While the Strokes were criticized by some for ripping off Television's Marquee Moon, at least that album was more than 20 years old. By contrast, the Exies -- this year's "it" band (which is to say this year's Strokes) -- can only lay claim to rehashing what has been on the radio in the past few months.
While it's refreshing to hear a rock band not sing in the new rock "cotton mouth" voice and still get attention, the Exies won't provide the boost to new rock that their hype juggernaut has so crassly predicted. To their credit, the band has a tremendous grip on song flow and harmony, but the compositions remain lifeless and almost mock the listener with their lack of imagination. There are hooks, to be sure, but these are drowned in a torrent of effects. This deluge of trivial production tricks pours forth in a failed attempt to dress up the heads of some of the tracks; instead, they just subtract from the aesthetic they're supposed to augment.
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Bands like this depend largely on their riffs, but the Exies' riffs are tired -- you've heard them all on many a Nirvana record. The vocals are haggard and equally shopworn -- guitarists Scott Stevens and David Walsh share singing duties, but neither makes anything stand out.
"Can't Relate" is something of an exception. If there is a bright spot on Inertia, this is it. While it fails to break any new ground, it does stray from the testosterone-laden jock jam formula that holds sway for long stretches elsewhere on the record. The sticky ballads that round out the album miss their intended tender marks with embarrassing inaccuracy.
Their restraint is admirable, though -- no song clocks in over four minutes, and most are right around three, making for a nice, brief product totaling just over half an hour. The interactive portion of the disc features their video for "Goddess." The video's concept is not bad -- the Exies play in the middle of a busy freeway as cars driven by extremely skilled stunt drivers careen all around them. The execution, however, is very poor -- the director cuts to new shots every half-second and thus renders the video almost unwatchable.
Inertia isn't a terrible record, but its hype far outstrips its substance. It's a study in trying much too hard to balance sensitivity and aggression, with neither complementing the other well. Stale riffs and overembellished production will only serve to date this record to a lackluster era of rock music many hope will soon be forgotten -- a period that many want to forget right now.