REVIEW: X - X-citations

X - X-citations (The Best of X & Rarities, Vol 1)

Zenith Records

Unlike most ‘best of’ collections, X-citations isn’t a glossy compilation of radio friendly hits neatly packaged together for aging fans to relive their glory days – X didn’t have any ‘hits’ per se, for starters.

This collection tells a far more meaningful story, though – or at least, the start of it, covering “the early years, 1977-1983,” a time of social and musical upheaval, when the feral punk movement rose up in defiance of the self-indulgent prog rock dinosaurs who ruled the charts and airwaves.

Formed by bass guitarist Ian Rilen after leaving Rose Tattoo (he wrote their first hit Bad Boy For Love but quickly soured of their pub rock direction) with singer and later guitarist Steve Lucas, guitarist Ian Krahe and drummer Steve Cafiero, X was anarchic and dangerous, violent and unpredictable, raucous and volatile.

X-citations captures all of that, a noisy, raw collection of incendiary garage punk that makes no apologies for not having its edges smoothed out or its sheen polished: then, as now, X sat outside of ‘the music biz’ and in a league all their own.

Peter Cataunche stepped in when Krahe OD’d, and is featured on one live track from a 1979 2JJ broadcast, before leaving the band, when Rilen handed Lucas Krahe’s old Telecaster and said, “start practising.”

The classic early three-piece line-up then in place, the band immediately recorded debut album X-Aspirations in a single afternoon, an album still cited as a cult classic (it was awarded the 94th spot in 2010’s 100 Best Australian Albums), before breaking up for the first time in 1980.

They would reform in the mid ‘80s with drummer (and Rilen’s partner) Cathy Green, and make two more albums, but the chaos and volatility of the band continued to dog them and they never broke through.

X-citations includes demos, tracks from that debut album, and the John Lennon cover, Mother single and its B-side Halfway Round The World, showing the scalding power of the early line-ups, and giving plenty of insight into how they managed to get banned from some 32 venues in Sydney alone.

It ain’t a pretty listen, but it is an important one: a throbbing, visceral slab of snarling rock that – often despite itself – shines through with complex arrangements and melodies that rise above the clamour of their raucous sturm und drang.