on November 5, 2003
I really like this cd. I come at it from a completely different direction than most X fans. I never was an X fan, (not much airplay in the east) but I am a fan of John Doe's solo work. So, I am working my way backward through his catalogue. Most reviews seem to say that this was the first mainstream X cd, much too MOR, and even Exene seems to feel that way in the liner notes. However, I don't see this as part of the X flow because I don't have their earlier stuff. I can judge it strictly on merit. And it is terrific. I don't think there is a weak track until Holiday Story, and that is followed by Surprise Surprise which takes you right back to the high that Left and Right gave you. 4th of July and the title track are excellent. In The Time It Takes and When It Rains are just as good. Billy Zoom fans may miss him, but the guitar work is terrific, and the drumming is outstanding. John and Exene sing so well together, especially when she follows his lead. Maybe this is not like previous X albums, but it is what it is, a slice of sound from the band at a different point in time. And it is really good. Old X fans may think it heresy to like this cd this much, but the energy level here is fantastic.
on July 8, 2002
Many X fans lament the passing of the sound on "Under the Big Black Sun" and the loss of Billy Zoom on later albums. It would have been wonderful if X had stayed on the track of their earlier albums. Things change, however, and the reality was that John and Xene were talented enough to tackle a variety of styles, and create a sound that evolved in unexpected ways.
Here, the songs have much less of a punk feel. The results, while not as striking as the classic earlier X, are terrific.
"See How We Are" is an achingly beautiful song - the cd is almost worth owning for that alone. "Fouth of July" is a great rock song. These are songs that will have you hitting the repeat button on your cd player. A very solid work by one of the best bands of the eighties.
on October 17, 1999
Alot of X fans gave this album the brush off because of its radio friendly sound, and the absence of Billy Zoom, but this is truly great Rock 'n Roll. From the first notes to the last it shook my walls. The guitar sound is more open, than Zoom's relentless barre chords and is somewhat remeniscent of Johnny Marr. Beautiful! Doe and Cervenka's voices blend chillingly, plus, they actually sing! The title track alone is worth the price. Fourth of July is a great Dave Alvin(The Blasters) song, and there are many more outstanding cuts, but my favorite is The Time it Takes. This raucous nugget could easily fit on Los Angeles or Wild Gift. I docked it one star because of the producer's decision to "modernize" it with a little Synthesiser. The results aren't bad but the synth is completely unnecessary. That being said this is an overlooked gem. Try it, and see...
I really don't think I'd want to hear a group playing punk music past the age of 30 or so. The same can be said for X, a group that built a solid reputation on their short, pounding, punk epics about love amidst the decay of L.A. in the late 70s and early 80s. But, punk is as much about age and attitude as it is about musical skills (or lack thereof), and X was always far more talented than your average punk group of angry kids taking out their angst on instruments and writing odes to anarchy and getting hammered. X grew up, like we all have. Still, for many folks, X changed too much for their liking, starting with their problematic decision to go pop-metal and generate some long-awaited radio buzz. The follow-up to that mixed bag, "See How We Are" featured a new guitarist to replace the fleet-fingered but frustrated and burned-out Billy Zoom. Tony Gilkyson was the new axeman, a guy who had a solid resume including a stint with another L.A. band with a similar low sales/high buzz history, the short-lived Lone Justice. Probably the song where he stamps his unique style on the X format is on "Anyone Can Fill Your Shoes," a rocking riff-heavy song that, despite it all is nowhere near the X of "Year 1."
This is an album that has been tagged with the "rootsy" label, although that really only shows up on a few songs and two of them are brilliant. The mild-hit "Fourth of July," co-written by another SoCal bud, Dave Alvin of the Blasters, and "See How We Are," one of my top twenty favorite songs of all time are highlights on this album. The title track is a painfully beautiful song that demonstrates why this band received so many accolades despite never achieving the radio success of far lesser bands. It is sparse, yearning, and bitter, mixing an acidic take on self-absorbed Americans with a tender apology to a lover. John and Exene's lyrical genius is all over this album and I particularly love "Surprise, Surprise" where Exene, lamenting a life on the road, cries in the wail that only she can deliver. X has always been keenly aware of where they stood in the music world and perhaps the critical acclaim that attached itself to this band from the get-go worked as salt in the wound when their albums failed to sell like their contemporaries who wrote pabulum-filled crap and couldn't hold a candle to the art they created. Despite years of love from the press and a hardcore audience of fans, the band still found itself playing small crowds and promoting themselves to a world that would largely never understand or appreciate them. It certainly would've been natural to wonder where their success was as they watched dopes like Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, or even The Go-Gos make millions.
Nevertheless, in the retrospective narratives that go with the reissues, they seem to have made peace with their past and thankfully we have the music to listen to over and over. This cd, while uneven in places, still contains a handful of songs that are fantastic and shows the future trajectory of John Doe and Exene Cervenka as they headed towards solo careers over the next years.
on August 16, 2005
As an X fan since my teens, I enjoy the fact that the band continued to grow and change rather than merely creating pale imitations of their early work. This album though rootsier, as people have noted, retains the magical vocal meshing of John Doe and Exene's voices and the poetic lyrics (something few artists strive for much less attain)that distinquish X from so much of the "mainstream" music of their peers. For X fans whose love of the band faded a bit with Ain't Love Grand, this album serves as a testament to the reality that the powerful talent of the band never faded (it just got lost in the "mix"). Remastered and containing the wonderful outtake/rough mix of "Highway 61 Revisited" this album is very much worth (re)visiting, especially for those X fans who may have missed/overlooked it the first time around.
on January 8, 2000
John Doe is an excellent songwriter who deserved to be free to leave the confines of punk rock. Demanding that X stay restricted to only punk is like restricting Rembrandt to coloring books. I'm Lost & You are great songs that get this album started off right. Exene & John were in their prime, as far as harmony. 4th Of July is a Dave Alvin song that has never been done better than it is on See How We Are. The title track is a devastatingly beautiful song that shows just how much X had grown up. When It Rains...is another depressing standout, though it might be a little too slick for X fans from the early days. John Doe was too eloquent and intelligent to be limited to 2 minute screamers, so typical of the punk scene. There are a couple of duds on this cd, but nothing to worry about. With the possible exception of Unclogged, you could stop your X collection after See How We Are. This album brought me back to a band I had somehow forgotten. It's true that Billy Zoom was not on this release, but Dave Alvin(The Blasters) & Tony Gilkyson were better equipped to play this kind of music anyway. See How We Are is a great addition to any collection. It belongs up there with Under The Big Black Sun as X's best.
on July 27, 2015
It seems like even to this day, fans of See How We Are feel like they have to make some sort of apology, sticking both hands in the air and claiming that as much as they love the record, it still doesn't rival the band's first four releases. In my opinion, none of those people could possibly be vegetarians...because they're full of bologna. As good as those records are, See How We Are is the greatest and most enduring musical statement X ever made. It's not about the attitude or the approach to production; the songwriting on this record is simply unstoppable front first to last. For those lamenting the loss of co-founding (and legendary!) guitarist, Billy Zoom, consider the weak Ain't Love Grand and measure that release against this one. X was eventually going to change like all great bands do, and they changed for the better. '4th of July' and 'See How We Are' are the classic tunes that everyone mentions, but 'You' is a female vocal performance for the ages, 'When It Rains' embodies the melancholy sound X always leaned towards, and 'Cyrano de Berger's Back" is one of the more visceral rock tracks you'll ever come across. Simply put, this is an awe-inspiring album. As much as I love Wild Gift and More Fun in the New World, See How We Are is X at their most beautiful, most mature, and most arse-kicking. Just listen to those drums rumble like thunder! John and Exene's vocals wailing like they want to split the world in two! Sometimes I listen to these songs and have to shake my head in amazement. If this were their only record (which thank Zeus it wasn't), I would still claim it to be a masterpiece. Not just one for the band, but for music on the whole.
on August 10, 2013
Back when it was Released, it was either Praised or Panned, super varied styles, Punk,Funk,Blues, Cowboy Blues, countryish you name off what you think a song sounds like, maybe LA style or memphis Style maybe nashville, Who knows? you can sit awhile and figure it out The band tried to mature and branch out, didn't work out that way commercially, and thats sad, the band sounds great, and i find it interesting they have 3 different versions of see how we are, from studio cut to live demo while still finding the lyrics and music. back in the day it was A critics field day for that, but for a music neophyte, its pretty cool.
on September 23, 2010
After the overproduction and comparatively weak songwriting that turned up on their previous album AIN'T LOVE GRAND, this album (while not exactly a return to form) is definitely in major step in the right direction. Billy Zoom's absence is felt but Tony Gilkyson does an excellent job, to his credit. The title track is one of the most affecting songs John Doe has ever written, and "Surprise Surprise" continues to be a full-tilt crowd-pleaser. There's only a trace of 1980s production excess on this one (unlike AIN'T LOVE GRAND), which makes this album very much a return to form and a maturation at the same time.
on August 9, 2005
In their early punkier recordings, you only got glimpses of their rootsier side. But an album like this was bound to come out of an aging and maturing band like X. John Doe is the ambassador of country music to the punk world. This is a solid album with some good songwriting on it and some classic X tunes. But it lacks the energy of the earlier, more definitive stuff. I have a soft spot for this one. It was my personal introdution to the band when I was in high school, listening to U2 and the Alarm.