Yesterday on Earth Day 2020 during this "Year of Perfect Vision" (thanks, Covid-19) X made their world-rattling announcement that their first full length studio album in thirty-five years ~ ALPHABETLAND ~ just dropped! WUMP, like a dirty nuke smack dab right into the midst of our awkward social isolation--BOOM--New X!
Well I immediately ordered the damn lime green limited edition (to 500 copies) vinyl from Bandcamp. I just checked today and yes--they are gone--just like that. Doesn't surprise me none--we are talking about the world's most famous LA punk band, after all. And for damn good reason, to boot. Incidentally, the real die-hard edition was in yellow and limited to 200 pressings and included an ALPHABETLAND patch. Grrrr. The next die-hard was in red and limited to 300 pressings and also included the patch. Arrrgh. The green edition is the third die-hard, limited to 500 and yeah, I'm pretty happy I got this one, at least. It would be cool if it included a patch, but tbh my jacket's about full up. I'm pretty pleased as a fan going back thirty eight years that all one thousand of these die hard pressings were sold in less than 24 hours. What a comeback. Of course I listened to the opening title track ~ ALPHABETLAND ~ right off the bat, as it was the song available streaming for free to sample, and as anyone with any chump change left between their goddamn ears already knows, it's a straight-up killer rendering of the classic X-sound right in yer face. Damn it's good to be alive right at this particular moment in time.
Today in my email I noted that the members of X have asked everyone who bought their album, "Okay - favorite song on ALPHABETLAND? Go!" so I have to note, this is precisely the moment in history that I finally decided to download the fucking Bandcamp app. I discovered its not designed to be dl'd to most computers [apparently only a Chromebook is suited for that] so I sighed and dl'd it to my iPhone X. That's ironic. And now I've listened to the first three tracks and I can say they are "all good"--but thus far, the title track stands tall as my favorite--so we'll see if there's another track on this beast of a record that manages to outshine it.
Track 1. Alphabetland. Right away you know this is the direct follow-up to MORE FUN IN THE NEW WORLD. And it's a grand thing to feel the muscles in my face morph into a big smile. This song just has such a fun, catchy riff that you can't help but bop your head along to it. Just as it should be. You can tell upon the first listen that it's a song you couldn't possibly get tired of listening to over and over. It bodes well for the rest of the album and quite obviously serves as the perfect opener.
Track 2. Free. My words are fire. My fist is raised. This is a straightforward X song, great riffs and solos from Billy Zoom, and while perhaps not destined to be the hottest track off this record, it delivers in the good old fashioned X manner that I don't think a lot of us thought we'd ever hear again. It definitely hits a mark and builds anticipation for the rest of the album to come.
Track 3. Water & Wine. Great little drum intro from DJ Bonebrake kicks off this perkier song, yeah things pick up immediately in the first thirty seconds, we are back 100% on track with a straightforward rockabilly tinged high energy stomper. There's a heaven and there's a never, there's no tomorrow, only forever! Billy Zoom does not disappoint on this album, in fact I think it's safe to say that all four original members finding themselves reunited at last are feeling the white hot fire in their veins again. Who has to wait at the end of the line? Who gets water and who gets wine? If the music's this good I don't care which ends up being mine, cuz listening to this album makes me feel just fine.
Track 4. Strange Life begins. Well John & Exene sound great, their harmonies intact, their lyrics biting. Billy Zoom (perhaps the coolest cat to play guitar & sax in the history of rock) has not lost his edge in delivering mean-as-a-rattlesnake riffs, and the legendary D.J. Bonebrake keeps the skins taut and snappin', as ever. A damn strange life indeed, it's turned out to be.
Track 5. I Gotta Fever. Head boppin' right off the bat, I'm already listening to the album we all wished we'd gotten back in '87; i.e, the perfect follow up to their '83 pop punk masterpiece MORE FUN IN THE NEW WORLD. I can already tell that ALPHABETLAND is the sequel to that most fun and rollickin' of all their albums. (Bear with me, here, please. My personal favorites have always been WILD GIFT and UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN, and that hasn't changed.) With ALPHABETLAND, we're having EVEN MORE FUN IN THE GODDAMN NEW WORLD, m'k? Okay.
Track 6. Delta 88 Nightmare. Okay so this one I already heard of course, since I have the preliminary 7" on vinyl (ordered it from bandcamp back when it was first released, late last year). Let me just say this song rocks hardest of all the songs thus far. So if that's how you gauge your favorite--this song definitely outstrips the title track. For me, I sorta like to balance all aspects of music, so this song pulls right up alongside Alphabetland and gives it the middle finger behind dark sunglasses, smiling.
Track 7. Star Chambered. Holy Moses I can already tell there will not be a bad song on this entire album, that much is obvious already. Then I just had to go! Exene's emoting and vocals are as strong as ever, if anything even more mature and resonant now than before. Where did I put my wings, I could never find those things, now I'm runnin', runnin' late, I might be stuck here at my gate, though you might be dearly departed, dearly departed, I'm just gettin' started. Hot damn them is some fine ass lyrics. This song just leapt up to #2, threatening to pull over onto the shoulder and spit gravel and dust into the faces of those other two songs. Hell yes.
Track 8. Angel on the Road. I love all these song titles. This one immediately reminds me of Angel Grub. (Thinking of you as I listen to this album!) Another rockin' track, full tilt ahead. I wish I was somewhere else. Somewhere I don't even know. I wish I was somewhere else. Making angels in the sno-oh-oh-oh! *enter Billy Zoom solo* This is great. I should've known they had this in 'em! It's not like I ever lost faith in my generation or the generations before me. I've got the old school ethic raging in my veins, I still respect my elders. Hell, the more elderly, the more respect, straight up. It's about time some old dyed-in-the-wool punk rock royalty stepped up and showed all these kids how its done. Anyone who ever said "rock'n'roll is dead" gave up the ghost long ago. *spits*
Track 9. Cyrano deBerger's Back. Okay so this was the b-side to the Delta 88 Nightmare 7", so I heard it last Fall and thought it was a solid track. Now hearing it again I'm struck by Billy Zoom's playful sax and the track's hopped up reggae sounding riffs, this could almost qualify as X playing Ska. Eminently dance worthy. I got ten arms for you under the balcony in blue. Another great track.
Track 10. Goodbye Year, Goodbye. Please don't make us cry. How X managed to reunite and put this rockin' new album together will be discussed for years to come. I could go on and on and on and on. John Doe's singing is in tippy top shape here, as it is throughout the whole record. I can barely believe my ears--that this is actually happening!
Track 11. All The Time In The World. Hearts are breaking for hearts that are broken, so eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Or maybe next Tuesday for those of us without a battle flag to fly. The perfect album closer, with its honky tonk piano as backbone, and Exene reciting her post-beat poetry along to it, oh yeah. *fingersnaps* We are dust, it's true. And to dust we shall return, me and you. But it was fun while it lasted. All the time in the world turns out not to be that much. As the final, bittersweet notes fade away, I'm left with a feeling in my heart like the still glowing hot embers after a long night's raging bonfire party has died down. A feeling of solidarity envelops me, as if I'm left standing with the few die hards who didn't pass out or leave the party too early. Feels like the sun's about to rise and another dawn could just carry us all along into a bright new day.
What an album! This one's a no brainer. X done knocked their seventh official album out of the damn park! (With all due respect to the guitarist who replaced Billy on their '93 album "hey Zeus!," it seems even the band themselves aren't counting it, to which I've no choice but to bow with whatever elegance remains in these bones, and a tip of the hat.) How about that. There ain't no more room for doubt. X is back...with a vengeance!