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Image Entertainment presents
X: The Unheard Music (1985)

"We're desperate.
Get used to it."

- lyrics from We're Desperate

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 29, 2005

Stars: John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, D.J. Bonebrake
Other Stars: Ray Manzarek
Director: W.T. Morgan

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:24m:16s
Release Date: January 25, 2005
UPC: 014381225426
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B-B+ A

DVD Review

Back in the day, there was English punk, New York punk and West Coast punk, each channeling its own kind of welcome aggression and chaotic energy that made the late 1970s through the mid-1980s an exciting time to be alive, at least musically. All of these bands, from the likes of the Sex Pistols to the Ramones to X, changed and reshaped rock and roll in a lot of ways, and the ripple effects are still being felt today, even if the unofficial rock history books tend to overlook paying the proper homage due the founding forces.

X The Band: The Unheard Music is one of those infamous rock docs that I had heard about for years, and Image has stepped up and finally given this fast-paced X bio its due on DVD. Directed with rapid-fire machine gun edits by W.T. Morgan, this doc blends strange archival footage, old commercials, home movie footage, rock videos, interviews and live performances that documents the rise and influence of one of the greatest rock bands that most people have probably never heard of.

Even as an X fan, there were tidbits that were new to me, like guitarist Billy Zoom's proficient clarinet skills or drummer D.J. Bonebrake's orchestral background, but for the most part this covers the basics—how the band met, where they played and how they made a name for themselves—all interspersed with songs from their first three albums, including veritable standards like We're Desperate, White Girl and Because I Do. Roughly half of the 15 songs are done live, while the others are either studio recordings played over a pastiche of images, or in some cases, seldom seen music videos.

Part history lesson, part art, Morgan's doc avoids lauding the band with overblown or faint praise, and the closest it comes to chatty hyperbole is when The Doors' Ray Manzarek (who produced X) recalls his experiences with the band. But since the film moves so rapidly, even the most worn-out reminiscences are slathered in all type of crazy images from the L.A. punk scene, and with an X song only moments away, the flow of the film is constantly moving and unfolding.

I saw X in concert once, late in their career, as an opening act for Warren Zevon. Exene was probably eight months pregnant at the time, wearing a tiny dress, big boots and an enormous cowboy hat, and she cut one of the most unusual rock silhouettes I had ever seen. As far as I was concerned, the band was still on top of their game, with the vocal trade off between Exene and John Doe sounding as fresh as ever, and though they were on their way to disintegration, I couldn't help but feel I was getting a glimpse of what the band was unleashing in their early days.

Maybe I'm a sentimental old fool, but the frenetic bustle of X The Band: The Unheard Music takes me back to a happy place.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: X The Band: The Unheard Music looks the part of a cheaply made mid-1980s rock documentary, but it's not a major detriment, and it almost seems appropriate. There are a few minor nicks and scratches, with colors that are somewhat washed out, and the performance footage has held up the best, though not razor sharp or particularly well lit.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: X The Band: The Unheard Music sports not just a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track, but a DTS mix, as well. Problem is the DTS track sends all of the narration and dialogue to the left rear channel (or at least it did on my system), and the whole track seems to suffer from a major authoring problem. Thankfully the 5.1 option is just peachy, delivering the necessary deep bass during the performances, and some infrequent rear channel cues to spruce up the presentation. A comparatively subdued 2.0 surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Not sure if it is officially classified as an extra, but the music only option gets high marks in my book. Select this menu option and all 15 X songs scenes from the film get played, without the interviews, etc.

The disc is cut into 25 chapters.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

Attention all aging punk fans, here's a fond snapshot of a band that never became the household word that I still consider they were. The doc itself is good and nostalgic, and a music only option allows the playing of the mix of live and studio performances featured throughout. There is a text screen as the film opens that says "Play this movie loud."

Do it.



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