X - Under the Big Black Sun (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

X

X: Under the Big Black Sun

Under the Big Black Sun (1982)

Elektra


5
In terms of production, songwriting and pure distillation of the band's aesthetic, Under the Big Black Sun is the best X record. Los Angeles is darker and Wild Gift punker, but Sun captures X just as they began to integrate country and rockabilly into their sound. It's the end of one era and the beg...

In terms of production, songwriting and pure distillation of the band's aesthetic, Under the Big Black Sun is the best X record. Los Angeles is darker and Wild Gift punker, but Sun captures X just as they began to integrate country and rockabilly into their sound. It's the end of one era and the beginning of another. Big Black Sun is a glorious record.

When I said Los Angeles was darker, I didn't mean Sun was light fare, though. Opener "The Hungry Wolf" packs a threatening riff to complement the sexually aggressive lyrics. "Riding With Mary" deals with frontwoman Exene Cervenka's deceased sister, who died in a car crash. The title track boasts the couplet "Larks must sing grave deep melodies / Happy they that die."

The band's exploration of rock ??n' roll, country and blues (via Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Cash and plenty more) aids these funeral dirges. Punk rock eventually turned into a rejection of all music, especially when it morphed into hardcore, but X hailed from the original line of punks. They just wanted to get rock ??n' roll away from prog. That they could actually play meant they were one of the few bands to actually embody a rock reboot.

To that end, guitarist/saxophonist Billy Zoom fires some of his most snarling riffs, although his gentle sax solo on "Come Back to Me" lends the ballad some nice atmosphere. John Doe's bass is in top form, as always, as is his mighty, mighty voice. DJ Bonebrake always knew how to supplement Doe and Zoom with his drums, and the whole thing is rounded out by Cervenka's hauntingly beautiful wail.

Under the Big Black Sun is the most confident sounding record in X's canon. After this release, the band started seeking more mainstream acceptance, which didn't exactly pan out and served only to water down X's musical vision. But here, everything is perfect. The band is firing full force, the lyrics are killer (track "Because I Do" boasts my favorite X lyrics: "What kind of a fool am I? / I am the married kind") and everything just flat out works. Sun isn't just one of the best X records, or even one of the best punk albums. It's one of the best rock records ever, regardless of subgenre.