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Ex Nuns, Twelves, Sex Scenes

  • Mickey's Tavern 1524 Williamson Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Minneapolis band Ex Nuns refer to themselves as a post-punk outfit, but that's an amusing dodge. Rather than sounding like any number of poetic depressives with atmospherically saddened guitars and quietly implacable bass lines, Ex Nuns make bruising noise-rock with the precise, hammering, sneering anger that characterizes the tighter and less artsy styles associated with noise-rock. On their recent self-titled EP, Ex Nuns are at times a bit reminiscent of fellow Minneapolis band Animal Lover's earlier, more aggressive releases, as well as the thudding sarcasm of Chicago's War Brides: there's a similarly caustic guitar tone and a comparable enjoyment of sledgehammer dynamics, though Ex Nuns are more concise than War Brides (nothing on the EP is over three minutes) and less strangely menacing than Animal Lover. Guitarist Ian Littleson's aggrieved, resentful yell is buried just under the sour riffs and overdriven, edgy bass—true to microgenre requirements, it's intended to work as one more bitter instrument rather than as a voice delivering lyrics, and it's effective. There are unconventional musical ideas and small dashes of humor in different places throughout the release, and they work together to distinguish what might have otherwise been monotonous. The affectionate parody of grindcore, complete with blastbeats and drooling grunts, that opens "Better Off Dead" is a cute touch, the viciously bent guitar on "Last Lick" is honestly aggressive, and the seasick breakdown that appears out of nowhere during "What's On My Face?" helps to make the mock-tragic details of a terrible hangover far more tangible for the listener. Ex Nuns appear at the newer venue North Street Cabaret with the enigmatic, theatrically surreal math rock of Madison's Twelves and the hilariously sleazy and sloshed punk of Milwaukee's Sex Scenes. —Mike Noto