The Ex: Turn

The Ex
Touch and Go

A department store that I've been known to frequent sent me an e-mail the other day. "The Tweed You Need," declared the subject line. And while I disagree with the e-mail's suggestion--I neither require nor even desire tweed (particularly if it's frayed, for Chrissake)--I won't argue that "want" and "need" sometimes get so intertwined that you can't tell where one ends and the other begins.

Veteran Dutch anarchist musical collective the Ex navigate the murky area between necessity and luxury. Their declaimed vocals and snarky guitar crosstalk are pretty much the same as they were when the band started in 1979. But over the years their choppy rhythms have gained a depth and a flow that eludes many bands following in Gang of Four's austerely compelling template. This is largely because the group has been so catholic and astute in its choice of collaborators, which range from Ethiopian folk musicians to heady improvisers like cellist Tom Cora and saxophonist John Butcher to serial collaborators Sonic Youth. On Turn, the Ex's grooves are like a spinning polygon with 10,000 sides--once they get going, you don't notice all the little pointy corners. "Turn the prism on its side," they sing, and if you do, you can see "Sister" being a wriggly take on "Gloria", or the end of "The Pie" channeling the Magic Band as if by, well, magic.

What do they want? It's probably easier to tell you what they don't want. They don't want assholes mucking around in Africa, or Kissinger to be canonized, or their sisters disappearing off street corners, or a pie lobbed in protest to miss its target. And their needs? Well, they're pretty simple. "We need poets, we need painters...we need neighbors", they sing on the opening track. And just for that, we need the Ex around.

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