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X


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Punk rock

Status:

Band has broken up again and have solo projects. Most recent release, Live In Los Angeles, 2005; last release of new material, hey zeus!, 1993

See also:

X's site

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Exene Cervenka

Members Exene Cervenka and John Doe have their own solo albums. Most of X also made up a group called the Knitters in the mid-'80s.

Comparisons:

Other punk bands of the '80s, but their sound was unique

Covers/own material:

Mostly own, several covers

General comments:

X came out of the Los Angeles punk movement, the first such band with its own unique sound and identity. Lyrically, John Doe and Exene Cervenka wrote virtually all of X's songs (singly or jointly). They explored the sleazy, seedy side of urban life. They showed a world where people exist merely to use and to be used by others, with little room for sentiment or hope, where good intentions and honest emotions are quickly crushed. They also took several rapier thrusts at the middle class. Yet they managed to walk the fine line between over-emotionality and cynicism, and usually produced some sharp insightful even subtle observations. Their lyrics occasionally included some wonderful word play, apparently mostly by Exene.
     Musically, the band displayed in full the speed, energy, and volume of the punk movement. The rhythm section of John Doe (bass) and D.J. Bonebrake (drums) drove hard and fast. On top of that, Billy Zoom played rockabilly-influenced lead guitar, again at speed and volume. Yet the signature sound of the band was the vocals. John Doe had a wonderful singing voice, clear and expressive. On the other hand, Exene had trouble carrying a tune, though she improved over the albums. Their songs frequently included their harmonies, a unique combination of John Doe's voice handling the lyrics and melody, while Exene's on-the-edge/over-the-edge/off-key (choose one :) ) vocals danced over them. The harmonies are a bizarre unique treat.
     An odd delight of some of these albums are Exene's hand-crafted doodle-strewn lyric listings.
     In general, X is highly recommended for another with a taste for hard and hard-edged music, and a must-have for any punk fans. (dbx@aa.net)

Recommended first album:

Under the Big Black Sun or Los Angeles

Recordings:


Los Angeles

Release info:

1980—Slash—P.O. Box 48888, Los Angeles CA 90048, U.S.A.—SR-104; re-issued with Wild Gift on CD in 1988—9 25771-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for hard rock/punk tastes

Group members:

Billy Zoom—guitar
John Doe—bass, vocals
Exene Cervenka—vocals
D.J. Bonebrake—drums

Guest artists:

Ray Manzarek—organ

Produced by:

Ray Manzarek

Comments:

This debut album showcases the basics of X, though has many rough and raw edges. Yet the high energy and uniqueness of the sound overcome any shortcomings, such as songs that collapse into a mass of noise, Exene's bad solo vocals, and occasionally weak lyrics. (dbx@aa.net)

Wild Gift

Release info:

1981—Slash—P.O. Box 48888, Los Angeles CA 90048, U.S.A.—SR-107; re-issued with Angeles on CD in 1988—9 25771-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for harder tastes

Group members:

John Doe—bass, vocals
Billy Zoom—guitars
D.J. Bonebrake—drums plus
Exene Cervenka—vocals

Produced by:

Ray Manzarek

Comments:

Everything took a strong step forward in this album. The lyrics were sharper. The music was more focussed. Exene's and John Doe's harmonies occasionally reached brilliance, though her solo efforts still fell flat (literally and figuratively). The album held only one thrashed-to-death klunker. (dbx@aa.net)

Under The Big Black Sun

Release info:

1982—Elektra (U.S.A.)—9-60150

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for certain tastes

Group members:

D.J. Bonebrake—drums, marimba, vibes, percussion
Exene Cervenka—vocals John Doe—vocals, bass Billy Zoom—guitar, saxophone, clarinet, wolf howls

Produced by:

Ray Manzarek

Comments:

This album represented another big step forward. The songwriting noticeably grew in depth, subtlety, and range. Their core concerns remained on the rough side of life, but showed a lot more shading and variety of views, even the slightest hint of optimism. Musically, the hard driving sound remained, but other touches and some change of pace showed up. Exene even handled some solo vocals effectively. (dbx@aa.net)

This is my favourite of X's albums—these songs have lived with me since I first heard them. They're fun, energetic, catchy, yet still punk rock. (Neile)


More Fun In The New World

Release info:

1983—Elektra (U.S.A.)—9-60283

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for harder tastes

Group members:

Bill Zoom—guitars
D.J. Bonebrake—drums & percussion
Exene Cervenka—vocals
John X. Doe—vocals & bass

Produced by:

Ray Manzarek

Comments:

Musically, X was hitting on all cylinders at top speed, producing great rock and roll on their liveliest record. However, the vocals are murky, buried, and lost in the music, which may be as well, since the lyrics took a step down, just one of many signs of a band searching for their next step. It's still a wonderful record. (dbx@aa.net)

Ain't Love Grand

Release info:

1985—Elektra (U.S.A.)—96-04301

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for X fans

Group members:

Exene Cervenka—vocals
Billy Zoom—guitar, saxophone
D.J. Bonebrake—drums, percussion
John Doe—vocals, bass

Comments:

The band still showed a complete lack of direction. The songwriting showed some old flashes, but the music was relative subdued, losing most of the items that made X unique. The result was a conventional rock album, a fine conventional rock album, but it was not X. (dbx@aa.net)

Hey Zeus!

Release info:

1993—Big Life/Mercury—314-519-261-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for X fans

Group members:

D.J. Bonebrake—drums, percussion, marimba
Tony Gilkyson—guitars, vocals
Exene Cervenka—vocals
John Doe—vocals, bass

Produced by:

Tony Berg

Comments:

X broke up in the mid-'80s, though fell apart may be a better description. However, the success of alternative music in the early 1990s encouraged X to re-group and issue this album. The lyrics and music returned to the strength and power of its heydey, though the songs had showed a more pointed (though not very insightful) political bent. However, the album disappointed in showing little other changes. One change that should have been for the better—Exene's discovery of her own singing voice—even backfired, since it just didn't fit X's style well. In short, the album seemed pointless. (dbx@aa.net)


Thanks to Doug Burks for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2008-12-31 18:15:25.
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