Los Angeles, 180G Black Vinyl LP
By the time the late ’70s rolled around, maybe it was more punk to be in Los Angeles. In California, the artists revolted against the easy feelings that pervaded FM radio and ripped apart the culture of cocaine and groupies and limousines. Los Angeles is where X first marked their spot, the title of their 1980 debut, and the first of their catalog to be reissued this year as the band heads back to the studio to make a new record and on tour.
Several songs off Los Angeles were featured in The Decline of Western Civilization, Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary of the L.A. punk scene, placing X in the landscape of Germs, Black Flag, and the Circle Jerks. The band couldn’t have been more Los Angeles: The X of their name signifies anti-everything, certainly a lack of a proper signature in an autograph-worshipping town. Singer and bass player John Doe took his stage name from the police code for an anonymous person. He came to L.A. inspired by how the city was starkly rendered by writers like John Fante and Charles Bukowski. Exene Cervenka, née Christine, was living in Tallahassee; they met in a poetry workshop. Drummer DJ Bonebrake was in the early L.A. punk band the Eyes; guitarist Billy Zoom came up in groups that opened for Etta James and Johnnie Taylor and joined Gene Vincent’s rockabilly band. And Ray Manzarek, well, he came from the other side.
“I liked the Doors’ version of the ocean, which was dark and scary,” Cervenka says in We Got the Neutron Bomb. X had a thing for the Doors and they found a kindred spirit in Manzarek, who plays organ and produces this album. By all rights, the keys in “Light My Fire” absolutely should not work on a searing punk record, but they add a psychedelic undercurrent that is both upbeat and a little bit unhinging. Cervenka best described the band in her contribution to Doe’s book about the L.A. punk scene, Under the Big Black Sun: “Bits and pieces of Britpop, glam, country, old music, new music, old cars, East LA sugar skulls and lowriders, Hells Angels with their choppers lined up on the Sunset Strip—it was a sexy, scary thrill to walk the gauntlet of all those biker eyes.” -Pitchfork