Very few of the surprises of the last few months have fallen on the happy side, but here’s an exception. Returning on record for the first time since 1985, the original X lineup delivers a set of songs as good as anything since their initial one-two punch of Los Angeles and Wild Gift. X was one of the few bands from the West Coast punk scene that translated their visceral power to record. This was due not only to their arch songwriting but their musicianship – the hard-fastened John Doe-Exene interval singing, Billy Zoom’s sped-up rockabilly licks, Bonebrake’s never-faltering beat. That they remain locked tight in 2020 is not exactly a surprise. The original lineup has been back playing shows for several years now. But a recent appearance wandered stylistically, as if shaking off their cobwebs. Not so on Alphabetland. Blistering right up until Exene’s spoken-word coda, this is a band reveling in what they do best. Without frills or gimmicks, as fresh and tightly curated as a debut album, nothing here lags. And the highlights (“Free,” “Strange Life,” the timely “Angel On The Road”) are frequent. They even up the ante couple of Los Angeles-era demos (“Delta 88 Nightmare” and a reformed “Cyrano Deberger’s Back”). The intent in rushing Alphabetland’s release may have been to get it out for the lockdown, but we’ll still be playing this one years from now.
Review by Jeff McCord