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Ex-Replicas: Ex-Replicas

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Anchor Records

With a jerking percussion pattern crashing into a series of guitar chord punches and both backing a snaking guitar arpeggio, Ex-Replicas’ “Camera” kicks up a melodic angularity that used to percolate through a number of local bands. By the time guitarist/vocalist Greg Anderson’s reedy voice launches into the first line and a backing vocalist answers his call with the brusque, Fall-ish response “make it last,” Ex-Replicas have nailed that sort of anxious postpunk prettiness that Baltimore bands once turned out as solidly as they turn out sincerely excited dancenoisepunk with lots of exclamation points OMG! these days.

Ex-Replicas come by the sound honestly: Anderson previously plied his chops in All the Dead Pilots and Moviegoer, drummer Mike Hoff played in Moviegoer and Pulaski, while guitarist/vocalist Brad Pollard did time with the indie-rock Wires Band, and bassist Kevin Riordan played in the Alameda. It’s the sort of résumé a number of local bands boast these days, as age/careers/families have cut into the playrecordtourrepeat grind of upstart rock bands, leaving behind musicians who have made the time/effort to get together and create.

What a difference a decade makes: There’s something a skosh refreshing about the pop-tinted postpunk of Ex-Replicas, the quartet’s self-titled debut that came out in January. Twelve tracks, 40-something minutes, only two ballad-paced missteps in the batch. Nothing against the easy-going tempos and melancholic driving-down-the-highway-at-4-a.m. mood of “Road” or the pensive reflection of “Deliver”—it’s just that Ex-Replicas sound a bit more on point when the tempo picks up and Hoff sounds like he’s trying to keep everybody from spiraling into a dead sprint. That’s the sort of stumbling, crumbling energy that runs through “Solitude You Can Afford,” where a tinny guitar poke echoes a pulsating bass line and the whole song lurks into throbbing pound on the verses.

That sort of dynamic—loud into quiet and back, disorder into lockstep groove and back—is so tried/true it can be a cop out, but when played by musicians who know how to massage the changes and mine the shift to good effect, it’s a dependably satisfying kick. It’s there about two minutes into “San Vito,” when a bobbing guitar figure and simple beat erupts into a noisy bridge. It’s there in the crookedly stomping rhythm of “Bonita Farm” when guitar harmonics pierce the groove with an irritatingly pleasant squelch. And it’s especially there in “Ambulance,” where pop-punk vocal harmony clashes with a distorted guitar buzz that feels like the background hum that haunts the slowly and annoyingly hard of hearing—you know, when you have to ask people to repeat themselves constantly because you didn’t hear the first time and it suddenly dawns on you that you’ve been going to rock shows for more than half your life. Well, if you don’t yet, you will. You will.

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