X – Wild Gift

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

X is another of these bands that I like a lot but can’t honestly claim to love. I own a good number of their albums, and I think they have some great songs; also, Billy Zoom is super cool, DJ Bonebrake has a great name for a drummer (“Dude, he hits so hard he BREAKS BONES”), and John and Exene are an iconic pair. But if I was given 30 minutes to freestyle in front of the Lincoln Memorial about bands I love, X wouldn’t even come close to getting a mention. Adding to this, I really don’t like the debut album, Los Angeles, which is widely considered to be a classic. Oh well.

What I Think of This Album

Ray Manzarek of the Doors produced this, which I find a little weird but not a lot; I don’t think there needs to be an obvious connection between producer and band. In any event, this is a pretty clean sounding album for a punk band, though X was already starting to pull at the threads of that cloak on this second outing.

In particular, the subtly tense “Adult Books” is a successful attempt at Latin-esque rhythms and mood manipulation; the coda, when the vocals lilt upwards at the end of the phrases, is excellent. Much more in keeping with the band’s style, “The Once Over Twice” has Zoom spraying rockabilly riffs everywhere while John Doe and Exene Cervenka harmonize about how terrible men are. Bonebrake propels the urgent “We’re Desperate,” an electrifying anthem for the downtrodden and dispossessed. Exene’s first solo composition is the repetitive “I’m Coming Over,” which for all its brutal simplicity is not unenjoyable. The underappreciated “It’s Who You Know” is a lot of fun. All the band’s strength’s are on display on the classic “In This House That I Call Home,” with a great bass riff, and excellent work from Zoom, as well as Bonebrake hitting every surface within reach about 9,000 times, and an outstanding vocal take from the front couple.

Zoom shines again on “Beyond and Back,” and Exene’s “shut up and smoke” may not be on par with Dorothy Parker but it is terrifically lethal. The excellent “When Our Love Passed Out On the Couch” is another of the desperate songs of romance that characterize this album. “Year One” is fantastic, with party handclaps, probably Cervenka’s best vocal on the album, and riffs galore from Zoom. The only bad news here is “Universal Corner,” which has Zoom playing in a fairly traditional hard rock style; not a keeper and overlong. I strongly dislike everything about “White Girl;” just can’t tolerate even a second of it, though I guess a lot of people like it. And “Back 2 the Base” is dull filler. The bonus tracks on my reissue range from cool to not awesome.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Shut up and smoke!” (but don’t, because smoking is like, really bad for you). A close second is “last night everything broke.”

Release Date

1981 (original), 2001 (reissue)

The Cover Art

Kind of messy and confusing. Not a fan.

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