Critic's Choice

Blasting out of late-'70s Los Angeles like the most righteous Santa Ana wind ever, X blew the smog-and-pot-addled minds of hippies and metalheads alike. The fierce foursome's post-Raymond Chandler, pre-James Ellroy snapshots of L.A. despair and absurdity allowed landlocked daydreamers everywhere to figuratively stand at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. With lyrics like, "And now you tell the maid/To burn you on your virgin back/With a curling iron hotter than hot" and "She started to hate/Every Mexican who gave her a lot of shit/Every homosexual, every idle rich," the band's debut album (succinctly titled Los Angeles) offered equal-opportunity excoriation of the overprivileged and the lumpen alike. The startling juxtaposition of John Doe's burnished alto and Exene Cervenka's atonal caterwaul truly confounded conventional notions of harmony, and the spread-legged, murderously happy Billy Zoom (his trademark ear-to-ear grin a rebellion against the grimacing histrionics of the era's guitar heroes) elevated the band's visual appeal to pure poetry. With each subsequent album in the early '80s, X managed to mine brilliant new sounds and obsessions, from the thrift-store cool of Wild Gift and the eerie, MTV-friendly "The Hungry Wolf," found on Under the Big Black Sun, to the self-conscious American of More Fun in the New World. Still as dangerous and beautiful as broken glass on the freeway after a collision between a '57 Chevy and a Mack truck, X appears Wednesday, November 20, at the Ogden Theatre.


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