Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Aug. 17, 2001
"Snake Eyes" b/w "Vampire Girl"In an age where sloppy punk rock bands dot the globe with a frequency rivaling McDonald's, novelty often becomes the key delineator between garden varieties and standouts. Austin's Wontons have a keen understanding of this phenomenon, and accentuate their raucous noise with a dynamic, flailing stage presence and flashpots galore. Though none of this translates into binary code, Hex Appeal is a much more cohesive effort than the Wontons' chaotic live performances would indicate. The trio's studio sound straddles the Atlantic between early Clash and the Dead Boys at CBGB. Guitarist Dean Hsieh sings with the venomous sneer of Joe Strummer and the indifferent slur of Stiv Bators. Though it seems highly inappropriate to call this a refinement, that's what it is. The album's catchiest song is "Do the Wonton," a Sixties-style dance rave-up that exhorts everyone, from Genghis Khan to Chairman Mao, to shake his (or her) egg roll in a less-than-dignified manner. The Wontons also explore the universal themes of love 'n' loss in fuzzed-out pop laments like "Abby Alien" and "Snake Eyes," the latter of which is also featured on the trio's concurrently released 7-inch, which is backed with a cool cover of Jonathan Richman's "Vampire Girl." The marathon closing track, "99 Valentines," shatters the three-minute mold with false endings and a feedback-laden devolution jam that leans heavily toward primordial slop. That's not a bad place to be at 2am on Friday night.