X: The Unheard Music
A fittingly ambitious film for a fittingly artistic and poetic band, X: The Unheard Music, is not a concert film or documentary in any linear sense of the word. It’s the polar opposite of their appearance in The Decline of Western Civilization, and instead of a straightforward history, it’s a collection of impressions, sketches, reminiscences, performances, and tangents all collaged together like one of vocalist Exene Cervenka’s scrapbooks.
Taken on their own, the images are frequently gorgeous and striking: drummer DJ Bonebrake playing a vibraphone virtuoso-style, Exene and John Doe huddled together, jamming out on old county and blues numbers, Billy Zoom working on his Vespa, a smug record executive explaining why he didn’t sign X, John Doe recounting making off with the X from the Ex-Lax building, Brendan Mullen giving a tour of the Masque, Cervenka working on collages, an empty house driven through a deserted LA street in the dead of night, Ray Manzarek joining them onstage, a photo-montage of the luminaries (and not so) of LA hardcore and punk.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of performance and concert footage too, both live onstage and in the studio. The footage is edited together in a somewhat enigmatic fashion, ensuring maximum mystique for the band (check out Billy Zoom and his perfectly coiffed bleach-blonde bobbysoxer girlfriend “relaxing” in their Fifties-tastic living room), and there’s a bit of an ongoing plot about them playing the last night of the Whiskey, but don’t get too caught up in that.
Without sacrificing any of the art-verite cut-n-paste weirdness, somehow Unheard Music is simultaneously an incredibly intimate look at one of the leaders of the first wave of LA punk, the band’s lives, their working methods, and a wonky conceptual art project.
MVD Visual: mvdb2b.com