Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It was the third time I'd seen them since they reformed in the early oughts, and they've just been getting better and better. By playing songs only from their first four albums ("Los Angeles," "Wild Gift," "Under the Big Black Sun," and "More Fun in the New World"), they keep polishing their songs until they are diamond hard. And they NEVER phone it in; they play with a passion that is a joy to watch.
They're also visually dynamic. Exene is your classic LA goth chick /mother. John Doe has movie star good looks. Donald Bonebrake is a rock-solid drummer (has there ever been a better name for a punk drummer than Bonebrake?). And Billy Zoom, with his blond pompadour, biker boots, and beatific smile cranks out the most incredible guitar. Going to an X show, you don't know where to look.
X was part of the first wave of LA punk bands (Black Flag, Germs, Fear) and roots rocker (The Blasters, Los Lobos) in the early eighties, and they were featured in Penelope Spheeris' film "The Decline of Western Civilization." Exene's street poetry melded with Billy's rockabilly riffs, and their off-kilter harmonies set them apart from generic thrash bands.
I saw them all over town in their first go-round--at some hall in North Park when I didn't even know who they were; a steamy show at The Spirit Club (now Brick by Brick); the Bacchanal (now a computer store where they were upstaged by Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs), the Roxy (now the Pacific Beach Post Office), and the California Theatre downtown (in limbo).
It's been great to see a band grow, play bigger venues, and then sign with a major label (from Slash
to Elektra) and not blow it. Unfortunately, they still weren't making any money. After their mainstream effort "Ain't Love Grand" was both an artistic and commercial flop, Billy left the band. They soldiered on for awhile, but it just wasn't the same.
That's why it's so great to see them now: happy, successful, and (I hope) making money.
It's "Xmas with X" this Sunday, December 19th at the Belly Up. There will also be a special screening of the X documentary, "The Unheard Music."