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.