The Blasters vs. X: It's L.A. Circa '80 for the Yuletide Season
It's peculiarly fitting that these two punk trailblazers should arrive in town on the same night, because they've been inextricably bound together for more than 35 years since the beginnings of Los Angeles' punk underground.
X [top] and The Blasters [bottom]
For one thing, they've endured, even though (or perhaps because) their members have solo careers. Similarly, for much of their careers, both acts' laurels rested on music made in the early to mid-80s. (In 2005, The Blasters released 4-11-44, their first new album in 20 years, and followed that in July with Fun on Saturday Night; X hasn't released a new studio album since 1993's Hey Zeus!)
More importantly, both bands drew upon traditional roots and rockabilly in making their music helping imbue it with a timelessness that their noisier, snottier peers may have lacked. They certainly weren't solitary in that interest -- in the intervening years, many of their peers have also embraced roots music, such as Chuck Prophet (Green on Red), Mike Ness (Social Distortion), and Alejandro Escovedo (Nuns, Rank & File, True Believers).
Ness credits "bands like X, Johnny Thunders, and The Stray Cats" with opening his eyes to American roots music. "When you're 17, you don't really care about your roots, but as you get older, as you're trying to find your own identity, that's when the search begins," he says. "It led us. It led us to Americana music and the history of rock 'n' roll before the music of the '70s."
"Los Lobos, X, Dave and Phil Alvin, you're talking about people who had a broader palette to work individually to begin with, and I'm not sure why that is," Escovedo says. "I know that us, as kids who said we were punk rock or got grouped in punk rock, we were basically trying to play songs we could hear on the radio anywhere."
Of course, by nature, they weren't going to be played on the radio. On their 1980 debut, Los Angeles, X offered "The Unheard Music," protesting, "We're locked out of the public eye/Smooth chords on the chord radio . . . Friends warehouse pain, attack their own kind."
They reiterated the complaint as new wave took off on arguably their most poignant song, "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts," off the last of their first four great albums, 1983's More Fun in the New World. "Glitter-disco-synthesizer night school. All this noble savage drum, drum, drum," they sing. "The facts we hate: You'll never hear us."