Propaganda with a smile
photo: David Atlas

Anarchy in the Playpen
Venerable Dutch punks indoctrinate younger generation

The Ex
Knitting Factory
September 11

Droves of art-rock hipsters and experimental music longhairs converged to see Dutch anarcho-punksters the Ex at the Knit on the third anniversary of 9-11. It was also the 25th anniversary of the Ex—who, over the years, have lived a liberal socialist idealism so pure it makes Fugazi look like corporate Republican slobs in comparison. But the hippest cat in attendance was the toddler there with his dad. Yes, an actual for-real little kid was at the show, peering cautiously through his golden locks at the noise avalanche erupting on stage. The kid's probably auditioning for Coolest Three-Year-Old of the Year at his progressive East Village nursery school, I figure. He dragged his dad out partway through the Ex's set: "Daaad! We're gonna miss the Lightning Bolt show at the Hook!"

The Ex and little kids? What gives? Well, when you think about it, there is something kind of Romper Room about the band. Manic lead singer G.W. Sok is fond of tooting a kazoo between forceful declamations, and guitarists Terrie and Andy run radios against pickups and slice screwdrivers through strings to keep things fun (Take that, Raffi!). After a plodding, monochromatic set by moody local opening act Panthers, the Ex frolicked onto the stage, all warmth and sunshine. Andy, Terrie, bassist Rozemarie, and drummer Kat wore bright shirts in different Crayola hues: reds, blues, greens. Only Sok wore black, but his friendly Muppet-like demeanor made him anything but stern. None of them could stop smiling during all that skronking, and they all looked radiant— ageless, even—for a group that's been around, in various lineups, since 1979.

The band's unbelievably well-honed chops left many awestruck. "If you close your eyes, it's like listening to a machine," marveled the girl standing next to me. She was right: Every speck of chaos was executed with ninja-like precision. Relatively new addition Rozemarie (she sports a buzzcut and plays stand-up bass! I swooned!) was the star: She battered her mammoth instrument with a bow, picked at it, knocked it, operated on it—for intricate melodies one minute, scary skrees the next. After at least three more epic jams, two encores, and one obligatory political comment damning right-wingers, the Ex ended furiously with one for the kiddies off their new album, Turn—"The Pie," a song about dessert (yummy!) and globalization. GEETA DAYAL

Market Indicators
Soul ingenue employs body language Randy J. would enjoy

Joss Stone
Irving Plaza
September 9

If American Idol never gives the world anything more worthwhile than second-season second-runner-up Kimberly Locke's "8th World Wonder," that will have been enough to justify the episodes of the show that don't feature open-call auditions (and almost enough to justify the grotesquely sexless From Justin to Kelly): Locke's single is everything you could ever want from a Melissa Etheridge tune, with everything you don't want replaced by everything you do from a song by the Sundays. Have a picnic before the summer ends and bring it instead of Miracle Whip.

"Wonder" notwithstanding, Idol won't soon be forgiven for what it's done to an entire generation of young people endeavoring to sing soul or r&b. Acting teachers call it indicating: using exaggerated hand movements or pained facial gestures to get across emotion that should be communicated via more subtle, naturalistic means. Feeling it vs. feeling it, in other words. (Idol judge Randy Jackson calls this "good job, dog.") Throughout an industry-choked live-for-DVD concert at Irving Plaza last Thursday, the 17-year-old English singer Joss Stone, who whetted the appetites of boutique-soul aficionados last year with a gender-reversed cover of the White Stripes' "Fell in Love With a Girl," indicated like Randy himself was holding court up in the V.I.P. (no dice there, only beautifully Afroed '70s vet Betty Wright, a co-producer on Stone's The Soul Sessions and the new Mind, Body & Soul).

Part of this is likely her age. Though comfy in front of an audience in a stage-school sort of way, Stone gave the DVD editors a zillion between-song how-you-doings to remove, a reminder that she's still just a kid who happens to have an impressively smoky, inarguably lovely voice. But she should use her youth as a way into her songs, not around them; teenagers know well the standard-issue romantic angst in "You Had Me" and "Spoiled," even if they lack the experience to put things in proper perspective. Why Stone is intent on pretending at that perspective instead of flaunting the dewiness her professional collaborators lack is, like, the 247th world wonder. MIKAEL WOOD

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