X's new album Alphabetland is the first new music from the four original members of the Los Angeles-based band in 35 years. The 11 songs were recorded in two sessions: the fall of 2018 and January 2020.
Listen to the title song here. X wastes little time. the longest song is 3:04 and eight of the 11 songs are 2:39 or shorter. Several songs - "Strange Life", "I Gotta Fever", "Star Chambered" "Goodbye Year, Goodbye" - truly sound like long-lost outtakes.
Alphabetland was originally scheduled to come out this August, but the band and label began discussing a surprise release in mid-March. It appeared on Bandcamp on Wednesday, which was also the 40th anniversary of X's debut album, Los Angeles.
Bassist John Doe: "People ask, 'How can you be playing rock 'n' roll for so long?' Well, because that's what we do." ... Guitarist Billy Zoom: "The same way that they keep sending me a bill for the mortgage every month." (News stories tell me Zoom is 72 years old. I do not believe it.)
X's first four albums - Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and More Fun in the New World, released from 1980-1984 - are all essential. I would rate them in reverse order of their release. More Fun should probably be one of my desert island discs.
Honest to goodness, the bars weren't open this morning
They must have been voting for a new president or something
Do you have a quarter? I said "Yes", because I did
Honest to goodness the tears have been falling all over this country's face
It was better before, before they voted for What's-His-Name
This was supposed to be the new world
Los Angeles treats everyone like a drunk in bed
Washing dirty bums with rain like dishes on the floor
You can't drive around and hear your favorite song
So you tape it live if you can get inside when it comes along
I can't stand people who bitch and whine
Let's drink a beer from a paper bag while we got time
Bang, bang, make the music go bang
Brilliant, shining and nasty
The bartender's eyes are full of pity
As he tells her "You're alone and it's 2:30.
All the chairs are on the table and it's time to close."
She said "A minute ago, they were starin' at me. Where the hell'd they go?"
The civil wars and the uncivilized wars
Conflagrations leap out of every poor furnace
The food cooks poorly and everyone goes hungry
From then on it's dog eat dog, dog eat body, and body eat dog
I can't go down there
I can't understand it
I'm a no-good coward, an American, too
A North American, that is
And I must not think bad thoughts ...
I'm guilty of murder of innocent men,
Innocent women, innocent children, thousands of them
My planes, my guns, my money, my soldiers
My blood on my hands
It's all my fault
I must not think bad thoughts
A steady place to study and drink
Dawn comes soon enough for the working class
It keeps getting sooner or later
This is the game that moves as you play ...
Day old days
Ancient Bloody Mary bastards in a hardcore blue collar bar
Here we sit, a shot and a beer
I have done a lot of internet reading and I cannot find another person who has noticed that the distinctive guitar phrase from The Have Nots (1982) is also put to good effect in REM's Texarkana (1991).
I could throw my lipstick and bracelets like gravel
And move to Alabama, I got some more scotch instead ...
Then I died a thousand times
Maybe you don't, But I do
I got a hole in my heart, the size of my heart
No one is united
All things are untied
Perhaps we're boiling over inside
They've been telling lies
Who's been telling lies?
There are no angels
There are devils in many ways ...
Some facts here which refuse to escape
I could say it stronger, but it's too much trouble ...
Hectic, isn't it?
Down we go, cradle and all ...
The world's a mess, it's in my kiss
The world is fine, goodbye, my darling