Whatever your view about recent and current line-ups of the band (and there are naysayers of the Rilen-less version), X in their prime were The Real Deal. On a good night, no other act in Australia could match them for raw intensity with an underlying musicality.
There was something dangerous about X and it wasn’t just the lunatics that followed them, leaving a trail of smashed glasses, broken furniture and self-inflicted flesh wounds behind them.
That’s why the 40-year anniversary package of “X-Citations Vol 1” is so welcome. Picking up on the earliest days of X - the four-piece with Steve Lucas on vocals and Ian Krahe on guitar - and pushing through to the end of original drummer Steve Cafeiro’s tenure, this vinyl collection of 14 songs serves as a perfect reminder - or an introduction for the unaware - to their unique music.
In one way, every box here rates five bottles. They’re essential; if not for the music, then the history and their place in it. In another … every box rates between four and five bottles. Why?
Well, all but two of the PiL albums represented here were patchy. One of those unpleasant truths we must all know (another is the knowledge that some our (many) rock ’n’ roll heroes have been anything but loveable rascals, but thugs of considerable degree who richly deserve four walls and a small barred door with the occasional beating…)
Some re-issues are blatant money-making efforts and others are a public service. Think of these two as the latter. They’re both on vinyl. No digital downloads.
Dismissing The Onyas as a sub-tropical, Johnny-come-lately version of the Cosmic Psychos does both bands a disservice. Both bands are still going (The Onyas sporadically) and share a member in John McKeering (aka Mad Macka). You might say him joining Cosmic Psychos was inevitable. Some have.
The talent that stumbled out of the late ''70s Darlinghurst scene in Australia was astonishing: a match for anything coming out of London, New York or Los Angeles. But geography and population density is a fucking bitch.
Even scene bosses Radio Birdman are considered an underground phenomena. So what chance is there for the small fry?
Meet The Passengers (if you have not already done so.). Hey. Make sure you find the right ones because there are some dodgy international acts with the same moniker. They briefly graced us with their presence as the seventies clicked over. A gift we clearly we did not deserve because we utterly failed to surrender the charts to them.
Most of us will never be privy to the stories that fueled the songs on this album, but that doesn't prevent it having an emotional payload that's the musical equivalent of an atomic bomb over Nagasaki. Stripped-back and fully exposed, the songs have a quiet majesty, stunning depth and genuine power.
The Passengers of 2007-09 are a much different entity to the original late '70s Sydney band, whose music drew on the wellspring of '60s girl groups and soul. A great single on Phantom and a set of demos (released posthumously on Detroit-powered French legacy label Revenge and re-packaged by Career Records) was their only lasting legacy.
The question’s already been posed by a few people whether they really do need yet another compilation of Stooges material. It’s a rhetorical query so I’ll lay out the facts and allow you to judge for yourself.
Let’s kick off by saying that a lot of crap is released under the auspices of Record Store Day. What was once a marketing platform for the little guys, the ever-diminish number of independent bricks and mortar stores, has morphed into another channel for the big boys - they’d the the major labels - to peddle all manner of shit.
There are outtakes and alternative versions ad infinitum buzzing about like flies on sherbet, but RSD more often than not seems to be about exploiting the fetishists’ love of anything on vinyl. "Heavy Liquid" is not amongst that crap.