Monday, May 10, 2010

Review #108: X - Los Angeles (1980)


Year: 1980
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Slash Records

28 Minutes (Medium-Length)
My Rating:

X is one of the founding bands of the Los Angeles punk scene. They formed in 1977. The band originally consisted of John Doe (bass/vocals), Billy Zoom (guitar), Exene Cervenka (vocals), and DJ Bonebrake (drums). This is the line-up which would record their debut album, "Los Angeles" (the album I'm reviewing right nauw). The first label X got signed to was called Dangerhouse Records. The band released two 7" singles through this label, which were "Adult Books" and "Los Angeles". By 1980, L.A. punk rock was reaching an all-time high, and the band was signed to Slash Records, a then-independent punk label. Their first LP, Los Angeles was surprisingly well-liked by the mainstream media; perhaps one of the early steps towards the mainstream acceptance (and slow, painful death of) punk rock. Now, for my two cents: I had not listened to X until I heard "Nausea" at the beginning of "the Decline of Western Civilization". Very good song. The studio version turned out to be even better. The album is very good for the most part -- it's not quite hardcore or anything like that, but that lack of pigeon-holing works to their advantage because this band's appeal seems to be in their punkness... avoiding/modifying the cliches of punk rock which were already very apparent by the time of this album's release. Now, enough with my bullshit. Let's listen to LOS ANGELES by X!

1. Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not
The riff is tinged with a little bit of early rock n' roll. The vocal harmonies are good, but I think they're used to a better effect on some of the other songs. Exene mostly sings, here. The song seems to be sort of a breakup song or something.

2. Johnny Hit and Run Paulene
This song's about a date rape. The verse riff is real up-beat and catchy, but the chorus melody is considerably more dark and dreary. Johnny, the character in the song, drugs up each "Paulene", as the song refers to his victims, and, well, has his way with 'em. In the final verse of the song, it is said that the last Paulene "wouldn't cooperate", and that there were clumps of hair in Johnny's bed. Each verse ends in "but she was still awake"... not sure what that means.

3. Soul Kitchen
This is a cover of a song by the Doors. This version is much faster and straightforward -- hey, it's punk rock! It's a very good song. The riff is awesome, the vocals complement it just right, and it's got a whole lot of energy to it.

4. Nausea
This iz probably the song that turned me on to them, when I first heard it in a movie (which I mentioned earlier). It's a bit slower than the other songs that I've talked about, so far. The song is about the "nausea" felt by those suffering from poverty. The constant thumping of the bass drum during the verse section will keep you bobbing your heard up n' down for awhile. Hell, maybe you'll even dance to it. Who knows? Another thing I love about this song is the organ! It just sounds so cool, here... maybe we need more bands with organ-players in 'em, who knows?

5. Sugarlight
John Doe mainly sings in this song (though Exene still helps out sometimes). The riff is real awesome. Gotta give 'em credit for the good vocal harmonies in the chorus part. Cool guitar solo during the bridge section, too! End of Side 1.

6. Los Angeles
The title track of the album, and deservingly so. The song's lyrics are pretty simple -- a girl grows sick of living in Los Angeles and tries to leave. The chorus is fucking awesome; especially the vocal harmonies in that part. They start out harmonizing, and then eventually intertwine into almost a single voice. It sounds really good. One of the best songs on the album.

7. Sex and Dying in High Society
Great guitar riff... a little cowbell... even a little bit of synth strings. The song basically describes the darker side of the lives of the rich -- including incest, masochism, and well, sex n' dying. In a high society. Good song.

8. The Unheard Music
A slower, more blues-y song. The guitar is real lowdown, real cool... the lead guitar is wonderful. A little organ in here, too. The song seems to basically describe the lives of Los Angeles punks, while contrasting their "unheard music" with the "smooth chords on the car radio". Damn car radios!! "We're locked out of the public eye". Longest song on the album (nearly five minutes).

9. The World's a Mess; It's In My Kiss
A fast song with more organ! The rhythm guitar can be real entertaining sometimes, with those old-school sorts of riffs that you don't hear much of anymore. The final part of the song contains a completely fucking excellent organ solo! Great way to end an album...

For a first album by a band, it's definitely great. Now, it's not the greatest album ever made (though some might argue), but there is indeed... good... stuff... in this record. X was also Darby Crash's favorite band from the Los Angeles scene -- just thought I'd point that out. Yeah, the organ definitely needs to be in more albums, 'cause that kicks testes, also. But I'm really tired and don't feel like writing a review today, so I'm just gonna cut it short of all the crap and tell you to check out this album. The End.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Los Angeles
2. Nausea
3. The World's a Mess; It's In My Kiss

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