:: Monday, September 13, 2004 ::

Punk Rock Countdown: No. 18
"Los Angeles," by X
Before the aggressive hardcore sound came to define the West Coast punk movement, punk bands like X put together an entirely different kind of sound. X had one of the most unusual styles of any band of the late '70s and early '80s. Perhaps it was their two lead singers, one male (John Doe), one female (Exene), whose voices wafted in and out of the lyrics in a way I could never describe. Or maybe it was their excellent guitarist, Billy Zoom, whose rockabilly riffs fit perfectly with the offbeat, staccato rhythms of drummer D.J. Bonebrake. I think it was just the combination of all four talents. The mix seemed to work to create a sound unlike any other.

Of all the great tracks on X's album Los Angeles, the title cut is the one I turn to when I want to hear X at their best. That off-kilter intro -- Zoom and Bonebrake in one accord of discord -- is such a powerful hook. And then the lyrics, and that odd vocal partnership of Exene and John Doe, his voice matter-of-fact: She had to leave... and hers trailing, tinged with longing: ...Los Angeles...

The song tells the story of one of Exene's roommates who left LA. The lyrics aren't very PC, as they portray a woman who "started to hate every nigger and Jew/every Mexican that gave her a lotta sh*t/every homosexual and the idle rich..." But the song's rhythms, its vocals, the sheer poetry of it all, and its episodic feel, a snapshot of one woman's life, sketched out with just a few words, just enough words -- all of this combines to evoke a sense of place, a feeling, a mood.

Okay, here's the deal: There are some songs that I just like, and I can't really articulate why, much less provide any "spiritual" explanation. "Los Angeles" is one of them.

:: Andrew 09:04 + ::

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