The artwork for ARXX’s long-awaited debut album ‘Ride Or Die’ features a coming together of two worlds. On the front, singer and guitarist Hanni Pidduck and drummer Clara Townsend stand in front of a collage of palm trees and camels. On the reverse, they appear in front of a far more rural scene. These images aren’t random but pulled from the backgrounds of both musicians, representing their respective childhoods growing up in Dubai (Townsend) and the English countryside (Pidduck).
What’s inside the sleeve reflects the merging of two separate realms, too. When they burst onto the UK’s DIY scene in 2017, the duo quickly gained a reputation for exhilarating live shows full of spiky garage rock. Since then, though, their sound has evolved into the form it takes on ‘Ride Or Die’ – gleaming, hook-filled pop – but they haven’t forgotten their roots.
Sometimes, that splicing of sounds is in-your-face and obvious. ‘The Last Time’ – an ode to the painful aftermath of a break-up – explodes in rays of urgent synths every time the chorus hits, deceptively bright and euphoric in face of its subject matter. But each time it erupts is preceded by something far less polished – distorted guitars spooling out warped, wobbling chords that feel like the disorientating daze a fresh split leaves you in. ‘Not Alone’, meanwhile, veers from buzzing guitars and the grungy rasp of Pidduck’s vocals in the verse to a sparkling melody that sounds like it’s been pulled from a different song entirely.
At other times, this act is more subtle. ‘Iron Lung’ recalls shades of ARXX’s earlier incarnations, opening with Pidduck hollering, “Give me the iron lung!” as her guitar and Townsend’s kit work in unison to create a headbang-able rock foundation. Throughout, though, little pop elements weave their way into the frame, from the soft “ah-ah ah-ah” backing vocal chant to the stomping, sludgy outro being layered with Pidduck singing sweetly: “And I’m gone.”
The title track – one of the record’s most air-punchingly brilliant moments – drives on a staccato riff-and-rhythm combo for the most part. Continually defying expectations, the pair colour its pre-chorus with a lasering undercurrent that feels more typical of an electro-pop banger, while the bridge hits pause and escapes into a gospel-tinged dream before jumping back into the fray.
That song reflects the band’s existence too. Although it was originally written about a romantic relationship, it’s since come to stand for something else – a testament to their friendship and passion for the music they make together. When they chant in unison, “Tell me would you ride? / I would, I would / Tell me would you die? / I would, I would,” it’s almost impossible not to get swept up with their spirit and pledge your allegiance to ARXX’s incredibly bright future too.