The Ex have made about a billion albums starting in 1979 and still going strong. On each album they start with a blank canvas so you are never sure what you are going to get. This time it seems that that have created a trance-like opus that has been influenced by trips to Africa creating an infectious groove laden sound.
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I would be remiss to leave the phrase “anarcho-punk” out of a review of the The Ex. But I don’t know how useful it is. Knowing The Ex are anarchists is interesting, it might even mean you respect them. Punk isn’t being too helpful here either. They are punk, this is punk, but to leave it at that would almost be insultingly reductive.
There isn’t a single band on this planet who have a better grasp of the intricacies of rhythm than The Ex. Where punk usually goes side by side with moshing and slam dancing, The Ex are a dance band. Though their set up isn't anything revolutionary, the musical knots they can tie themselves into feel truly impossible. And then you listen to them get out of it. There’s a bit of Steve Reich’s minimalism in here, and if you told me The Ex were big footwork fans I’d believe you.
However these rhythms sometimes become the album’s greatest weakness. Once the band get locked into a groove they rarely want to leave it, and most of 27 Passport’s tracks end with an extended instrumental coda. They’re good, but on repeat listens are way less compelling than the songs proper. Those bits absolutely kills me when they do it live, but on record I want conciseness. And they can do it! ‘Silent Waste’ is two and a half minutes long and a completely devastating critique of free speech fundamentalism.
None of this is to say the longer songs are bad. The album closes with ‘Four Billion Tulip Bulbs’, a send up of one of the more absurd moments in Dutch history. In the 17th Century the Dutch became so taken with tulips that it caused an economic crisis. It’s a funny moment, but as with all economic crises it was serious too. That’s The Ex through and through. Taking something as po-faced as anarcho-punk and making it unashamedly fun.
9/10 Richie Sombrero 12th April 2018
I thought I'd add some contrast to most of the people listening who I assume are big fans. I've been aware of The Ex from Wire mag etc but this is the first album of theirs I've actually listened to. With relatively low expectations and almost a sense of ugh I'd better just for some weird sense of education.
Well it turns out that this album is fucking brilliant.
The crunch of the guitar tone is majestic. The lyrics hold a lifetime of anxiety and anger in their hands and watch them slip away like sand. The counterbalance between male and female voice is borderline sublime and as a living entity this album sounds both documentary and comfortably atemporal once the grooves lock in.
An absolute pleasure and joy, I think I was expecting something difficult and posturingly arty. I was wrong.
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