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dizzy spells
The Ex
Dizzy Spells
Touch & Go

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The Ex come from Amsterdam, and they are an honest-to-God punk band -- angry, committed to change and artful enough to push their leftist politics beyond mere sloganeering. Their new songs, two of which are based on poems of rebellion (Galeano's "Nobodies' Dream" and Lucebert's "Haydays"), are packed with dead-end-street imagery and an earnestness that's usually hard to project convincingly.

However, by sheer dint of lyrical repetition over a span of twenty years, this band has certainly proven their convictions. Their music has also grown more radical, which befits their politics, matching form to their content and proving that the Ex are not merely about the message. Were that the case, they would have disappeared into hippie huts long ago, like Crass.

For me, the guitar interplay is the best thing about Dizzy Spells. It's the rare cacophonic explosion that makes perfect sense, and that doesn't simply seem like a band in search of a tune. Their noisy blasts and bombfire melodies scatter the lyrics, making them explode everywhere around you. Add to that G.W. Sok's vocals, delivered with the intensity of early Clash, and the Ex's political messages and cheers ("Go and swim against the tide/Of things you used to hide behind") are firmly felt. Though you sometimes won't agree with or comprehend their anger, and you may feel as if they're romanticizing the poor, it's easy to assent, at least momentarily, to their position. This is especially the case in "Walt's Dizzyland", in which the melody charges forth as perfectly as on Sonic Youth's "Teenage Riot". It's enough to get you out of bed and spitting on your Mickey Mouse poster.

As for their songwriting, the Ex succeed because they are specific enough (see "Burnsome", an attack on law firm Burson Marsteller) to point a finger at individuals they hate, yet general enough to keep the the song relevant after the figure or issue that inspired it has faded from memory. It's also impressive that their point of view has legitimate opposition; I suspect that only about half of you will share their opinions. (I seldom did; for instance, my response to "Burnsome" was that lawyers can ethically defend anyone.) But agreement or disagreement with their view has no effect on their songs' power. With a musical attack this meticulous and charged, I know I'd enjoy The Ex even if I was their target; at the very least, they'd turn me into art.

-- Theodore Defosse
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