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TV Party - X

X - The Unheard Music {MVD} We all know there is no justice in this thing called the music industry. If there was, X would not only be LA’s most respected band artistically, but also its most successful. This excellent documentary, that was originally released in 1985 and focuses on the band’s classic first four albums, has now been reissued in High Definition with a stack of bonuses.
The film itself is essentially a free-form documentary about the band, but also acts as a neat time capsule of the early 80s LA Punk scene. It all kicks off with a narrated letter written to Slash magazine on the subject of the ‘Los Angeles’ album and comes over like a Reality Bites outtake - then it’s into a killer live take of said song.
What follows is the X story told by the band themselves, along with a few integral characters in the band’s history, which is played over a myriad of historical footage, newsreals, movies, music performances and freeze-frame collages of zines, flyers and shows.
Highlights are literally endless, be it the revelation that guitar maestro Billy Zoom (interviewed with his wife and cranking out some serious rock ‘n’ roll licks on his guitar at the same time) was dubious about vocalist Exene’s inexperience or drummer D J Bonebrake claiming his hero is Captain Beefheart. Elsewhere, we get Brendan Mullen taking us on a tour of the legendary Masque club, Exene taking us through the Whisky A Go Go, a rather mesmerising sequence of a house being moved on the streets of LA as the title track to the film plays and an excellent cut ‘n paste montage of a suit from MCA Records claiming there is no budget for X while lording bearded AOR Southern Boogie rockers Point Blank which is chopped up with footage of Slash founder Bob Biggs decrying such ignorance in a fantastically PISTOLian manner. Musically there are stunning live versions of ‘Beyond And Back’, an energised blast through THE DOORS’ ‘Soul Kitchen’ with DOORS keyboardist and X producer, Ray Manzarek and a simply jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring studio burn through ‘White Girl’ with Manzarek at the recording desk.
Of the extras, you get an 18 minute segment of bassist Joe Doe and Exene looking back at the film and the era 25 years later. They’re revealing and interesting and probably made all the better by not together at the time of recording, so they’re cut ‘n’ pasted together with minimal linking narrative. That’s followed by an interview with the film’s producers - Angel City. Finally we get a stunning, raw live take of ‘Some Other Time’ filmed at a gig I would like to see a lot more of, the original theatrical trailer and, as one final bonus, a PDF of Exene’s and Doe’s original song books. A hard copy would’ve been great but possibly not financially feasible. There is, however, a smart 8-page booklet.
Initially the film does appear to be just a collection of snapshots about a band that was at the peak of its artistic ability, but successive viewings highlight that this is actually a very well crafted documentary. It portrays the band intelligently and intimately with their LA hometown providing a natural and oddly haunting and alluring backdrop. The fact I see something new in the film every time I watch it (and I’ve watched it a lot) says more thought and dedication has been applied to the film than a solitary viewing could suggest.
Any music documentary has to have two elements to succeed: a great band of interesting characters as its subject matter and a vision about that band that offers something new and continually interesting. On the strength of that criteria, ‘The Unheard Music’ stands as one of the best documents of a band ever filmed. (30.09.13)

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