Here’s something nobody was expecting! This week happens to be the 40th anniversary of Los Angeles, the classic debut album from the great California punk band X. And with absolutely no advance warning, X’s reunited original lineup have chosen today to release Alphabetland, their first studio album in 35 years.
In their heyday, X were quite possibly the best punk rock band in America. Their first two albums, Los Angeles and 1981’s Wild Gift, are basically perfect records. With their breakneck speed, beatnik-esque lyrics, and rockabilly influences, X acted as a sort of bridge between the early art-damaged punk underground of Los Angeles and the suburban wild-out hardcore that would soon follow. They had the best scenes in Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization. Then they moved towards alt-country, became college-radio sensations, and launched a couple of solo careers. Also, co-leader John Doe played the evil bartender in Road House, which rules.
Over the years, X have broken up and reunited more than once. Original guitarist Billy Zoom left the band in 1986 and didn’t return until 1998. Until today, X haven’t released an album since the post-Nirvana 1993 major-label move Hey Zeus!, and they haven’t released an album with Zoom since 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand. Last year, they returned with a newly recorded version of their obscure old song “Delta 88 Nightmare,” but nobody knew that they had a full-length on the way.
In first listen, Alphabetland is an impressively revved-up take on the sound that X made on their first two albums. It’s nowhere near the level of those two albums, but it wouldn’t fair to expect anything like that. The album is fast and jagged and tuneful, and there’s a lot to like about it. Stream it below.
Alphabetland is out now on Fat Possum.