For the past few weeks I’ve been digging The Ex, a wonderful 20+ year old group of Marxist/agitpop/Dutch/squatters/artists/postpunkers that at times could eat the likes of politico-rockers Fugazi or the Mekons for lunch. And they’re the only bunch who ever put an Elizabeth Bishop poem to music and made it happen, long before corny movies got their hands on “The Art of Losing.”
They make me smile most when they heartily spew their own unpopular or unagreeable ideals, as on their ’80s single ‘Weapons for El Salvador,’ where they flip the bird at peacenik emo punks and his pseudo-holiness John Lennon with the simple lyric ‘War is over if you want it?/weapons for El Salvador!” There may be a fine line between clever and stupid, but it ain’t that easy with war and peace.
Speaking of attempts to justify violence, this past Sunday’s NY Times did a big online collection of profiles of William Vollmann, (Madison Smartt Bell’s profile is spot-on) whose 1300+ page treatise on the forms of violence I own and have actually begun reading. And like I’ve made progress. It’s equally boring, genius, and repellant. When I bought it, Adam at Public Apology told me I’d never read it, and he’s probably right, but I plan to live to retirement age, so I might be able to prove Adam wrong someday. Unless retirement age, anytime after 2030, is 80 yrs due to the collapse of the dollar and with it Social Security, pensions, 401Ks, 403Bs, and any chance of the US staying off the gold standard. I’m also teaching my kids Mandarin, by the way. Just cause I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean the president can be caught lying, on video, and finally be held accountable for it ..
As for The Ex, pick up their new singles collection, or their last three albums if you can burn money on stellar EPs masquerading as LPs with filler. But seeing the Ex, live, is better than owning the Ex. These guys have visa trouble getting to the US, and it ain’t for Pete Doherty type shit. Their latest full length,Turn, isn’t their best, but any outfit that adds cello after 25 years gets my vote.
As far as being hipper than hip, Turn includes an exciting punk cover of “Theme from Konono” from the the Congotronicsalbum, before it was hip to be donwloading free tracks from that album. And it still is cooler than cool to cover the stuff, because most bands don’t. Because they’re thrift shop pretty boys with liberal arts miseducations on the hard streets of Austin and Toronto with their math rock beards and stupid haircuts.And yeah.
For the frikkin’ heck of it, a few more tracks from Turn: