It’s interesting that The Ex’s Catch My Shoe is being released the same day as Gang Of Four’s Content. Although there are similarities between the two bands—both of them formed in the late ’70s, playing scratchy, leftist post-punk—The Ex never broke up, never became hip, and never had to subject itself to sad attempts at comebacks. Above all, though, The Ex differs from Gang Of Four in this way: The collective of Dutch anarchists and British expats has only gotten stronger and more experimental over the years. That said, Catch My Shoe marks the biggest shakeup The Ex has ever seen—the departure of frontman and founding member G.W. Sok.
It isn’t good news. Sok’s replacement, Arnold de Boer, sounds like exactly that: a replacement. Catch My Shoe still abounds with the viciously clipped guitar of Andy Moor, who inverts riffs and punctures space as artfully as ever. But when collaborating, as it has before, with everyone from Sonic Youth to Tortoise, The Ex has always absorbed the flavor of whatever it’s paired with—and de Boer is mostly flavorless. His hiccupping, singsong vocals try to operate on the same level as Sok’s raspy, poetic chants, but the result is tentative and forceless. And when, on “Cold Weather Is Back,” de Boer rails against consumerism and global warming in a shrill, almost silly way, he commits one of the crimes Gang Of Four has long been guilty of, but that The Ex had always managed to avoid: sounding like cartoon radicals.