The world’s a mess, and X is back

X just released its first album with its original lineup in 35 years. From left: drummer D.J. Bonebrake, guitarist Billy Zoom, vocalist Exene Cervenka and vocalist-bassist John Doe.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Excerpt from Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times (April 22, 2020):

“Exene and I talked about writing some songs five to seven years ago together, but we weren’t sure where it would go,” Doe, 67, said of collaborating with his ex-wife and longtime writing partner. (The two were married from 1980 to 1985.) “We were doing other creative stuff, and whatever creative force you have goes into whatever’s in place, right? Whether it’s building a car, making a garden or writing a song.”

Now an Austinite, Doe was wearing cowboy boots, blue jeans, a Western-style button-up shirt and a bolo tie. “So Exene and I just kind of got busy and said, ‘OK, we’ve got a place to put it.’”

When Doe finished speaking, Cervenka, 64, who was lounging on her side of the couch with her eyes half-shut, lifted her head: “Actually, I’ve been writing X songs for 10 years, and finally everybody decided to make a record. That’s the real story.”

“Alphabetland” arrived out of the blue on Wednesday. Landing months sooner than the band had originally planned, it was recorded with producer Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck, Joyce Manor) during two sessions in the fall of 2018 and January 2020.

Doe‘s and Cervenka’s competing narratives on X’s creative return mirror the call-and-response tension that has powered their work since “Los Angeles” came out.  …

“It sounds like an X album,” said the oft-stoic Zoom, 72, on the couch beside Cervenka.

“People ask, ‘How can you be playing rock ’n’ roll for so long?’ ” Doe said. “Well, because that’s what we do. It’s a thing.”

Across a furious five-year period, X recorded five essential rock ’n’ roll albums: “Los Angeles,” “Wild Gift,” “Under the Big Black Sun,” “More Fun in the New World” and “Ain’t Love Grand.” Through songs including “The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss,” “White Girl,” “The Once Over Twice,” “We’re Desperate,” “The Hungry Wolf” and “The New World,” the band was a crucible for the Hollywood scene of the late ’70s and helped draw the blueprint for West Coast punk.

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