X – “Los Angeles”
X is one of my favorite punk bands.
And they are my favorite L.A. punk band which is saying a lot, as they beat out Fear, Angry Samoans, The Screamers, Circle Jerks and Black Flag.
I must admit a lot of it’s due to their “literary aspirations.” Exene (singer) and John Doe (bassist/singer) met at a poetry workshop in Los Angeles. Exene was from Florida and John from Illinois, and he came to L.A. mostly, because his favorite writer/poet Charles Bukowski was from there. (My favorite, too.)
And this album has “Johnny Hit & Run Pauline” which references characters in a novel by William Burroughs and “Nausea” which is a title of a book by French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Satre. Ray Manzarek, keyboard player for The Doors, produced this album because he was attracted by their beatnik inspired lyrics similar to what his deceased bandmate, Jim Morrison, wrote. (And they do a punk cover of The Doors “Soul Kitchen here.”)
But the music rips and roars along with the city inspired lyrics- kind of music and lyrics before the end of the world. Music of desperation and despair, living on the edge which is about to give out but then- you don’t really care. “My whole fuckin’ life is a wreck! Get used to it.” (Actually, that’s from the second album)
This is X, this is a slice of early punk that was raw and wild and true and magnificent.
So hold onto your ponchos and nachos, strap any small children or house pets in and get set for one wild ride. As we take a leap beyond imagination into the lurid, lascivious world of dual texting.
Slimedog- I think what makes X great is they are a combination of two talented musicians along with two punk musicians.
Andy- Yeah that’s definitely true. They are also very unique. Two contrasting vocals that work together like a guitar and bass.
Slimedog- I don’t think there was a better guitarist in the early punk scene than Billy Zoom. He grew up on rockabilly and surf, hated hippie music, but when he heard the first Ramones album he knew that’s what he wanted to get involved in.
Andy- Yeah Billy Zoom is definitely one of the best guitarist ever. His rockabilly background is very evident in X’s sound.
Slimedog- And DJ Bonebrake has been a drum instructor for most of his adult life. Beside still playing in X he plays in two jazz bands and tympani in a classical orchestra.
Andy- And also one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard.
Slimedog- But it wouldn’t be complete without the poetic, punk lyrics and vocals of Exene and John Doe, and his ballsy bass. I think it’s great when you see musicians at different levels work together, and we see that now in the bands we cover, and they all work together toward one common goal. First song on the record is “Your Phone’s Off The Hook But You’re Not.” It starts with a rockabilly lick that was used on many early punk songs including “Anarchy In The U.K.” This song is ferocious and wild. I think it’s funny that now, “off the hook” means that someone’s pretty. So I guess what it means now is- your phone looks great but you don’t!
Andy- It’s a hoppin’ tune. A nice repetitive slashing guitar lick with meandering off beat vocals that connect back at the chorus. Kind of a trademark formula that gets regurgitated in many of their great tunes.
Slimedog- I love the line, “You hate my older sister and you burglarize her home!” The next song has the energy along with slashing guitars and colliding rhythms and is called “Sex & Dying In High Society.”
Andy- Yeah it kind of reminds me of La Peste. I think Peter Dayton (their singer) and John Doe sound a lot a like.
Slimedog- Yeah both have that sharp, fairly low, menacing voice. La Peste was one of Boston’s earliest and best punk bands. I know that some folks get off on pain, but when the character in this song has her maid burn her with a curling iron, it seems her life is so void of any feeling or sensation that she needs to do that to feel alive. “She says her pain is better, than any kind of love,” is one of the saddest lines I know. Now, let’s check out the title track, “Los Angeles.” Some say this song is racist, homophobic but it’s written about a character, actually Exene’s roommate at the time, who went by the name Farrah Faucet-Minor.
Andy- It’s another cool tune and my favorite on the album. I think I’m more into the rhythms and harmonizing than the lyrical content even though it’s their lyrics that really make them punk. And Los Angeles has nice energetic changing rhythms.
Slimedog- I think this song is unique, unlike any song before or after. And I think X sounds like no other band unless you want to imagine the hippie band Jefferson Airplane, instead of smoking pot and taking LSD, receiving shock therapy instead. Now, the last song on the album is called “The World’s A Mess It’s In My Kiss.”
Andy- Kind of reminds me as a cross between Chuck Berry and The Stranglers. A 50’s-ish guitar riff with accompanying keyboards.
Slimedog- Good description and the keyboards are played by the producer, Ray Manzarek, of another favorite L.A. band of mine, The Doors. I will say that X is my third favorite punk band of all time and the best live band to see right now, with all the original members! Great, desperate, city, end of the world lyrics coupled with some of the most exciting rock’n’roll/punk music around.
Andy- Yes I agree. X is an amazing band to see live. They have definitely performed some of my favorite live shows ever.
Slimedog- Well, next time you get to choose. But I’ve already decided my next pick will be Rush’s “Perhaps If We Play Too Many Notes Notes We’ll Drown Out Minnie Mouse.”
Andy- Cool, I’m kinda leanng towards EL&P, but I’ll keep you guessing for awhile.
Slimedog- Hopefully, “Chicken Salad Surgery,” will be your most delicious choice yet.