I imagine it will be a more sudued X who play the WFNX show at the MFA Monday afternoon. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. The LA-born quartet stopped at the Paradise Sunday night as part of their 35th anniversary tour and howled through 26 songs in about 90 minutes. It was good and loud, but that’s only half of it. Exene Cervenka and John Doe have written some of the best lyrics not only in American punk, but in rock. Just titles like “The Motel Room in My Bed” (“put the doorknob on my side”) are enough to tell you that. But delivered in close harmony by Exene and Doe (unstable but indivisible), over Doe’s leaping, elemental bass lines, Billy Zoom’s hyperspeed Chuck Berry/rockabilly riffs, and DJ Bonebrake’s relentless in-the-pocket pounding, they’re also unbeatable.
So at the MFA (free tickets available only through facebook.com/mfaboston or through WFNX.com), maybe you’ll be able to hear those lyrics just a little better. Which isn’t to fault the Paradise performance or the sound. It was boomy and churning, but Exene’s voice sliced through it and Zoom’s guitar was up nice and high (not always true at the Paradise shows I’ve been to in the past couple of years).
Exene played with the lyrics, altering her phrasing from records and past performances, and adding nice touches here and there. No band has lived up to the adage “the personal is political” the way X have (“The World’s a Mess: It’s in My Kiss” – another title that says it all). And John Doe introduced “The New World” by saying that it will be nice to get “not just somebody who’s okay” in office. And for the encore of “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” Exene intoned “Drones… drones… drones” under the title line.
So yes, this was a 35th anniversary tour and probably not a song younger than 20. But as relevant as your life.