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Music / X (US Band)

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Left to right: Billy Zoom, DJ Bonebrake, Exene Cervenka, and John Doe

"I play too hard when I ought to go to sleep
Well they pick on me 'cause I really got the beat
Some people give me the creeps
Every other week I need a new address
Landlord, landlord, landlord cleaning up the mess
Our whole fucking life is a wreck
We're desperate, get used to it..."
—"We're Desperate", the B-Side of the band's first single (later re-recorded for Wild Gift)

X is a popular Punk Rock band from Los Angeles which formed in 1977. The band consists of singer Exene Cervenka, singer-guitarist John Doe, bassist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake. Zoom left the band in 1986 and returned in 1998.

Their first two albums, Los Angeles and Wild Gift, are consistently ranked among the greatest punk albums. They also played an important role in punk rock documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization. The band went on to be progenitors of the Alternative Country genre with their later albums, which mixed their punk roots with country and rockabilly elements. Despite their influence, the band has only had one major hit, with 1985's "Burning House of Love". The band went on hiatus in 1989, but regrouped in 1993 and have reformed sporadically for tours and low-key recording projects ever since.

Unrelated to the Australian band X, the Japanese band X (now known as X Japan), the late rapper XXXTentacion (commonly referred to as X), civil rights activist Malcolm X (also commonly referred to as X), the video game series, the social network formerly known as Twitter, or the CLAMP manga and adaptations known in the States as X/1999.

X's studio discography:

  • Los Angeles (1980)
  • Wild Gift (1981)
  • Under the Big Black Sun (1982)
  • More Fun in the New World (1983)
  • Ain't Love Grand (1985)
  • See How We Are (1987)
  • Hey Zeus! (1993)

X's live discography:

  • Live at the Whisky A Go-Go on the Fabulous Sunset Strip (1988)
  • Unclogged (1995)
  • Live in Los Angeles (2005)

Tropes that apply to X:

  • Canon Discontinuity: The albums recorded following Billy Zoom's 1985 departure are largely ignored in their live shows nowadays. Exception: "Burning House of Love" from Ain't Love Grand. Even their Bandcamp page just lists their first four albums and their 2020 album ALPHABETLAND—simply skipping their late 80s and 90s output.
  • Cover Version: "Soul Kitchen" and "The Crystal Ship" (both The Doors), "Wild Thing" (The Troggs), "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" (a Tin Pan Alley song the band got from Lead Belly), "Breathless" (Jerry Lee Lewis), "Positively 4th Street" (Bob Dylan), "Shoot Out The Lights" (Richard and Linda Thompson), "All or Nothing" (The Small Faces).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: "Los Angeles" has the unnamed lead character want to leave Los Angeles, and one reason is she hates "Every nigger and Jew/Every Mexican that gave her a lotta shit/Every homosexual and the idle rich". The context is that she is having a midlife crisis ("her toys wore out and her boys have too"), and is blaming others for her own problems, which has led her to believe she can escape them by moving to a rural area. This is Truth in Television and refers to something known as White Flight. The use of the epithets succeeded in attracting controversy for the song, though makes more sense in the context that a lot of their songs were based on overheard conversations, as opposed to being the group's opinion.
  • Founding Day: "Fourth of July" takes place on the titular holiday.
  • Grief Song: Exene's sister Mirielle (aka Mary) was killed in a 1980 car accident while on her way to see the band, a tragedy that affected her so deeply that she wasn't able to write about it until the band's third album, Under the Big Black Sun. Three songs (the Title Track, "Riding With Mary" and "Come Back to Me") refer to the incident, and the band's decision to cover "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" was also influenced by Exene's mournful state of mind.
  • Hardcore Punk: They were part of the Los Angeles hardcore scene in the late 70s and early 80s.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: John and Exene.
  • Lead Bassist: John Doe is the band's founder, bassist, co-songwriter, and the male half of its Vocal Tag Team. He's also had notable TV and movie roles, including a recurring stint on Roswell.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2. The original and classic lineup lasted from 1977 to 1986, when Zoom left. He returned to the band in 1998 and has remained with them ever since.
  • N-Word Privileges: Averted in "Los Angeles".
  • One-Letter Name
  • Parody Assistance: Ramonetures are a band who cover Punk Rock In the Style of instrumental Surf Rock. When they tackled the X catalog for the album Johnny Walk Don't Run Paulene, they had the assistance of Billy and DJ replicating their original guitar and drum parts.
  • Punk Rock
  • Rape as Drama: "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene".
  • Revisiting the Roots: ALPHABETLAND sees the band drop the Alternative Country of the last three studio albums and go back to the Punk Rock of their early work. It even features new recordings of two Los Angeles-era demos ("Delta 88 Nightmare" and "Cyrano de Berger's Back").
  • Vocal Tag Team: John and Exene.
  • Working with the Ex: John and Exene, post-divorce. These days, they're Amicable Exes.