X: The Fourth of July
LA Punks, country troubadours, rockabilly guitars, deeply rooted Americana rock. X had it all covered.
X were ahead of their time, firmly planted in punk, but expanding deep into what we now all alt-country. They were the sound of Los Angeles for a while, but their expressive, off-centered sound had a broad appeal. See How We Are is a ready-made prose poem, filled with images of stories you know and might have told about yourself.
Founder and co-leader, Jon Doe is a bit of a renaissance man—actor, singer, poet of the miseries of life. And he’s never been better than on their break though masterpiece, 1987’s See How We Are.
“The Fourth of July” is a song about dissolution and loneliness . Doe’s protagonist tells of a relationship that is fading fast but he still clings to what they had. He says he has no idea what’s wrong, but offers a full, blanket apology for whatever he’s done. It’s dark melodrama, but he uses the 4th of July motif as a way to say, whatever’s wrong, let’s forget about it for tonight and celebrate. The Mexican kids shooting fireworks below don’t care what’s happened, and really, why should they, and why should we, for that matter?
Fireworks in the air; the summer is still young; you should be drunk and celebrating late into the night like there really isn’t anything serious to worry about. The 4th of July is one of those kinds of holidays where everything should be golden and horizons untroubled. It’s always been one of the best days of any year for me. X’s take on the day might be wrapped around a tearful little lament, but it sounds great—chiming, Leslied guitars, reverbed-out drums, Exene Cervenka’s gospel-glorious backing vox.
X started much different than what they ended up as, trading trashy, rifle-shot punk tunes for something much more rock ‘n roll, full of the traditional soaring choruses, strutting and twanging guitars , always with a hint of rockabilly reverb, and Doe’s low drone playing off Cervenka’s beautiful and sharp howl. They never lost the sharp edges, but X did lots of sounds well, and to me, that’s as punk as you get—doing it the way you want to, disdaining labels and just playing it out as loud, fast and hard as you can.