to the next lively adventure.
The penultimate track, “Hassle in the Castle,” turns the lyrical voice over to a vampire that serves his guests drinks, then gets drunk off their blood. “Well your neck looks so tasty, don’t mind I’ll have a slice / No need to worry, I’ve been vaccinated thrice! / You know I never go outside, it’s really such a hassle / I have all my aperitifs right here inside my castle.” The propulsive rhythms and crazed organ/synth sounds reflect the madness one must feel when getting drunk with Dracula, served up with tight vocal harmonies and a flirty little breakdown section complete with hand claps.
Dr. Ex & the Break-Ups (photo by Kate Hoos)
What the Hex Is Going On? finishes off with “No Friend of Mine,” that pushes forward with a repeated ascending hook played on the keys, guitar, and bass simultaneously. Each of the album’s nine songs clock in at under three minutes, and all of them will get you grooving and moving. The band presents their credits with fun aliases: Russ T. Ex (bass & lead vocals), Anky Ex (keys & backup vocals), Johnny Ex (drums & backup vocals), and Justone Ex (guitar), all of whom have played in various NYC bands over the years. There is no doubt that Dr. Ex and the Break-Ups will put on a fantastic live show, and you can catch them at Gold Sounds on Friday June 2 with The Piggies, Donut City, and Momsomnia.