Bigger Than Before is the debut album from Ex-Vöid, the ‘dangerously melodic’ pop group formed by Joanna Gruesome singers Lan McArdle and Owen Williams. Expanding on the “exuberant, hook-stuffed” (Pitchfork) compositions of their previous band, McArdle and Williams have written an album of solid gold power-punk tunes.
Ex-Vöid draw on guitar pop through the ages- The Byrds, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub- and attack it with the ferocity and economy of a hardcore punk band. Even on mellow numbers like “Weekend” and “No Other Way’, the band have a way of pummelling the listener with an unhealthy quantity of hooks, harmonies and Thin Lizzy inspired dual-guitar solos.
Yet there’s also a delicacy to the vocal which brings to mind the eye-of-the-storm melodies of Bilinda Butcher and imbues the album with a kind of grounding ethereality. On tracks like Chemical Reaction and Churchyard, McArdle and Williams’ voices blend and trill with a folk-like quietness while, down in the grubby engine room, bandmates Laurie Foster (bass) and Jonny Coddington (drums) thrash their way through noise jams, hardcore breakdowns and open-chord power-pop riffs.
On Lyin’ to You (Baby) and So Neurotic, McArdle’s solo vocal and lyrics take centre stage, and reveal an alt-country tinge to the band reminiscent of acts like Waxahatchee or Lucinda Williams. Bigger Than Before plays the impressive trick of naturally uniting these disparate strands, and the result is an album which feels both familiar and strikingly unique. Take, for instance, their cover of Arthur Russell’s I Couldn’t Say it to Your Face, in which the band squash a country song into a 2 minute power-pop epic before turning on their heel, and ending with an unexpected, severely catchy Cars style synth hook.
Bigger Than Before was laid down live, with a few minimal overdubs, in just over an hour at Sam and Rachel’s Studio in Hackney, London. (With the exception of Weekend, which was recorded at Coddington’s Bottle Rocket Studio.) The songs were recorded without breaks, and Foster was reported to have “kept on playing even though his belt came loose and his trousers fell down”.
Prior to recording the album, the band have toured with Waxahatchee, supported bands like Speedy Ortiz, and been covered in publications like The Fader and Stereogum. McArdle and Williams’ previous band, Joanna Gruesome, toured extensively, won the Welsh Music Prize and were reviewed enthusiastically in Pitchfork, The New York Times, The Guardian and Rolling Stone. Bigger Than Before will be released by Prefect Records and Don Giovanni Records, and features artwork by Musheto Fernandez.Tracklist: