Dutch punk-rockers the Ex have had a prolific career since forming in 1979, with 25 albums and 123 releases overall. Nevertheless, the group's latest, "Catch My Shoe," contains a few firsts: It's the first album released on the group's own Ex Records, and it's the first featuring new singer-guitarist Arnold de Boer since the departure of founding member GW Sok.
The problem with replacing a frontman of three decades is that anyone else sounds like a cheap substitute. The comparisons are inevitable: De Boer never quite captures the same urgency or venom as Sok, and he doesn't sound convincing when the anarchist group veers into sociopolitical commentary. On the anti-consumerism rant "Cold Weather Is Back," he spits, "Are you still listening to MP3s?," sounding more like a Devo impersonation than a sharp remark.
Vocals aside, the Ex's instrumentation is as edgy as ever. But the standout track is the Ethiopian Gurage song "Eoleyo," a nod to the group's 2006 collaboration with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria. De Boer hands the mike to drummer Katherina Bornefeld, and her honeyed vocals provide a sultry counterpoint to the jerking guitar lines below.
-- Catherine P. Lewis