by carl wilson

So Ex-cited

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The guitarist in Vampire Weekend, whoever he is, is really good and has listened very closely to African township jive. I like the violinist too. The rest, the New England Paul Simon-meets-David Byrne vocals, etc.? Not. Sorry, Ryan. But he's been championing some great stuff lately, as usual - I'm pretty taken with Kickball, and Moviola is known quality.

But random MySpace bands are not what we are here to talk about. We are here to talk about last night and The Ex - a band whose name I've never realized before this moment could denote "the ex," as in ex-boyfriend, ex-wife. I just took it as a generalized name of protest. But on the evidence of last night, no way are they my ex-band. Still my greatest love of live music in the world. Even without a bass player - an absence that makes a difference to the physical dynamics on stage but, strikingly, is not at all a problem for tonal balance, as Terrie and Andy just fill in the bottom end of their own sounds and Katrin's bass drum kicking is remarkably powerful enough to fill in the low end. As for the sound itself, I can hardly describe - at the end of the show, I said, "I wish I could do something in the world as well as they do that." Their sense of polyrhythm, of dynamics and drama, is simply nonpareil, and GW Sok remains the best white European rapper on Earth - he did a solo rally-speech/poem that sounded like a freestyle flight whose topic just happened to be international power relations. I was gratified to hear a couple of tunes from my favourite Ex-era, the Tom Cora years, with Katrin leading on Hidegen Fujnak a Szelek and Sok on the indelible State of Shock (one of the most linguistically sophisticated songs ever written, with an A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D rhyme scheme, a critique of post-Wall Berlin, and mid-section verses that condense the whole song down to an instant-replay recap by using the end-words of all the preceding verses as text: "Shock-said-blank-down/ Block-bad-tank-town..."). But even better than that was the following song that used a Fela Kuti-style groove on the verses and then broke into a chorus that was kinda straight out of the Clash playbook, then repeated the pattern again. As usual, Sok seemed like the most earnest man in the world, wringing his hands as he danced in a kind of worrywart-OCD ritual motion, and then pulling out the megaphone to shout his exhortations, and Terrie and Andy, while visibly quite a lot older than they looked when I last saw them five or six years ago, still joyfully jump around the stage and lock horns with the heads of their guitars like improvising rhinos. They really make most other bands in the world seem like they don't get the point.

Afterwards there was a rumour that the band was going to head over to one of Bloor Street's Ethiopian dance bars, and we tried to follow, but by the time we got there it was 2 a.m. and the doorman was very sternly firm about not allowing anyone else in. The music upstairs sounded like a shower of arcweld sparks. Or maybe we were just still in a heightened state.

General | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, June 24 at 1:00 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)

 

COMMENTS

ooooh..the ex.
saw them in the UK in 2001 and having never heard of them before....was blown away.

glad they're still out there!!

Posted by knitgirl on June 30, 2007 11:48 AM

 

 

i believe both guitarists switch between standard guitars + a pair strung with two bass strings.

i didnt catch the show last night, unfortunately, but the other times ive seen them ive definitely shared that post-show wish. its a damn remarkable band that leaves you wanting to improve the quality of your life when they have exited the stage.

Posted by aaronu on June 24, 2007 11:43 PM

 

 

"I wish I could do something in the world as well as they do that."

I think your writing is equivelent to their performances...!

Posted by matt on June 24, 2007 9:38 PM

 

 

I wondered about that too, but wasn't close enough to tell.

Posted by zoilus on June 24, 2007 7:27 PM

 

 

re: baritone guitars and lack of a bass player. didn't the guy on the right have two bass strings on his six-string guitar?

Posted by barclay on June 24, 2007 6:25 PM

 

 

I was so Ex-centric that I forgot to mention that Drumheller played the best set of theirs I've ever seen. Doug Tielli was on fiyah trombonically, and Eric Chenaux played a long solo on the final number that was so beautiful people were holding their breath, afraid it might end too soon. It didn't.

Posted by zoilus on June 24, 2007 5:34 PM

 

 

great show!!
late work left me too late for drumheller, but they kicked, from all accounts.
the ex really pointed out, to me, their (and punks) relationship to mother afrika.
no 'solo's, some nasty counterpoint, though really only transcendent at appropriate times and all of it letting the audience in so we can dance.
tight!
and very poignant for me, having witnessed them at lee's back in the day with mr. tom cora.

Posted by nilan on June 24, 2007 5:07 PM

 

 

The funny part is that I was literally singing that bouncy lil' "Oxford Comma" melody in my head just as I loaded up your post in my browser, CW, hee hee!

Posted by Ryan Catbird on June 24, 2007 3:22 PM

 

 

This is the third time I see (and dance my ass off at) an Ex show and as always I marvel at how simple and perfect it all is. How do they do it? There is hope for rock'n'roll, even though it comes from fifty year-olds. Regarding your remark on tonal balance: Terrie and Andy both play baritone guitars, which partly compensates for the absence of a bass player. I still miss Roze though - she is great...

Posted by Michelangelo on June 24, 2007 3:12 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson