The Ex

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I first heard of this fiery, powerful Dutch anarchist quintet more than a decade ago, when no less than the hard-to-impress Fugazi folks were dropping the band's name in interviews (without prodding). Somehow, the Ex has remained Amsterdam's best-kept secret over here all those years since, despite a plethora of LPs, all with great lyrics. If I have counted correctly, this is their 16th and, like its predecessors, it's a throat-grabbing, post-punk smacker that also lets in the more hushed, unsettling underbelly of the genre. Perhaps the Netherlands isn't the rad-hip place of origin for today's cognoscenti gazing past the lowlands for Scandinavia. But the members of the Ex don't care. They just keep pumping out the frightening rhythms, so terse and vicious that they bring back good memories of not only the hardest Fugazi, but older U.S. Midwest outfits with this kind of tight, forward-springing, offbeat rhythmic attack, such as Rifle Sport, Man Sized Action, and, most of all, Rapeman and Shellac. The last two may seem too obvious, since Steve Albini is the man behind the desk for this one -- and he turns in his best, clearest sounding, deepest production since he did the first Breeders LP -- but it's not that simple. Reach back further, to some old live Gang of Four, Killing Joke, or Mekons live tape, and you might generate the precision clash of drums and bass behind atonal guitar patterns found here -- only replace Jon King or Jaz Coleman with 1978-1982 era Public Image singer Johnny Lydon, with less histrionics, and you have singer G.W. Sok's teeth-bared delivery. The man means business, and with words such as "Let me tell you about Karl Marx/A visionary fish in a pool of sharks," he'll make you think for hours.

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