MVD Visual // 1986 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // January 25th, 2012
To the lonesome & the twosome & whoever still has ears for the unheard of...
A lot of great bands came out of the Los Angeles punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I know of none who were better or more talented than X. Formed in 1977, they are as relevant today as they were at their height. Featuring John Doe on bass, Billy Zoom on guitar, D.J. Bonebrake on drums, and the inimitable Exene Cervenca on vocals, they performed around L.A. alongside other such punk luminaries as The Germs, The Weirdos, and The Alley Cats, but were better than all the rest.
When director W.T. Morgan caught up with the gang, they were reaching their creative height, but also at their end. Shortly after, Zoom would leave to pursue other projects and the group only lasted a little while longer (though they would reunite multiple times over the following years). It was a stroke of luck to catch the group right at this time, when they're still happy, vital, and productive. X: The Unheard Music shows them on stage, in the studio, and around Los Angeles as they discuss the local music scene and their own history as a band.
But the documentary isn't all about X, though. Through them, Morgan is able to create a montage of images, using their music, to look at the scene as a whole and the current state of both Los Angeles and the country as a whole. Because Exene's lyrics are more poetry than they are traditional song lines, her words take on a broader resonance than just an "I'm young and I'm angry!" kind of meaning that limited a lot of her contemporaries. Supremely compelling and extremely well made for its limited budget, X: The Unheard Music is the ultimate document of one of the greatest groups the genre had ever seen.
Given the subpar DVD release X: The Unheard Music had previously received, this Blu-ray from MTI is excellent, a big upgrade, but it isn't the best product you're going to find. The image transfer, which looked quite poor in the original, here is clear and bright as it reasonably can be, though the colors aren't perfect and there is a bit of occasional damage. There are two sound mixes, but neither is the lossless one I had hoped for. The original stereo mix sounds cleaner and better than the original, with good clear dialog and punchy musical tracks. The surround track may, technically, have a little more separation, but it's nearly identical and, for a documentary, I'll take the original. Oddly, the disc doesn't feature the DTS track from the original disc, which is a shame, because it was better than both.
The extras, however, are all new and very good. A thirty minute piece has Doe and Cervenca, separately, discussing the film for its 25th anniversary. Doe has always done a ton of different things and seems a little more removed from everything, but I was very interested in Cervenca's comments. She seems very appreciative of her time in X and other bands, plus content with her status as a poet, performance artist, and one of the few matrons of punk music. I have always loved what she does and her attitude towards it; this interview shows exactly why. The disc continues with an interview with the filmmakers conducted at the time that is interesting, but inessential, and a live clip of the band. For fans of the band, though, the most valuable piece is a copy of one of the band's songbooks, accessible as a photo gallery on your player or, with a Blu-ray readable drive, as a PDF on your computer, which is better for studying the lyrics and drawings in the pages, and is a very cool thing to have included.
X: The Unheard Music is an excellent film that documents the band at their creative height, but also the time and place around them. Fans of X and their related side projects like The Knitters should absolutely pick up this Blu-ray, both because of the technical upgrades and the great extra features.
X rules. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* Full Frame
* DTS HD 5.1 EX (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage