Since emerging from the wreckage of Amsterdam's first-wave punk scene in the late '70s, The Ex has loudly repudiated the pretensions of rock and pop culture, while carving out a rep as one of the more ingenious groups on the planet. Fiercely independent, the guitar/bass/drums/percussion/vocals quintet has appeared on more than a dozen albums and a dizzying array of hard-to-find singles on tiny Dutch imprints, including its own DIY label. Irrepressible lefty propagandists, the players are renowned for their politics — especially their alignment with the European squatters movement — and a willingness to push their vision beyond the usual serrated bar chords. Over time, the group has collaborated with art-punk weirdos Dog Faced Hermans, avant-garde cellist Tom Cora, and the 20-piece Ex Orkestra for a sound that's a rare crossbreed of art, noise, and activist ethos.
The Ex's latest album, Dizzy Spells, pits burly guitar riffs against quirky, sometimes odd-metered rhythms for a hard-hitting syncopated mix. Artful without being arty, the music grooves on its own terms — danceable in a sinister-yet-fun way, with a deep sense of melody and great Dutch accents. The lyrics are also a thing of single-minded beauty. “Town of Stone” proffers a classic rebuke of the status quo: “No chance to wait for things to change/ Unless buildings get hit by planes/ No chance to stop this money vulture/ From turning bullshit into culture.” On “Walt's Dizzyland,” singer G.W. Sok rails drolly against the entertainment juggernaut: “Are we fucked? Are we nice?/ Are we ducks? Are we mice?/ Are we men? Are we mean? Are we living?” For the Ex, living truly means to fight the corporate culture-mongers every day of the week.