Since the ’90s, The Ex have carved out an enviable place for themselves in the small world of noisy avant-garde rock, notably thanks to its collaborations with cellist Tom Cora, Ethiopian jazz saxophonist Gétatchèw Mèkurya, and the legendary Sonic Youth. Before this recognition, however, The Ex already had a long track record.
Founded in Amsterdam in the late ’70s, with the aim of translating the political turmoil of the squats into music, The Ex didn’t want to go down in history, but to make history, at least if you take the title of their second album (History Is What’s Happening) literally. This would seem to be confirmed when listening to it: the urgency is palpable, the atmosphere is tense, volatile and explosive. The guitar tears like barbed wire, the bass slams frantically and nervously, the drums are inventive, crackling, and deflagrating. One thinks of The Fall, P.I.L., Crass, and Gang of Four… and often better (yes, for real).
In spite of the passing time, listening to this punk rock reduced to the essential, stripped of artifice, combative and without concession, brings us back to the immediate. Even if the formula remains the same on these two albums, the second one, History Is What’s Happening, is probably more successful and benefits from superior production. Highly recommended.