Friday, April 6, 2012
X - The Unheard Music (1986, W.T. Morgan)
I will start this review off the way I like to when talking about a subject that has some nostalgic value. X was one of those bands I heard a lot about when I was younger and tried to get into but it took awhile for it to click with me. I remember buying their More Fun in the New World LP at the Grafton Flea Market in Grafton, MA when I was probably 14 or so for $1.00. I brought it home expecting a nice slice of fast punk but was confused by the political anthems, some of which were more mid tempo or even (gasp!) slow. I wouldn't say I hated it but I put it aside and didn't listen to it again. Probably about a year later I received a copy of X's Los Angeles/Wild Gift CD for Christmas and though I liked some of the songs, they were still not exactly what I was looking for at the time. It took a few years when I saw The Decline of Western Civilization and the purchase of their Under the Big Black Sun album before X really clicked with me. I went back and revisited their other albums and suddenly I felt like I really got it. X - The Unheard Music is a documentary of the film released when they were at the height of their brilliance that has recently found its way to DVD and Blu Ray courtesy of MVD.
X were one of the most popular bands in the late 70s/early 80s L.A. punk scene, along with The Dickies, The Germs, The Alleycats and many more. Before the scene became dominated by Hardcore bands like Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, Wasted Youth, the L.A. punk scene, much like the early NY/CBGB punk scene, adopted the punk mentality but each band had a different approach and sound. X took their love of rockabilly and country music and sped up the tempos making a melodic, furious sound highlighted by Billy Zoom's rockabilly guitar solos and bassist John Doe and Exene's harmony vocals. Top it all off with one of the most talented drummers, D.J. Bonebrake, and you have a band at the top of their game. The Unheard Music chronicles how the band started, where they were headed and just what made them so great.
The Unheard Music is one of the most personal accounts of a musical group that I have seen in the form of a documentary. Not like the posthumous documentaries sprinkled with interviews of band members and hangers on, The Unheard Music is a fly on the wall look into the band at the height of their popularity. Though X had a few hits and are considered legends now, they never received the popularity that everyone expected (and that they deserved). Each band member proves to be an interesting character, something a lot of band documentaries are missing, and we get to see their private lives up close and personal. The most memorable moments in the film include Exene talking about the death of her sister and D.J. explaining his "polyrhythmic" drumming method. In closing, this film should be seen by anyone who likes a good rock documentary (or any documentary), especially fans of the band or punk rock. The Unheard Music features new interviews with the band and film makers. Also included is a reproduction of Exene's Unheard Music songbook.
Purchase the DVD HERE
Purchase the Blu Ray HERE