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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… X – Under the Big Black Sun July 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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In the history of punk LA band X have, to some degree, been overshadowed by others – at least in terms of the perception of them on this side of the Atlantic. But John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake deserve greater attention, considerably more so, not merely due to their influence but also for the material they produced.

Starting off with a speedy punk/rockabilly sound as exemplified Johnny Hit and Run Paulene and a tendency to dual attack vocals shared between Doe and Cervenka. But in between the gaps something more complex was developing.

To my mind the best expression of this was found on Under the Big Black Sun which was released in 1982. The tone of the album was set by a stunning black and white illustration only softened by the giant calligraphic X.

Lyrically gloomy – apparently inspired by the death of Cervenka’s sister a couple of years previously – but dynamically furious it is a set of songs that touch on a variety of styles, doo-wop, country, rockabilly and so on, but somehow manages to cohere in a sound that is distinctively their own.

This was regarded by many as their step away from punk into the mainstream. But if this was a step towards the mainstream then it was a step which took their punk roots and eschewing new wave/post punk repositioned themselves in an area one or two steps across from country and rock and roll and in doing so providing a conscious or unconscious role model for a plethora of subsequent bands.

The individual songs range from The Hungry Wolf, and Riding with Mary, both of which teeter on the brink of collapse as melody collides with metallic energy – and with curiously throwaway vocals, and yet succeed entirely, to “Come back to me” which might well be channeling elements of Billy Zoom’s fathers big band career. And why not?

The Have Nots is truly great, a fantastic lyric underpinned by a mash of different guitar styles – and added hand-claps. From that song the line ‘Dawn comes soon enough for the working class’… too true.

But there’s so much more from them… their other albums, both before and after Under the Big Black Sun, are worth a listen. But this, this is the one I return to again and again. You’ll gather that I’m more than fond of it.

Enjoy.

The Hungry Wolf

Riding with Mary

The Have Nots

How I (learned my Lesson)

Motel Room in My Bed

Come Back to Me

And live from the Decline of Western Civilsation

Johnny Hit and Run Paulene [this is from their first album - note Mr. Zoom's unwavering eye contact with the audience. A man with style.]

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Comments»

1. yourcousin - July 31, 2010

Jesus man! Do I have to do a post on punk too just to straighten you up?

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WorldbyStorm - July 31, 2010

There’s just no pleasing you ;)

But, seriously, don’t you consider X as part and parcel of that first(ish) wave of US punk? And if not why not?

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2. yourcousin - August 7, 2010

WBS,
Sorry for the delayed response. Working ten-twelve hours a day, seven a days a week here. So some responses have gone untended. [edit]

In answer to your question, yes they were/are. Personally if we are to go beyond the “classic” early eighties bands I prefer Youth Brigade.

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3. WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2010

Hmmmm… Going to have to edit that YC…

Like the track.

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4. yourcousin - August 7, 2010

I understand that you gotta do what you gotta do to keeps things above board, but tell me I’m wrong.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2010

About Youth Brigade? :)

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