Although they careened out of the world-famous
L.A. hardcore punk scene of the late 70's and early 80s, X were never a hardcore
group, and actually not even much of a punk band. Sure, they had the energy
and coup de tat attitude or whatever, but what they were mainly was a roots
rock band. Only difference here see is that their "roots" included not only
'60s surf rock, generic chugglin' rockabilly and Dionysian drug music of the
philosophical youth, but also hey! Punk rock! And thank god for it, because
without that upbeat goodtime high-speed aspect, X would have been a real
drag to be around. If you don't believe me, just listen to the roots rock they put out near the end of their career. Circular File Borough!!!!!!!
So anyway, the prime X sound
was one of reckless abandon - goodtime uptempo pogobilly music with a rockin' cool guitar that
often broke out into delightfully classic rock-esque solos - brought to life
by the amelodic point/counterpoint singing/wailing of husband-wife songwriting
combo John Doe and Exene Cervenka. They sang of love, of fights, of sex, of
depression - just like punkers would, if punkers had a romantic bone in their
bodies! The primo era of X can best be observed in the fine fine moving
picture The Decline of Western Civilization, which presents the Xers
as a true American rock and roll band lodged in the middle of a violent
hardcore scene. Exene waxes alcoholic about bible pamphlets, John greasily
gives a fellow a tattoo, guitarist Billy Zoom walks around with a pompadour
managing cool mainly by clearly just not giving a rat's ass what the scenesters
think of him (playing a glittery silver guitar with a big smile on his face?
NYHC, dude! Oi!), and I don't think drummer D.J. Bonebrake is in the
interview scene. Probably out smiling at somebody. Good movie! The X scene
drags on a little long, but it sure kicks the boyface out of that Catholic
Discipline shim. Pukes on an old la-dee!
Los Angeles - Slash 1980.
A classic of Amroro. That's my hip new abbreviation
for "American Rock and Roll." I hope you like it! 'Cause you've earned it!!!
This is mint Amroro, 'causen they're YOUNG, goddammit, and real and desperate,
and they aren't just dicking around trying to sound like Bruce Springsteen.
Hence the punkin' guitar and occasional dirginess bouncin' in between the
keyboard-and-rockabilly goodtime vibe. Did I mention that former Doors
keyboardist Ray Manzarek produced their first four albums? Man, that guy's
a flake. Probably a nice guy, though. For a flake.
But about the album. Every song
is really good. Lots of variation. Raw, but tight enough to sound mature,
and the vocal togetherness is really neat, man. John sounds like a suave
'60s greaser Chris Isaak-type goof, and Exene sounds like she couldn't hit
a note if it was a very very large concrete note shaped like a box and
enclosing her claustrophobically on all sides - and it works! Fighting
lovers make the best music, maybe? Rumours? Aww man, Fleetwood.
Aww now you're talkin' my language. That Lindsay Buckingham is a genius.
Oh, I'm sorry! Did I say "genius"? I meant "anus." These Xers, though,
they HAD something! Something real and new created from a bunch of influences
that you wouldn't have thought would have worked together. But they do. Thanks
to an extremely strong melodic sense displayed by those in charge. The chorus
to "The World's
A Mess, It's In My Kiss," for example, won't leave your head for days after
the album ends. Seriously. It's just too damn good. As are a wide portion
of the nine tracks on here. "Johny Hit and Run Paulene"? It's about a rape
that turns into a seduction! Oh, a man's dream.....? Good stuff. Might make
you go "huh?" when you realize that X were the biggest band in the L.A.
hardcore scene. Might also make you go "why didn't Fear beat the shit out
of those candyasses?"
- Reader Comments
- email@example.com (Dean Reis)
THIS ALBUM PROVES THAT X WAS THE MOST TALANTED AND CREATIVE BAND TO COME
OUT OF THE EARLY 80'S LA PUNK SCENE. THE ONLY LA BAND WHERE ALL THE
MEMBERS HAVE THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL SUPER POWER THAT ADDS DRAMATICALLY TO
THE BAND. MY ONLY COMPLAINT IS IS RAY MANZERACK'S ANNOYING ORGAN
PLAYING. THIS AINT THE DOORS.
I HAVE TO AGREE WITH THAT DEAN REIS GUY. I OWNED THE 3 ALBUMS THAT CAME AFTER
THIS (WILD GIFT, UNDER THE..., AND MORE FUN....) AND I HAVE THE LIVE ALBUM PLUS
I SAW THERE PERFORMANCE ON THE DECLINE... AND I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE KEYBOARDS
REALLY FUCK UP "NAUSEA" & "THE WORLDS A MESS...." I HEARD BOTH THOSE SONGS LIVE
(WITH NO KEYBOARDS) AND NOW I JUST BOUGHT THE FIRST ALBUM AND IT HAS KEYBOARDS
ON THOSE SONGS ! JUST FOR THAT I'D GIVE THIS AN 8. PLUS "JOHHNY HIT& RUN..."
SOUNDS SO MUCH ROUGHER& FASTER WHEN PLAYED LIVE! I THINK
WILD GIFT & UNDER THE
BIG.... WERE THE BEST ALBUMS THEY PUT OUT. IF IT WASNT FOR RAYS GODAMN
KEYBOARDS THIS WOULD BE MY FAVE. THE KEYBOARD TOTALLY RUINS THE MOOD OF THOSE
- firstname.lastname@example.org (booji boy)
I think Dean Reis is a cry baby.
I mean I agree with what he has to say and all...
But I still think he is a cry baby.
X seems cool at first, but man do they ever get boring after hearing their
songs too many damn times. They all become predictable with the only
excitement coming with the too-short guitar solos. Also, being a bass player,
I hate the sound of John's bass. It is so generic and...boring sounding.
those crazy keyboards ruin the mood in "World's a Mess" (I get the song
in my head just by writing it), but I think they sound cool in "Nausea",
how they crash all over the place. Sure, X can get boring -- but that's
after you play LA for 6 days straight. It's their best. Can't see why
everyone always rates Wild Gift first...now that's boring.
Wild Gift: 6.5
- email@example.com (Elliot Imes)
The drummer in my band bitterly hates this album, but he's an idiot. Not
really, I just tend to be the guy among my friends that really likes a
band, but the rest of them just go, "Yeah they're ok, i guess." Shows my
range of tastes, although even that isn't very wide in the first place.
To the album at hand. Upon hearing Los Angeles, I couldn't help
wondering "Hmmm. L.A. hardcore? Not quite." I eventually stopped that
crap, and realized that this is a really enjoyable listen. "Your Phone's
Off The Hook, But You're Not" and "Johnny Hit And Run Paulene" are the
best X songs I've heard, so it's got that going for it. And goddammit, I
want to see The Decline Of Western Civilization very badly, but it's
nowhere to be found in the shit village that I live in. Suppose I'll
have to buy it or something.
The only drawback to the first 3 "X" albums is Ray Manzarek's paper thin production methods. He almost seemed to be trying ruin this one by
making them sound as thin as he possibly could. It's amazing how good this album is despite Manzarek's involvement.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (David Dickson)
This is a very very good album. I wouldn't swear by it, but I kinda like it. Even though, for the most part, I dislike early punk rock. It's got some intelligent playing behind it. I couldn't care less about the lyrics; I can't hear them any way. Every song is good, except for perhaps "Nausea" and the still-OK "Los Angeles"--it's just a little weird for me. My favs are the last two songs, "Unheard Music" for the riffage and "The world's a Mess" for the chorus--and man! The keyboard solos! They're great! It's what keeps this record from being indistinguishable from other rockabillyish punk (was there any other back then? I'd hate to think there wasn't--it's such an obvious style to play, when you think about it.) Anyone who hates the keyboards on here obviously skipped the '60's. C'mon, people, would it really be classic X without Ray Manzarek in the producer's chair? Nope, that's what I thought. Nine out of ten.
- email@example.com (Eric Sweenor)
Los Angeles is easily X's best album. Most, er, rather, all of their other albums get pretty boring once you get halfway through, but this one's noisy, fast, and loud almost the whole way through, and it's not even 30 minutes long! Points for the goofy string synthesizer in "Sex and Dying In High Society" and the psycho-surf guitar in the chorus of "Johny Hit and Run Paulene". Great stuff. 10/10
- firstname.lastname@example.org (JT Andrews)
hmmm well id have to say LA is great for one since its their most raw album, the first seems to always personify what yer trying to get out to everyone, the new thing right, which was this fucking hatred of others, or the release of the shit you think about and feel. Like ''Johnny hit and run Pauline'' I'd have to say id fuck once every 24 hours if the chance came by me. Anyways, being in a band myself, i like the idea of getting the power to say what i believe, with a certain kind of vibe, much like X actually since we seem to have a background of rockabilly too, though i can't say my musical tastes nearly end there or id be lying...much like i usually do with things other than music ha fuck im sounding like im trying to be some know it all ass rapist. Oh yeah and the key boards in the music with Ray and all, I think its cool. I know a bunch of you think its shit to have it cause you think its not as ''hardcore'' enough sounding as you think it should be. But just listen to X for a moment and compare it to fear for a moment and do many of there songs have much of the same sound or meaning, see where im getting at? THEY ARENT HARDCORE!!!! And first of all the Hardcore term for them came from those fucking filthy pussi jocks who thinks its all about riot and lets beat the shit out of people NO boys, the beating up factor is only for aggression, and it shouldnt be on ''punks vs punks'' eh right? yeah. Enough of the pmsing from me today, X is a great band, they play what they wanted, how they wanted it, its not always how fast and hard the solos and songs alone are for all you musicians, its the sound and how well it fits with the message you try to get across. So for example with X's music and how its softer in the albums after LA, well thats what might have been going through there head then and thats the sound that seemed to go well with what they were trying to say. I sometimes sound like bowie, but listen to him as well, his style changes, but so does the music, and so do the thoughts and experiences of a person as time passes. It is reality, and just when you find this out it seems like its too late, yer already gone, it just might take a life time to understand completely.
This is without a doubt the best album to come out of the West Coast punk scene (with a nod to Black Flag’s “Damaged”).
From the opening blast of “You’re Phone’s Off The Hook” this band takes American punk rock music into directions that where unknown unto this point. The vocal blending and collisions of Exene and John Doe are truly one of rock music’s great sounds. The drumming of DJ Bonebrake serves as a building block for what was to become the great “undiscovered” American bands. And the guitar of Billy Zoom put the finishing touches on a sound that was original, joyful, depressing and sometimes just make you want to drink a beer and tell the rest of the world to get screwed. This was an album that set the pace for a great four album run which to this day made X the band to which I compared all others. And if you disagree, then check ‘em out live and that’ll shut you up.
Add your thoughts?
Wild Gift - Slash 1981.
Certainly an enjoyable record full of catchy riffs
and excitement, but a few too many samey tracks kinda put a dink in the cadillac of
legends, in that you gotsta wonder to yourself, even in 1981 when you were
8 years old, how long can they keep this style up without it wearing thin?
You don't have long to wonder, though, because a hell of a lot of these songs
will make the hair on the back of your ass stand on end.
The main difference
between this one and Los Angeles is that there are four more tracks
on this one, and there aren't any dirgers like "Nausea" and "The Unheard
Music." No biggy, except that with one less influence (that of the Dionysian drug
whatever crap bullshit I wrote in the introductory paragraph), they sound
less like an original creation, and more like a popabilly band with slight
punk influences. Luckily, the "pop"
aspect is still hangin' tough. Tons of strong material on here, including
"We're Desperate," "Beyond and Back," and "Some Other Time," all or none of
which you may have heard or not heard. Bingo! Billy Zoom is playing some
really cool guitar lines on here, and they seem to be pumped up a bit
louder than they were on the debut. Chuck Berry, John Lennon and Pat
Fear all rolled up into one great big shiny potato!
Lots of people think that
this is the ultimate X record, but I'm a bit fettered by the sheer abundancy
of interchangable goodtime choogle rock on here - sure, it's got some fanforkintastic
stuff, but it's also got throwaways like "It's Who You Know" and "In This
House That I Call Home," that just don't register at all when stacked
up against all the other killer tracks. Mainly it's just not as tight, concise
and focused as the debutthole. I suppose that's my point.
- Reader Comments
- email@example.com (Sarah M. Johnson)
There is a CD reissue with both Los Angeles and Wild Gift on it.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Dean Reis)
THIS ALBUM SHOULD AT LEAST GET A 9 OUT OF TEN. EVEN IF ALL THE SONGS
AREN'T AS EXCITING AS THE FIRST ALBUM, "BEYOND AND BACK", "WHITE GIRL", AND
"WE'RE DESPERATE" ARE THE BEST SONGS X EVER WROTE.
- email@example.com (Fluffy Bunny)
I like "In this house that I call home." I think the sleepers give you
breathing room between the other awesome tracks. It's a strong 9 in my book.
That reminds me, I need to replace the ole cassette version...
Doe and Cervenka definitely have the freakiest duet vocals this side of
poptarts Difford and Tillbrook (Squeeze). It's like a 1/2 of a barber shop
quartet that killed and ate the other members.
Name me a band that sounds like X. Bet you can't. Now name me a band that
sounds like Pearl Jam. Do you see what I'm getting at? When you get tired
of listening to bands that are heavily imitated ( Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and
Aerosmith) it's nice to know there's an oddity out there.
there has to be some golden law that states that legendary bands make some of their very best music on the second try. This is a gloriously
James-Hetfield-needs-surgery-kinda-head-bangin' album and where all X novices should begin, although the singles "adult books" and "white girl" are
melodic, singsongy punk anthems that are less fist-pumping blasts than driving-through-Venice(CA)-at-night, listening to the shattering glass and
"pops" Perry Farrell wrote of in "Classic Girl". A must-have...
Add your thoughts?
Under The Big Black Sun - Elektra 1982.
Wearing thin indeed. First album on a major label and
the edge is already starting to slip away. Side one's pretty great,
sure, with your same ol' basic Wild Gift-style shakedown, but side two
kinda drags with lots of decent but only slightly memorable punkers (aside
from the adorable call-and-response vocals of "(How I) Learned My Lesson"),
novelty stuff and even a stupid metal
tune or two ("Blue Spark"? Like when you light a toot?), putting quite the
used pamper on the children's party of fun. It doesn't stink, though.
That's the weird thing. The melodies are actually hoppy and nice. But for some
reason, it's just not quite as compelling this time around. Maybe because we've already
heard it twice before? Hard to say.
I read somewhere that Exene's sister died
right around this point and it influenced the music. If that's true, it
probably resulted in some of the few really great songs on here, like "Come
Back To Me," which is a lovely sixties-ish ballad that might very well be
a cover, quite frankly, but if it isn't, good job, X! "The Hungry Wolf" is
a great growler, too, and "Riding With Mary," even if it is a sped-up
rip-off of Wire's "Lowdown," is still pretty cool. Basically, if this album
was by Soul Asylum or something, I'd say, "Great! Catchy!" But this is X
about. An original American rock combo. And it's sad to see the
inspiration slipping away. I mean, sure, it's
barely noticeable. You might even love punky stuff like "Because I Do."
Why not? It's catchy! But there's something missing. It kinda sounds like
high energy masquerading as creativity. I don't know. I just would have
hoped for a bit more musical growth along the lines of "The Hungry Wolf" and
"Come Back To Me," I guess.
If you see it cheap, buy it. It's pretty much a rerun of Wild Gift with
slightly fewer memorable tunes. And the stuff near the beginning totally rules my
foot! The LEFT one!!!!
- Reader Comments
- firstname.lastname@example.org (John Bishop)
This was my first exposure to X, I had read about them, but on the East
coast in the early 80's, you weren't likely to hear them on your radio.
Oddly enough, I saw and heard them for the first time on the Jerry Lewis
telethon! (Obviously, major label Elektra was pushing them hard to get
noticed in the mainstream). They did "Blue Spark", and I was hooked.
This is a great record, and "The Hungry Wolf", "Under The Big Black
Sun", and "Because I Do" really kick it.
Mary (Exene's sister) was killed in a car crash - and the songs "Riding
With Mary" and "Come Back To Me" resulted.
I disagree. To me, this is the album on which they peaked.
Add your thoughts?
More Fun In The New World - Elektra 1983.
Everybody else seems to love this one, but everyone
else can stick their finger up my nose for all I care. About half
of the songs on here totally blow, including the "classic" "The New World," which
spoils a wonderful bouncy bass bit with a really stupid vocal style and even
stupider lyrics that they just keep repeating over and over and over and
over and over again for weeks on end 'till you feel like kickin' 'em in the
balls, except for the girl because it's not polite to kick girls in the balls.
Seriously, this album's just... just sigh-inducing. Boring. Incredibly uncatchy.
Like a late '70s Paul McCartney album, but slightly faster. Where are the
hooks? Are there any hooks? "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" at least has
an interesting lyrical thing going on (it's about their lack of success, I
think), which is good because the music is atrocious.
It's not that this
"countryish" or "mainstream" or any of those awful "sellout" things that drive
punker kids crazy. It's just that the melodic pop sensibility that had played
such an important role on the first couple of records is NOWHERE to be found.
There are some catchy choruses every now and again ("Poor Girl,"
"We're Having Much More Fun"), but the verses are mediocrity
defined. At least they still somehow manage to sound a little raw!
- Reader Comments
- email@example.com (Ian Patrick)
I tried really hard to like this one, but their limitations are really
First of all, the singing just isn't up to snuff for the type of music
they're trying to play: John's croon is adequate but still amature-sounding,
and Exene is as tuneless as ever. None of this would be a problem if they'd
been a snarky punk band doing rockabilly for laughs, but they're trying to
play it straight and its just not working.
Next up is the songwriting, which never adds up to much, either; un-clever
wordplay, mush-mouthed storytelling, vague imagery, none of it really tied
to the melody... Yuck.
The good news is that, musically, Billy and DJ still seem to have the right
idea, even if John and Exene are floundering. Artistic aspirations aside,
those guys really could play some badass rock n' roll (Actually, you get the
sense that both of them would've been happier just playing in a rocked-up
50's cover band or something, not trying to reinvent the wheel with John and
On a closing note, I'm surprised to hear Mark slam "I must not think bad
thoughts," because it's one of Billy's most mature guitar compisitions and
I think the vocals still have the charm of the first two records even if
they don't make much sense.
Anyway, I'm still a slobbering X fan.
This was when X's rockabilly sensibilities kinda took over the steering wheel, although I don't think it's a deterrent(in most of the songs, anyway).
"Breathless", which was the theme song for the Richard Gere '83 remake, is a far too predictable exercise in the punk-cover song formula, and "true love,
pt. 2" is rather dull. "I must not think bad thoughts" features some excellent vocals and is easily the highlight. I strongly recommend that you check out
the Rhino records reissues of this album, as well as every album they did through "see how we are"( hopefully "live @ the whiskey is in the works). You
can tithe the time spent until you die listening to Original Sinners' debut, which features the lovely Ms. Cervenka on vocals. They're the best
"supergroup", and while some of you here may not think that's a great accomplishment, OS really made somethin' special. Oh, and I'll check out XTC,
Add your thoughts?
Ain't Love Grand - Elektra 1985.
And now they don't sound raw anymore! Go tell Uncle
Death! I guess you gotta chalk up the successful garagey sound of the first
four to the production talents of Mr. Manzarek, because this is as lame as
Night Ranger. Corny '80s keyboards augmenting lame metal riffs like "Burning
Pile of Dogdoo" remind one and all why exactly punk rock was necessary in the
first place. And why its importance has yet to cease. Pity X forgot what it
was. What the heck IS this nonsense? Where's the guitar? Why does it sound
like it was recorded by a bunch of studio musicians? I'm not even going to
ask where the hooks went, because I asked that about the last record. Suffice
it to say that with stupid production, lousy songwriting doesn't have a prayer.
There's almost no reason to purchase this record, so don't do it. They've lost
Wasn't it around this time that John and Exene got a divorce?
Makes sense. I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I was married to someone
who recorded an album like this either.
- Reader Comments
The production on this album blows. It ruins some of the songs that
appear on the double live LP and sound great. "Around my Heart" is one
of my all time favorites and has a powerful and chilling chorus. Why the
hell do bands spend so much damn money trying to sound like something
they're not. X is great, but alot of money was wasted on this album.
I love X, but this album really does suck. My first X album was Wild Gift
when I was like, thirteen, then I bought Ain't Love Grand because it was
the only other album I could find at the crappy music stores near me. For
years, I searched futilely for Under the Big Black Sun and Los Angeles,
thinking Ain't Love Grand could not be the apex of X's triumphs. I do
love'around my heart,' though. Exene Cervenka is my hero.
Add your thoughts?
See How We Are - Elektra 1987.
Billy Zoom wised up and went his separate ways (worlds
apart) after that last fiasshole, leaving the remaining Xers to ponder roots rock
in precisely the way that a weaker band might have done in 1980. But with
a late-'80s John Mellencamp "small town" outlook. Minus the catchy "Crumblin'
Down" hooks. Rendering it "boring." As always, there are a couple of
pleasant riffs here and there, but only a couple. And what the hell good is
a catchy riff, when it's only catchy because it's like E-A-B or something, that
we've heard hundreds and hundreds of times?
Who gives a shit? Why should I care?
So essentially, X in seven long years
deteriorated from creators of one of the most lovable documents of early '80s punk
rock to this - a record that, though perfectly listenable if you remove your
brain and stomp on it a few times before listening, is basically about
as relevant as a Bodeans record, not that I've ever heard a Bodeans album.
In short, somewhere along the way, X lost everything that made them special,
well, just another American band. Uuuuuaaaaaaaah.
That was me attempting
to spell out the sound of a yawn. Did you and your family enjoy it?
- Reader Comments
Like most bands, X starts off great and slows down. Slows WAY down.
Though I do think that See How We Are is better than Ain't Love
Grand, which I guess is the exception that proves the rule. There are
about three good songs on Zeus, and that new Best Of double CD that
just came out has some really incredible unreleased stuff on it -
there's a track called "Delta 88" that almost makes up for the boring
stuff. Last I heard they were back together and touring again - with
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Scott Orange)
I'll have to disagree with that review - I don't think it's fair. Bands
don't stay young forever, and when you're inqusitive and always reaching
like John and Exene you can't be expected not to grow as artists. See How
We Are is the product of an older, more mature band that has taken a good
hard look at who they are and where they came from, and produced an honest
statement reflecting this new reality. I personally like this album a lot,
and see no conflict in liking Los Angeles and Wild Gift as well, since they
all come from the same place. Hey, by the way, why isn't Like at the
Whiskey on this review page?
I like this one. It seems to get slagged quite a bit but, I find it quite listenable. I love "4th of July" and "Anyone Can Fill Your Shoes."
- email@example.com (Matthew Ward)
One of the most persistent myths about the band X is that Billy Zoom wisely quit the band after they released the the horribly overproduced "Ain't Love Grand." In other words, Billy was the good guy, holding out for the old punky sound while the other three sold out. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Actually, using that horrible butt-rock producer (Michael Wagener, Dokken producer, I think) on ALG was BILLY'S idea! Billy was tired of being in an indie band with lots of critical success but little chance of commercial success. He basically told the band that he wanted a more commercial production on ALG, and that if it didn't work in giving the band mass success, he would leave. Well, the record wasn't popular--might have gained them a few mainstream fans, but pretty much alienated all the hardcore X fans--and Billy left.
In other words, your implication that he left because ALG sucked is dead wrong because HE WAS THE BIGGEST REASON WHY IT SUCKED.
Don't get me wrong, I love Billy, but he did play a big part in the downfall of X.
Now, See How we Are, the first X record without Billy on it (unless you count the Knitters album, which Billy produced) is a waaaay better record than Ain't Love Grand. OK, so they went from being a rootsy punk band to a punky roots band, but, fact is, Dave Alvin and the Other Guitar Dude (name escapes me at this moment) did a good job filling in for Billy. It took TWO of them to equal ONE of him, but they pulled it off. The production is thousands of times better than ALG, not that it was difficult to do! Bye bye synths, bye bye booming, overprocessed snares, hello guitars, hello real-sounding drums. Sounds like John Mellencamp's "Scarecrow" with a punk influence, and that's a good thing!
Also, the tunes are pretty good! The title track is one of their best state-of-the-union numbers, Dave Alvin's "4th of July" is a beautiful, sad roots number, even if it sounds nothing like X, "Surprise Surprise" sounds like old X with a more professional production, as does "In the Time it Takes," "Anybody Can Fill your Shoes" is a scary sounding anti-male rant, and the first song (name escapes me) makes a nice guitar/drum racket, and is one of X's better social-protest songs.
In fact, besides a couple of slower, draggy numbers on side 2, this album is fulla good tunes! A good solid 8.
Add your thoughts?
Live At The Whisky A Go-Go On The Fabulous Sunset Strip - Elektra 1988
Aww come on! What the!? You don't record a live album with Tony Gilkyson! That's like conducting open heart surgery with a bowling ball!
It literally took me 25 minutes to come up with that analogy.
By this point, X had become a generic, boring Americana act whose chief songwriter was itching to move onto a folk/country solo career. But here they were - minus their coolest member - playing punk-era songs they probably didn't even like namore. 4 each from Los Angeles, Wild Gift and Under The Big Black Sun, 3 Aint Love Grand, 2 More Fun In The New World, 1 See How We Are, plus a Woody Guthrie cover, a Knitters song, and a rare original that would remain otherwise unavailable (I think) until The Knitters reunited in the late '90s or whenever. (And if you have the vinyl or cassette versions, you get an additional track each from More Fun and See How, as well as another unreleased track that later wound up on an Exene solo album, I think. I have the CD version though, which deletes these tracks as a special bonus).
I'm taking a Black Belt Test in Tae Kwon Do in less than two hours, so you'll forgive me if I seem a bit rushed or shitty writer-esque.
The live recording sounds fine, but there is no edge at all in the performances. They all sound too relaxed -- which works well for the previously herky-jerky "The New World," but kinda puts a Pamper on the rest of their catalog. Also, though Tony Gilkyson sounds fine on the speedy chord sequences, he can't play the note runs in songs like "Johny Hit And Run Pauline (SIC)" or "White Girl" anywhere near as fluidly and naturally as Zoom did. And he can't play "The Hungry Wolf" AT ALL, bending the high note to such an irritating degree that you can't even hear the low one after a while. But enough about Duran Duran and their popular 1983 hit single.
The main culprit is the terrible set list. They picked some truly godawful material to play on this evening. "Burning House Of Love"? "My Goodness"? "Blue Spark"? "Year 1"? "In This House That I Call Home"? It's awesome to name a bunch of songs and put question marks next to them.
Plus the Knitters/Guthrie set on side four (of the CD) is among the dullest, least idea-including music ever to appear on an X album. "Skin Deep Town" = Generic Country-Western; "So Long" = Generic Folk; "The Call Of The Wreckin' Ball" = Generic Chuck Berry Rock And Roll. I've no problem with any of these genres, but jeepers - could you try writing a melody rather than just playing a minimalist traditional rendition of each? Granted, "So Long" is a Woody Guthrie song, but couldn't you have changed its three basic chords to hundreds of counterintuitive hyperspeed note runs atop brilliantly-synchronized polyrhythmic jagged rhythmic explosions? Come on, Guthrie loved math metal.
Being an X album, there are of course some terrific songs and perfectly reasonable performances here and there (and all of the duet vocals sound great!), but this was just the wrong time to be putting out a live X album.
The right time may have been, oh I don't know, when THE GUITAR PLAYER THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY GAVE A FLYING PIECE OF SHIT ABOUT WAS IN THE BAND!??!?!?!?
Not that Mr. Zoom enjoyed people throwing fecal matter at him onstage, but hey I'm not the one who told him to play the Allin family reunion.
- Reader Comments
The definitive X album (exception for Beyond and Back which is a
compilation). I always had a love/hate relationship with X. Loved the band,
hated nearly every one of their albums. If it wasn't Ray Manzerack screwing
up what would have been my favorite albums (like they need his credibility
or his keyboard), everything was way over-produced (um, they're a punk band
right?). Live, however; and a different character was revealed: "MY GOD
THESE GUYS KICK ASS!". No Top 40 mix, no effects; just straight forward X.
It always bugged me that their live sound never translated well into their
studio albums (just hang two mics at the back of the room, play the songs,
and call it a day). Well, the live album is just that: pretty much all of
their best songs with an edge not found on any of their studio albums
(although, still very good production values... hats off to their sound
man). "My Goodness" sends chills up and down my spine (the studio version
does too, but for different reasons). The kicker though is "The Call of the
Wreckin' Ball", a Knitters (same band) song that just swaggers with
attitude. When I think of great live albums, great bands... X- Live at The
Whisky A Go-Go pretty much tops the list.
- Tom Troccoli
I loved X. I saw as many of their shows in Los Angeles and around the state of California I could make. I followed them the way some followed the Grateful Dead. They were my favotite band PERIOD.
At one point they played 6 consecutive nights at the Country Club in Reseda (1982 I think). I made all 6 nights. Some of these were recorded and I believe excerpts are included on some of Rhino's catalog reissues.
'X' was so important locally that in 1981 they nearly sold out the Greek theater with virtualy no FM, and zero AM airplay. They were THAT important. With their combination of old Rockabilly influences, combined with their own new sensibilities, to many of us they were 'Our Beatles.' They were THE standard bearers.
Only 'X' were able to sound rough, hard and Pop all at the same time, with lyrical content that was matched only by LAs only TRUE poet (in the classic sense) of our Los Angeles 'scene', Darby 'Rimbaud' Crash.
This 'live' album is wretched and shows none of the spark, drive and creativity they were known for. Why they decided that THEY were true inheritors of the spirit of Woody Guthrie I will never know or understand. 'X' Llive at The Whiskey were intense, creative, ball busting and FUN. this album has none of that zeal. I won't even touch 'The Knitters' and their pitiful output. Ugh.
THE live 'X' is as yet best represented by the few live cuts on the original 'Decline Of Western Civilization' soundtrack. get that and learn what it REALLY meant.
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Hey Zeus! - Big Life 1993.
An astonishingly not bad at all reunion album! 3/4 reunion anyway. Still
no Billy Zoom. Oh well. So what makes it astonishingly not bad at all is
that they're not trying to do crappy 80s metal or corny Americana, but
instead setting their sailing ships into the sun of hip early 90s
alternative music! Having been an actual original "alternative" band of the
80s, they must've figured they still had a few good melodies up their
shirtsleeves. And they did whee! A lot of this sounds like a less
rhythmically and melodically interesting Pixies -- lots of excellent guitar
tones, both fuzzy rock, surfy twang and acoustically majestical (both of
those three) and very pleasant guy/girl voices singing together in happy
glee. I'm certainly not going to run up and down the street screaming that
X have "got it back, baby," but this is certainly a dickweed more enjoyable
than I had any right to expect with excellent tunes like "Someone's
Watching" and "Lettuce And Vodka" bouncing their way into my ventricles like
a rubber ball enjoying a firecracker trip to Mejico.
Oh! And feel free to
not think that the pun in the album title is clever!
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* Beyond And Back: The X Anthology - Elektra 1997. *
Play this double-disc set at your next party and you won’t hear any “Eccch!”s!
Recite that line out loud for somebody. They’ll TOTALLY get all confused and on the rag (if male). In my mind’s eye, I always think of X as “that band that had a few good albums” and go listen to Fear or the Circle Jerks instead because those bands put out endless streams of just really fuckin great albums like Oddities, Abnormalities, Curiosities And Not A Single Good Song and After You Have A Beer With Fear, Have, I Guess…. Another…. Beer With Fear.
But this compilation can’t be questioned. It’s just perfect genius in rock and roll. They’ve shunned nearly every bad song they ever wrote and crammed the daylights out of goodness with just classix after Classics VI after Herb Lance and the Classics. Yet they’ve included enough demos, live versions, remixes and otherwise unheard music (it took sixty-eight people to develop that witty song reference – I would have preferred sixty-nine but your sister’s mouth was too small) to keep even the casual guy who has all their records int’res’d in hearin’ mo’.
On the album tip, you’re bound to either album, demo, remix or live versions of seven Los Angeles, ten Wild Gift, eight Under The Big Black Sun, six More Fun In The New World, two Ain’t Love Grand, four See How We Are, two Hey Zeus!, one Knitters (the See How We Are line-up – and one other guy - a few years earlier under a different name), three unreleased demos from 1978 (the great drunk blues-rock scum “Yr Ignition,” catchy punk “Heater” and VERY fast catchy punk “Delta 88” – all three of which deserved a proper release!), a cover of “Wild Thing” that’s even shittier than the one by that fat dead asshole, and a surprisingly good slow tune from 1994 entitled “The Stage.” Put it all together and that spells “X”! “X” Marks The Spot! “X”-actly! “X” Benedict! “X”XX movie! “X”ander Paumgarten got laid off the same day I did! And his wife just had a baby! And she doesn’t work! Thanks, George Bush! You’re doing a great job!
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Live In Los Angeles DVD - Shout! Factory 2005
Like most of us here inside my body, my introduction to X (NOT THE AUSTRALIAN ONE) was a high school viewing of their slick and professional yet exciting and fuel-filled performance in the film The Decline And Fall Of Western Civilization. Although their concert footage was notably lacking the crash-and-burn chaos of the other bands' performances (Germs, Fear, Circle Jerks, Black Flag), their songs were unbelievably well-written -- really interesting twists on traditional guitar rock with tons of energy jetted in. Add to that the visual appeal of ever-smiling, speedy-hitting drummer DJ Bonebrake, wonderfully suave guitarist Billy Zoom with his awesome blonde semi-pompadour, sparkling silver guitar and TV-ready hearty smile, and (then) romantically involved vocal section Exene "Dumpy, Can't Sing" Cervenka and John "Brilliant, Bass-Playing, Heart of America" Doe, and you've got one heck of a band that should have been hugely successful. But they weren't, and they kinda fiddle-farted around with replacement guitarists for years and now they're playing reunion concerts like clockfire!
So here we are with this DVD, showcasing X's original line-up performing a bundle of old classics on November 26 & 27, 2004 -- nearly 25 years after Decline made them world-famous among punksters (if they weren't already). And they look and sound EXACTLY THE SAME!!! I'm not just trying to be Mr. Polite - obviously, like ANY human beings, their faces have developed some age wrinkles over the last two and a half decades. But, aside from the now-short-and-gray-haired Mr. Bonebrake, I honestly don't think I've EVER seen a band look so much like their original selves - do they eat nothing but wheat germ or something? John Doe is dressed hipster to the nines in black shirt, blue tie, denim jeans and awesome hairstyle that keeps flapping down into his face like a young person, Exene is still wearing little girl goth clothes. coloring her hair and singing as far out of tune as a person born with no ears, and Billy Zoom has the same hairstyle, same sparkly silver guitar and same never-frowning set of choppers (teeth, not motorcycles, presumably) as that lonesome day way back in '81 when Penelope Thingamajig said, "Won't you be in my movie, hey?" To be fair, Billy "The Zoom" Zoom does look older and wiser during the interview portions of the disc, but that's because he's wearing glasses, which automatically add ten years and twenty grams of nerdiness to your face.
And the music! Crikes! This band wrote so many great punk-speed rock and roll songs! Here you'll find seven each from Los Angeles and Wild Gift (or alternately, fourteen from the Los Angeles/Wild Gift CD), four from Under The Big Black Sun, three from More Fun In The New World and a John/Exene acoustic rendition of "See How We Are." Actually they perform an acoustic rendition of "True Love" as well, but the full band plays that in the live show too and there are only so many times you can listen to Exene singing the opening lines from four or five notes away.
It's not huge on bonus material - a few short interview segments are tossed in and the two acoustic duets are a relaxing diversion, but "Billy Zoom's Photo Gallery" (consisting of audience shots taken by the silly guitarist from onstage) are of interest only to folks who think they might be in one of them. Having never been to an X concert, I was unfortunately poised to not be considered a contender for this elusive demographic. However, who needs boners when great songs out the ass are all playing at you one after the other? And what a spirited performance considering John and Exene divorced years ago, John doesn't like punk rock at all anymore and Billy Zoom considers these reunion shows to be essentially just a job! I give it a hearty high endorsement and so would any fan of good music, although I'm infuriated at John Doe for not singing the goosebumpingly emotional chorus to "The World's A Mess, It's In My Kiss" correctly. If that had happened with ME in the audience, I would have thrown a brick at him.
Well, that's my story. Yep, I tell stories and I'm made of bricks. And they call me Brickman! I tell stories!
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