X, the Knitters, and John Doe

X Box

Phases & Stages

2005 is a great year to be an X fan. When the L.A. quartet last recorded an electric live album in 1987, guitarist Billy Zoom was long gone and the band sounded in need of the break they were about to take. With Zoom back on board, their new Shout! Factory CD and DVD Live in Los Angeles (sold separately) are potent demonstrations of X's reinvigorated stage chops. Drawing from the first four LPs, the audio portion embodies Eighties no-future punk dystopia on "We're Desperate" while presaging Americana on "The New World." Watching the DVD draws attention to the under-heralded drumming of D.J. Bonebrake on primal workouts like "The Hungry Wolf" and "Because I Do." The relative lack of extras (aside from two quick John Doe/Exene Cervenka acoustic duets) is testament to the fact that X in concert is enough. Doe, Cervenka, and Bonebrake have also reactivated the Knitters, their country-tinged side project with Dave Alvin. Their second album in 20 years, The Modern Sounds of ... the Knitters (Zoë/Rounder), reworks several X songs with twang-laden locomotive rhythm, including lesser-knowns like "Skin Deep Town," Cervenka's hilarious kiss-off to spring break. Alvin's "Dry River" and Doe's "Try Anymore (Why Don't We Even)" embody broken-down love, while covers of Flatt & Scruggs' "Give Me Flowers While I'm Living" and Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" bookend the eclectic song selection. Meanwhile, Doe's fifth solo album, Forever Hasn't Happened Yet (Yep Roc), finds him veering away from the roots-rock template in a more atmospheric direction. The 11 tracks unreel like a series of unconnected cinematic vignettes featuring guests like Cindy Lee Berryhill and Kristin Hersh, with Neko Case duet "Hwy. 5" pleading for escape over a rudimentary synth beat. "The Losing Kind" luxuriates on a lazy blues riff like a long-lost, desert-baked Doors outtake. Doe's songwriting here is raw and a bit haphazard, but that approach captures the ne'er-do-well vagabond vibe with unforced aplomb. (The Knitters play the Parish, Saturday, Aug. 27.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Sheverb
Chapter One (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Dec. 14, 2018

Texas Platters
Kendall Beard
Here Comes Trouble (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Dec. 14, 2018

More by Greg Beets
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
80 local picks from Molly Burch to Brownout

Dec. 28, 2018

Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
80 local picks from Molly Burch to Brownout

Dec. 28, 2018

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle