It seems like every week some label is unearthing the best music of some overlooked band from way back when in order to reintroduce its music to a new generation. It happens so often that it’s even hard for the seasoned music geeks to keep up. So I’ll forgive you if you’re asking yourself, Who the fuck is the Ex and why should I give a rat’s ass? But don’t let this one slip by. Singles. Period. captures the best days of this band, which was sometimes known as the Dutch version of Crass. But it also highlights the band’s ability to merge anarchism with a socialist agenda in addressing a range of social issues, many of which are still relevant.
The Ex gave Regan’s America a much deserved middle finger on “Stupid Americans” and chides contemporary western foreign policy with “Weapons for El Salvador,” set to a loud backdrop that stinks of Suicide. The Cold War serves as red meat in songs such as “Dust,” which addresses the nuclear arms races amongst superpowers, and “New Wars,” which discusses war profiteering. Did somebody say Dick Cheney?
But as the ‘80s progressed, the Ex’s music started to fall in tune with the industrial music that began to boom out of that age, exemplified by “Enough is Enough.” “Gonna Rob the Sperm Bank” palpitates with a quasi-techno beat that sounds like it came straight from an early remix of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.” The song is presented as being even more twisted than the lyrics, thanks to the track’s eerie lullaby chimes.
You may wonder why a band that hails from the land of prostitution and getting high would complain about societal ills. But the Ex spoke out against society at large and delivered a powerful message. Some of the recordings sound sub-par, and the gas on the twenty-three-song album can run low at times. But this is an essential collection for the most avid punk aficionados. The Ex is still touring and making music; the band’s most recent full-length, Turn, was produced by Steve Albini. But the Ex’s music has never captured the flagrant fury it did during the band’s first ten years, making Singles. Period. an apt starter for new fans as well as old.