Music Review—Nervous Complaint

Artist: Ex Ox
Album: Nervous Complaint

Canadian musician Andrew Dickenson (lead singer and guitarist of Tricky Woo) has released his first solo LP as Ex Ox.  The LP is titled Nervous Complaint and is available for streaming anywhere you get your music.  The accompanying visual album is available on YouTube.

The album was inspired by Andrew surviving a horrific car crash that left him with physical and existential questions that seemingly had no answers.  He “turned inward to his home studio in the woods of Quebec; inward to the workings of a brain inside a galaxy.”

According to Andrew, Nervous Complaint cannot be nailed down to one genre, but takes inspiration from the genre krautrock (experimental/subgenre of progressive rock that originated in Germany).  Nervous Complaint is “a sonic, psychedelic contemplation on consciousness, mortality, internal and external struggle, and how we seek our place in the universe.”

Nervous Complaint has eight tracks: Nervous Complaint; It’s Your Fault the World is Ending; Moderate Reasonable Alienation; Dans L’obscurité Avec Les Loups; Telomere Crisis; Burnt Husk, Drawing of a Man; Doomed Glass Inverse; and Spraying Hubris (With Flesh Guns) into the Void.

There are no lyrics whatsoever throughout the album.  It’s simply synth music that reminds me of the soundtrack for a Zelda game, or maybe an old sci-fi movie.  To be completely honest, I didn’t get anything out of this album.  The lack of lyrics and natural abrasiveness of the synth were just too much for me.  The visual aspect of the album was certainly psychedelic—full of imagery of the galaxy, nature, and deities, as well as obscure, melting shapes in technicolour and shadows of dancing hands.  In particular, the visual for the track “Doomed Glass Inverse” gave me motion sickness.

That being said, I can hear the different vibes and tones of the various songs—for instance “Dans L’obscurité Avec Les Loups” (In the Dark with the Wolves) had a scary, panicked feel, while “Moderate Reasonable Alienation” felt calm and floaty.  It’s obvious that this album was deeply meaningful and cathartic for Andrew.

According to the academic paper Art and Music Therapy for Trauma Survivors by Amy Green, “Trauma survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be unable to verbally express the trauma that has happened to them (Malchiodi, 2008b); however, in order for healing to occur, these individuals must externalize their stories if their traumatic memories are to be reconstructed and positively transformed (Herman, 1997).  Thus, the creative arts therapies may be particularly effective in the treatment of PTSD because they offer a sensory means for children and adults to express traumatic memories.”

So, while I didn’t personally find any connection with Nervous Complaint, I’m sure this album significantly helped Andrew in processing the trauma of the car accident.  Good luck on the rest of your healing journey, Andrew.  As for us, you can check out Ex Ox on their website, Instagram, and Twitter.