X: More Fun in the New World

Stephen B. Armstrong


More Fun in the New World

Label: Rhino
US Release Date: 2002-05-21
UK Release Date: 2002-06-03

About a year ago, Rhino Records, a label that specializes in keeping ignored and overlooked rock and roll music in print, started reissuing albums recorded by X, one of the L.A. club scene's greatest bands. Leftist, raucous, and poetic, the country-punk sound that distinguished the group never caught on nationally, but, like the Velvet Underground, their violent beauty has influenced dozens of songwriters, including contemporary giants like Frank Black, David Lowery, and Beck. A remastered and expanded edition of X's most accessible album -- More Fun in the New World -- became available last May.

Originally released in 1983, the band's fourth full-length replaces the splintery shrillness of earlier records like Los Angeles, Wild Gift and Under the Big Black Sun with tight playing and lush melodies. On the opening track "The New World", for instance, Billy Zoom's chugging guitar and D.J. Bonebrake's high-speed sticks blend together like scotch and soda water as Exene Cervenka and John Doe's tender-homely voices cry: "Honest to goodness / The bars were open this morning / They must've been voting for the president or something". Bittersweet lyrics and fat melodies also drive "Poor Little Girl", "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts", and "Hot House". "Drunk in my Past", the record's sweetest song, is also the darkest. Rising above the roaring music, Exene -- sounding like a strung-out Loretta Lynn -- moans, "It's the drunk in my past / Shuffling by like a train / Sounds on its track / Like a ride that don't last". Similarly, sad topics -- like broken hearts and war -- also appear, and each time they do, the band steps up and wraps them in perfumed swaddling, a technique that makes these personal and public disasters unusually endearing.

Every song isn't pretty, however. X, after all, was a product of the punk movement that exploded belatedly in Los Angeles in the late-'70s, and it catered to the same crowds that coagulated around noisy outfits like the Circle Jerks, the Germs, Flipper, and Black Flag. And on tracks like "Devil Doll", "Make the Music Go Bang", and "Painting the Town Blue", the band leaves the melodies in the parking lot and kicks out the jams, thrashing their instruments and screaming angry lyrics like, "'You look funny when you cry' were / His last words; before he laughed / And said goodbye / She flipped a finger".

Not enough can be said about the dividends wrought by remastering these songs. On earlier editions of the album, the music always sounded a little fuzzy, as if it'd been recorded live on equipment that had a hard time keeping the sounds of the instruments separated. But now, with a clean mix, several previously dulled or buried aspects reveal themselves. For instance on "True Love Part 2", (the band's homage to Curtis Mayfield), Doe's bass thumps so loudly, the song sounds a lot more like disco than it used to, and the hubcaps Bonebrake hurls to the floor at the end of "I See Red" feel like they're coming at you in 3-D. The bonus tracks that conclude the new edition, however, are flat, rough and unfinished, like outtakes from an early rehearsal. No doubt a come-on to longtime fans, encouraging them to replace their old disc with this new one, they may have been better off left in the vaults (or under the rug). But these tacked on tracks are a problem of surplus, and they can't mute the impact of the brilliance which precedes them.

With lines of verse to match Valery and Baudelaire, a parade of amped-out power chords and John and Exene's unsettling vocal harmonies, More Fun in the New World never had a chance of scoring mainstream success in its time. Twenty years later, Rhino's efforts aren't likely to generate widespread recognition or strong sales, either. The brave new world we live in probably isn't -- and may never be -- brave or new enough to warm up to X.

What a shame.





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.


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

A Lesson from the Avengers 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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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