Ex Cops, composed of Brian Harding (of Hymns), and Amalie Bruun (formerly of Minks), released their auspicious debut True Hallucinations in 2012, which boasted laser-focused hooks, Beatlesque melodic structures and, most notably, glorious harmonizing. With Daggers, they subtly invert their formula — the guitars are twangier, with copious reverb, while Harding and Bruun’s vocals are crystalline, a direct contrast to the muddled mix prevalent on True Hallucinations. Daggers is also elevated artistically by the participation of two of the more divisive figures in modern music: Ariel Pink and Billy Corgan.
Corgan acts as executive producer, and while tracks like “Black Soap” and “White Noise” don’t sound remotely beholden to Smashing Pumpkins, they show the band’s harder edge, particularly in the rhythm section, which is lent a visceral kick this time around, as on the Tears For Fears-beholden sheen of “Modern World,” and ebullient, anthemic surge of “Teenagers,” in diametric opposition to the gossamer drums and bass so underplayed throughout their first record.
Pink sings on the bleary-eyed “Tragically Alright” and co-wrote the groove-driven “Burnt Out Love,” but ultimately this album is about the interplay between the band’s two core members.
This is well illustrated on the frenetic fuzz-box-laden closing track “Weird Like You,” a distant cousin to the Pixies’ “Alec Eiffel,” in which Harding coyly suggests, “I wanna be confused like you,” met with the rejoinder from Bruun, “I wanna know where all the weirdoes go.” It’s playful moments such as these which elevate Ex Cops above legions of alternative rock revivalists.