It’d be easy to write off Netherlands’ The Ex. Playing together for the better part of 30 years doesn’t leave too much new ground to run through. And if a group begins as some combination of already established anarcho-punk stuffs only to eventually confront world music, there should be at least a few questions to address.
Punk, its initial underpinnings at least, was supposed to be a link from music to freedom. Most bands, either 1970s groups or current ones, seem to work within very rigid guidelines. Whether it was the DIY thing, Crass, or coming from a country whose politicians would be castigated in the United States and denounced as commies, The Ex don’t perceive the same musical delineations as everyone else. Sometimes that works to their benefit, sometimes not.
First releasing Disturbing Domestic Peace (Verrecords/Ex, 1980), the band reveled in an English sense of politicized punk. The template remained in place for a good long time, even as line up shifts wound up obliterating the ensemble’s membership. Over time, though, The Ex played with everyone from Tortiose to Tom Corra and Han Bennink. Most significant, though, was an experiment with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya for his album Moa Anbessa (Terp, 2006).
Already possessing a rhythmic acumen enabling the band to make punk engaging, working with East African jazz serves to define the ensemble’s Catch My Shoe. While this set, recorded with Mekurya and featuring new vocalist Arnold de Boer (formerly of Zea), reeks of hothouse jazz run through an Ethiopian mind set, it doesn’t do much other than to set forth a spate of compositions clearly meant to ape a punked up version of big band music. It fails.
Levying words like authentic on any work resounds hollowly and wouldn’t be appropriate here. The Ex truck in music it finds engaging. And while there are probably no more than a handful of listeners anxious to sit through compositions like “Bicycle Illusion” more than once – easily recalling an inept Tom Waits fronting Gogol Bordello – the band deserves recognition for its effort.
Yeah, that’s just a nice way of saying Catch My Shoe isn’t worth too much. But if you had a kid and he or she brought home a drawing of a cat looking more like a crocodile, it’d still wind up on the fridge.Visit: The Ex | Ex Records
Purchase: Insound | eMusic