Saturday, January 05, 2013

x: the unheard music [1986]

i bought the dvd at the x gig a couple weeks ago.  i've seen this documentary once before on my girlfriend's family's satellite tv in 1986 when i had a cold and couldn't sleep.  i switched on the tv and there it was.  i was at the swag table during the show looking for something but x really -- i think -- never really a commercial band and never really developed the kind of iconography that is easily reproducible on t-shirts and other kinds of ephemera.

no matter.  for their unconventionality, and limited commercial success in the mid-80s, is on full display in this utterly beautiful profile and homage to a very great band.  x is a band that was fully vested in the punk rock of l.a.  they even drop band names like d.o.a. and black flag in the lyrics of their songs.  further even the song 'unheard music' -- where this documentary takes its title from -- decries the limitations of commercial appeal and says in the chorus, 'no hardcore on the car radio.' 

as much as i dug the band in my teens i love them even more as an old man.  to me this is ageless music and the personalities of the band members, each one a kick-ass musician, scrapes the scunge off punk music and lifts the genre -- even if one can argue that punk need no lifting at all, it does just fine with three chords and an attitude -- into harmony. 

still, it is mindboggling to recall that in the mid 1980s x was the next big thing.  and then was not.  because they have the chops, the charisma, and the songs for mass appeal.  b. and i were talking after the show with ringing ears about why maybe x never got the commercial success it was so primed for.  perhaps they were a decade too early.  if they appeared even a few years later as grunge music gained mass popularity and slightly younger punk bands like rancid and the offspring also became fm radio staples then maybe x too. 

but no.  and really, so what.  they had more commercial success than most bands have had.  they created great music that sounds as fresh as it did 30 years ago.  they were featured in one of the first great documentaries on punk rock, penelope spheeris' decline of western civilization [1981] and this documentary too made when commercial popular music was in a shithole.  i might be getting soft as i age but music and movies like this one gives me hope for the human species.     


At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was cool seeing X with the original members. Agent Orange is going to be at the Boardwalk next month. Let me know if you want to hoist another Newcastle Ale to middelage punkdom.

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Jim K. said...

X is awesome.
There's a kind of ragged joy
behind it. Between the punk and
wave, more to the punk. Pixies
have a similar ragged joy.


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