X - Los Angeles (1980), 7/10

An incredibly ambitious, successful, and impressive debut punk record from X, a set of songs that are defined by remarkably tight performances mixed with the essential aspect of all great punk albums in superbly punchy lyrics. The vocalist duo backed by ambitious guitar work and extremely in-sync rhythm make Los Angeles one of the best-performed albums of the early eighties punk rock scene. It also has the quite rare quality of increasing in quality from start to finish rather than the much more common quality of declining after singles run their course. Highlights include “Johny Hit and Run Paulene”, “Nausea”, and the entire second half including the unmistakably capturing title track and the closer serving as an example of punk rock at its peak. The songs generally cover a surprisingly dark set of themes including drugs, death, and the dark side of sexuality, all prevalent and at the forefront at the start of the eighties. The closer “The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss” truly captures everything that makes Los Angeles special including a flawless musical performance from all members, the back and forth of the vocal pair, an infectious but intelligent chorus, superb use of dynamics, and an expert use of Bonebrake’s thundering drums accented by Manzarek’s noisy organ work reminiscent of his time with The Doors. The cover of “Soul Kitchen” is a nice touch and shows just how special this group of musicians was together. They are consistently in sync to such a degree that the album sometimes sounds outside of the punk genre. The album is a whirlwind of self-conscious, existential, and philosophically dark punk elevated by exceptional musicality, particularly when considering their peers. One of the more interesting and individual punk rock records ever recorded and absolutely essential for any fan of the genre.