Music

X: Evil Rumours - Live at the Basement

Peter Su

X

Evil Rumours - Live at the Basement

Label: Laughing Outlaw
US Release Date: 2004-02-03
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

For a band with a singer with this much gravel in his throat, X bear startling similarities to normal-voiced Joe Jackson. Both X and Jackson started out in the late '70s and early '80s, riding the coattails of punk and then surfing the New Wave. Both soldiered on after those scenes imploded. And both are around today, somewhat to the surprise of the artists themselves (X is called "The Band They Can't Kill").

Except that while Jackson took to exploring (indulging?) the jazz interests that revealed him to be the musicology student he really is, X never lost their belligerency. Not that much of it, anyway -- the three members of Fourplay that show up here aren't from that Fourplay, they're from the other jazz-pop band of the same name, the one that plays Led Zeppelin and Metallica covers (That's right: two bands named X and two bands named Fourplay, with one of the former and one of the latter sharing a stage to celebrate the former's 25th anniversary, a date that predates by not that much the anniversary of the other band of the same name. Confused yet?).

While Jackson got by on his immaculate craft, X's staying power derives from Steve Lucas's voice and the band's complementary musical balls. Which too often means that, when trying to get to the heart of the songs, one doesn't run into much but a gruff masculinity of -- it would seem -- naturally theatrical proportions. There's swagger, sure, but not much of the hooks or humor that can make such swagger seem less brutish or at least friendlier to the ears. Granted, the swagger isn't the brutish swagger so often evidenced by Dubya or partner-in-crime Rumsfeld, the brutish swagger of those who think they have more than made up for in power what they lack in conscience or, as the case may be, brains.

Rather, the swagger here is the swagger of the outsider, one of defiance rather than bullying. Which has more staying power than bullying swagger (let's hope) but which nonetheless is not, by itself, endlessly appealing.

It's significant that the closer here is "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", though not the one Joan Jett made famous. (As far as songs go, "Dream Baby" is Roy Orbison's and "Mother" is John Lennon's, though "Ooh Baby" should not be confused with the Miracles' "Ooh Baby Baby". They're all played by X and Fourplay, of course. (Not X and Fourplay). The song is a homage to the energy and (sonic) violence of rock and is itself a fair example of those things in action. But though it stomps along on its start-stop rhythm, that same rhythm seems like the build-up for a take-off that doesn't happen. Meat and potatoes rock from a bar band can be great, but this song isn't as fun as the mindless fun ("The singer's out of his fuckin' brain") it celebrates. The rhythm's unmistakable, and there's a riff I can point out, but neither swings and veers and lurches with the abandon of, say, Hound Dog Taylor's "Walkin' the Ceiling" which, with no lyrics at all except "Ha ha!" and "All right, all right!", does a better job of embodying the bar-band thrill that this song, by comparison, only talks about.

If, 25 years down the road, the rage here still feels more real than even on an early Jackson number like "Sunday Papers", I still have to give Jackson the edge for a hooky pop tune like "Is She Really Going Out With Him". Or, mid-period, for the ironic cheater's excuse he gives on "Biology". Neither X nor Jackson has that much to say, nor are they as much fun as one might imagine. Given that, I'll marginally take sleek craft over unfocused feeling, hooky and tuneful background music over music that initially demands attention but then doesn't explain why one should give it.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.