The Ex has proven for the last 20 years that politics and chaos can be erotic, sexy, fun and exciting. For years through albums, live performances and collaborations with other artists, the Ex has proven to be thrilling and innovative. Amongst their peers they have been hailed as geniuses and yet have remained relatively unknown in the United States. But exposure from Fugazi, Shellac and Sonic Youth as well as the Touch and Go team has brought this much-lauded musical entourage stateside with their second album Dizzy Spells. This latest orchestra of cacophony and explosions is just proof that America has a lot to learn about integrity and power in popular music.
The Ex aren’t so much loud as they are noisy but what Dizzy Spells proves is that The Ex are coming into their own. A band that has consistently made recordings of much higher quality than what has come out in the same time period, this newest album is no exception. Continuing on the percussive side of musical performance, The Ex continues to challenge ideas of rhythm and melody as the core of musical structure.
The album starts with intensity and quite rhythmically. From the opening track “Town of Stone” the band sets out to bit, bang, pluck and stomp their way into the greater soundscape. They have created a very full sound, each part working it’s way into the vastness of the drums. Each quick little crevice is covered by the vibrations of a note or the slap of a string. Repetition is not so much their art as building is. The end of “Time Flies” settles into an orchestra of guitars, drums and basses as the vocals carry on.
The biggest surprise is perhaps “Oskar Beck”. This organic track features the basics of an Ex composition broken down. Gone are the tremendous drums replaced instead by the soft shake of a maraca. Behind the vocals and consistent shaking the guitarists throw in random guitar lines alternating between each other.
The Ex is not experimental or devoid of structure. Quite the contrary, in fact the music of The Ex is quite calculated and precise. A band cannot for 20 years explain their music as strictly experimental. Each Ex album and venture has been a graduation into something bigger and better. While you will find no pop hooks or easy to use formulas here, The Ex is not blindly searching to create something amazing. Instead they are building on the knowledge they have gained over two decades of being one of the consistently innovative bands that rock music has ever known. Dizzy Spells is another chapter in this great epic and proof that The Ex can only get better and better as they march past their contemporaries past and present.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article