By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Their 15th album, Dizzy Spells, 12 tracks in just under an hour, exudes a brilliantly overarching sense of propulsion in the face of repetitionan undertow of urgency. The consistent pulse of each song throbs in a half-annoying, half-exciting way; and the lyrics are appropriately pissed off about the psychic trauma of consumer culture. In "Walt's Dizzyland," G.W. Sok complains that "Mickey, Walt, and Donald, and goofy cousin Ronald, they wanna swallow your souls" and in the chorus demands to know "are we fucked, are we nice, are we ducks, are we mice, are we men, are we mean, are we living?" It's a small, small world.
On the whole, though, Dizzy Spells holds charms above and beyond the usual rote, as its rare encounters with melody prove arresting (if possibly ironic). "The Chair Needs a Patient" sounds, for about 20 buoyant seconds, gleeful and sardonic like the Sex Pistols, employing a barrage of lovely la-la-la's amid a funny mass of short proclamations: "The roof is bad, the pane is smashed, the child is mad." The absorbing "Time Flies" and "Oskar Beck" meditate back-to-back on grand and perplexing subjects. The former provides an upbeat, nightmare-circus kind of background to super-enunciated chanting, closing with a pun: "Time flies, they're all over me"; the latter, slow and introspective, showcases Katrin's forceful lilt (which gets a furious, screaming workout on the later "River"), and advances a subtle prettiness also present in "Burnsome," whose tense layering gives romantic inflection to its untoppling fury (repeated enraged line: "Worldwide crisis management!"). The Ex require work from their listeners (their predominant theme, after all, is that we are indeed fucked and must confront the horizon of history), but this work is not without rewards, especially if the desired result is, as Katrin sings, to "scoop the pool of waste-words off your mind." No problem!
The Ex play the Knitting Factory June 20 and 21.