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VINE VOICEon February 2, 2005
X holds the title of quintessential L.A. rock band, brushing past such contenders as the Doors (too psychedelic) and Love (too ephemeral). W.T. Morgan's jittery "X: The Unheard Music," finally surfacing on DVD, captures the band in the mid-1980s, standing tall atop the ashes of the city's punk scene.

Morgan makes the most of the band's Hollywood vibe. Stylized segments feature guitarist Billy Zoom (part Buck Owens and part Gorgeous George); singer Exene Cervenka (a rag doll with Bette Davis eyes); and singer-bassist John Doe and drummer D.J. Bonebrake (both blessed with leading-man looks).

"Unheard Music" covers some band biography ("Billy put an ad in the Recycler ...") but mostly it's X performing amid a blitzkrieg of images that range from Edsel ads to death squads shooting up El Salvador. A ghostly night scene shows a house transported across a freeway bridge as the title song plays. How L.A. How X.

The 1986 film, shot in 16mm, looks decent aside from persistent speckling. DTS and stereo audio options sound fine, but the Dolby 5.1 had a weird effect that sent vocals to the rear speakers. The Image Entertainment DVD offers no extras.
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on February 16, 2005
X were an amazing, amazing band and this DVD really drives this point home. The live club performances show their incredible musicianship--DJ Bonebrake and Billy Zoom are PHENOMENAL! The studio performances show what incredible songwriters and artists John and Exene were. The video montages throughout put it all into context, and made me feel really nostaglic, there's nothing quite like superimposing a cruise missile over Ronnie Reagan's face to bring a tear to your eye. There's also this groovy, artsy video of Exene to White Girl that really sticks with you. No band in the last 20 years comes close to X--X were the real thing, and luckily there's The Unheard Music to remember them by. Buy it, watch it, and lend it to your paperboy, and afterwards the two of you can burn all his Emo CDs and start a band together.
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on January 27, 2005
This is a documentary about the MOST important punk rock band ever. X was accessible on so many levels whether you were truly hardcore or coming up on the poetic beat-side. This film is a wonderful time capsule about the band. I was lucky enough to see X play live about a half dozen times and EVERY time was unique and incredible. I won't apologize for the hyperboly because X truly were and are the BEST of the best.
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on February 10, 2007
In the outstandingly well-made documentary X: The Unheard Music, we see two of the most underrated songwriters in rock history have a quick exchange that (unknowingly to them at that time) turns out to have defined their careers. It goes like this:

Exene Cervenka (referring to the song "Real Child of Hell"): "I think it's gonna be a hard song for people to understand the words."
John Doe: "F--- 'em."

And there you go. Sadly (yet proudly), X has always been somehow too poetic and "artsy" for some to consider punk, yet too defiantly punk to break through into the mainstream.

In the parallel universe that I live in, John Doe is a much bigger star. And to my twisted ears, no one in punk has ever sung so tunefully out of tune as Exene Cervenka (although Rancid's Tim Armstrong comes close). There's something so gosh-danged MUSICAL about the way she can coyly circle around a note, getting close but not quite close enough to hit it.

Plus, the supposed "supporting" players are such fascinating people themselves and are real multi-instrumental virtuosos (Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Mr. Billy Zoom on the clarinet! Mr. Bonebrake on the vibraphone!).

Thankfully, this beautiful film has forever etched out and preserved some magical moments in time, capturing X at their peak in the early to mid-80's. And, fan-leanings aside, I cannot emphasize enough how great this movie is, regardless of any affiliation or affinity one may or may not have with the band itself.

This film is so exquisitely and painstakingly pieced together that in the end it was not a surprise for me to see four editors listed in the credits. The syncopated, ingenious editing never lacks for imagination or interest, and you could arguably get as much satisfaction watching this movie in soundless slow-motion (or even frame by frame) - the individual shots are that beautiful (and sometimes very fleeting, but with great effect).

In the beginning, even the voiceover interviews are assembled as a kind of audio montage, and the result is nothing short of brilliant.

But don't be fooled: this multitude of editors does not mean that the movie lacks for a unified vision - quite the contrary, in fact. In addition to seamlessly intercut live and offstage footage that fans will just eat up (the studio footage of the recording of "White Girl" is sumptuous indeed, even though it is staged. Also, the writing and first tentative playing of "Real Child of Hell" is a total must-see/hear), there is an overarching subtextual and contextual examination of commercialization in its many forms. We are bombarded with images of mass production, from eggs to pre-fab houses, from vinyl car seats to vinyl records.

The simple yet effective contrast of some schlepp at the big record company (I'll call him "MCA Bonehead") espousing the virtues of the go-nowhere band Point Blank juxtaposed with the head of the Slash record label (which released X's early albums) exposes everything you ever wanted to know about what can go wrong with major record labels.

I think this film will appeal not just to X fans but to fans of good filmmaking in general. That said, I've heard that there's a special edition DVD looming on the not-too-distant horizon, so you might wanna hold onto that beer money and wait for that one to come out, because this edition ultimately lacks any features worth typing about (which is the reason for my four-star rating, even though the actual film deserves five).
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on March 11, 2005
Even though I would have probably enjoyed this due to my predisposition to the criminally marginalised music of X I was thoroughly surprised on how well made this film was ,particularly the fictional opening. With it's freewheeling editing and inspired montages it's almost like watching a cinematic version of a punk zine. Regardless of how you feel about the music this really is exceptional.
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on January 8, 2006
until the license arrangement changes, please seek out VHS copy or at least buy DVD 2nd hand, theres plenty on a well known auction site.
support the band not Martin W. Greenwald & Image Entertainment ($97,000,000 in revenue last year).
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on February 2, 2005
This is a fantastic documentary - if you're at all interested in the LA Punk scene, this is a goody. It looks great, it sounds great, and it's a lot of fun. A highlight: Exene as the silent-film ghost in "Because I Do", the mobile home cruising down the streets of LA, the shots of the Whisky and the LA skyline, DJ showing off with a 3-4-5 beat, the hilarious interviews with record cmpany execs. It's funny, it's poignant, it's rockin'. Amazing art direction, too...
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on June 22, 2005
This is an excellent video but any true fan of X will refuse to buy it because the company producing this DVD and has the legal rights to the film are not allowing ANY PROCEEDS TO GO TO THE BAND! VHS version and Laserdisc versions are available online. The band is trying to reacquire their rights to this production. Support the band, not bootleggers.
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on November 13, 2005
X made four brilliant albums on the trot. not many cared. this film captures them in their prime. for fans like myself who came to their music long after and who will never get to see them live- this DVD is a great keepsake. forget all that goes through your mind when you think 'music documentary'. this starts with a fictional conceit, goes into a live performance, then voiceovers and informal interviews, and finally edits of montages of newsreels adverts etc. All four strands brilliantly edited together back and forth and sure to bear repeated viewings. No extras though (probably because there was no band input on this release)and over way too quickly. Well, hopefully there may be a better edition years down the line, but get this before it becomes out of print. Just beautiful.
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on October 5, 2013
this is an interesting video, shot in a peculiar (but appropriate to X) way... I wanted to see more of the behind the scenes X interactions, backgrounds on the song (it has some details), etc. - don't get me wrong, but it was just not as good (for example) as Springsteen's Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town or Tom Petty's making of Damn the Torpedoes - both a different genre, but excellent documentaries.
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