Los Angeles Is To X As NYC Is To the Ramones. Discuss.


Los Angeles is to X as New York is to the Ramones. Discuss.

Actually, not exactly. As X frontwoman Exene Cervenka relates, if it wasn’t for a review slagging the Ramones, X might not exist. Seems the negative notice assured future X guitarist Billy Zoom that another band was as aberrant as he wanted to be, and, joining with bassist John Doe, the duo sowed the seeds of X.

X play 11/30 and 12/1 at Irving Plaza, and 12/7 at The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park, NJ.

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As part of L.A.’s nascent punk scene, “We knew we were part of something that was gonna have an impact, whether it was five years of 20 years,” says Doe. “We didn’t know and we didn’t care.” Cut to 2012, 35 years later, and, as frontwoman (and former Doe spouse) Exene Cervenka says, “We failed or succeeded. But we’re still here.” As to how they’re celebrating? “Every year is the anniversary. You may not live to 100, so celebrate 97. I celebrate everything, every day.”

That edgy energy and attitude permeates an X show. If seeing X live is proof that “punk’s not dead,” then a conversation with Cervenka is a rally for punk positivity. Speaking both about the political and personal aftermath of super storm Sandy as well as generally, the 56-year-old believes that “All we have are each other and our words. The word is a power, a divine power. It’s up to us to discern what’s right and wrong, and speak.”

The poet-turned-singer has been doing so on record since 1980’s Los Angeles, the band’s aural love letter to a city. That year, this very paper voted the album #16 on the Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, and in the ensuing decades, the nine-song paean has lost none of its urgent relevancy. It was produced by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the poster boy for intellectual hippiedom, and a seemingly unlikely choice for L.A’s preeminent punkers. “New York had {Brian} Eno; we have Ray,” Cervenka quips. “He’s a magical person, a driving force in American culture. People did not understand my singing, the guitar sound. But he just corralled us a little bit.”

With half the album’s songs clocking in at less than three minutes, Los Angeles was an darkly beautiful chronicle of L.A.’s shadow side, rife with classics like the ‘Johny Hit and Run Paulene” and “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss.” LA-centric perspective perhaps, but in 80s, New York welcomed the quartet, even though Cervenka feels a false stereotype still exists. “LA had more irreverent brats, New York seemed very serious. People would make fun of LA, that we’re all comfortable in the sunshine, rich kids with pools. Of course, that’s so not true, but we have not yet dispelled that rumor.”

This trip to NYC and Jersey, though, Cervenka and the band are committed to Sandy-suffering citizens, joining Live Nation’s “New York Cares Coat Drive,” where, in exchange for a coat donation, the band will give away collectable songbooks from the late 1970’s to the first 100 to donate.

While punk started as a reaction to the coming age of corporate domination and the culture of phony manipulation, says Cervenka, fans shouldn’t assume that the band, on the road in middle age, have lost an iota of their original intent. As she observes, from what seems a place of still-genuine awe, “The show is the audience. They see four people, I see 800. It’s beautiful.”

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