The Los Angeles quartet X are one of the all-time great American punk bands. They came together in LA in 1977, and when that scene’s city was turning toward hardcore, they were hard and fast enough to keep up. But they also made room for country, rockabilly, and beat-poetry absurdity in their music. X’s first two albums, 1980’s Los Angeles and 1981’s Wild Gift, are absolute canonical classics. (The Doors’ Ray Manzarek produced both of them, a fact that has confounded me for decades.) They put in the best performances in Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization. And they stuck around long enough to get mellow into college-radio mainstays.
X have broken up and reunited a bunch of times over the years. For the past decade, they’ve been playing shows pretty steadily, but they haven’t been making new music. That’s apparently changing now. Earlier this year, as Rolling Stone reports, the four original members of X went into the studio with producer Rob Schnapf and cranked out five songs — some new, some newly recorded versions of old songs. One of them is “Delta 88 Nightmare,” a Los Angeles-era obscurity that popped up, in demo form, on a 2001 reissue of that album.
Next month, X will release a new 7″ single that’ll include that new version of “Delta 88 Nightmare” and a newly-recorded take on the 1987 song “Cyrano de Berger’s Back.” It’s the first new X record since the 1993 album hey Zeus! and given that original guitar hero Billy Zoom left the band in the mid-’80s, it’s the first original-lineup X record since 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand!
“Delta 88 Nightmare” is a riotously fast song, less than two minutes long, and it features Exene Cervenka and John Doe singing together with the urgency that they always used to bring. The song has a video that Cervenka’s son Henry Mortensen directed. Mortensen (also the son of motherfucking Viggo) stars in the video alongside Carolyn Allen, Cervenka’s niece. Watch it below.
The new X 7″ is coming out 11/29 on Fat Possum; pre-order it here.