X Tote Hotel, Collingwood, VIC Saturday, September 10, 2022
Hello Barflies. Some things don’t change. There's |still nothing finer in old Melbourne town than The Tote Hotel, Collingwood, packed full of like-minded punters with a single purpose of getting their rocks off. And let me say that this Saturday night was no exception.
X were exceptional. I mean, they were just so “on” and tight. And so fucking dirty sounding. Steve Lucas just ripping his guitar. Man. he hits those strings hard. What a sound! I was literally two metres away from the great man.
X were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic album, “X-Aspirations”, playing the whole album in running order. How good it was. “Suck Suck” just busted out of the house sound system. Which is where I found Steve wrestling with earlier in the night when I dropped by to pay my pre-gig respects. He and soundie Dazza were in a state, trying to figure out said system. Thank fuck they got it sorted. Onya Dazza .
Kim Volkman (bass) was flashing the coolest pair of shoes I've seen in many a good year. Simon The Drummer was playing his third gig with X and second with Kim. He bashed and crashed through, locking in with Kim as a rhythm section that sounded like they’d been playing together for years.
Before there was punk rock there was Ian Rilen. Then there was X.
X weren't punks in the sense of the term that the skinheads understood but they were primal, punk rock and roll in one combustible package.
Sydney had never seen a band like X whose wrecking ball power centred on Rilen's bass-played-as-a-lead-instrument, the massive backbeat of fellow veteran Steve Cafeiro, the slashing guitar of Ian Krahe and the shredding vocals of Steve Lucas, the latter two rookies.
Living a quiet life wasn't part of the X creed. Krahe's submission to a heroin overdose left the already outlawed X even more out on a limb, but they grimly continued as a trio and proceeded to record their debut album with legendary guitarist Lobby Loyde producing.
"X-Aspirations" became an instant classic, setting a benchmark for a whole legion of new, uncompromising and minimalist bands.
These words (and those that follow) were written for the liner notes for the 2009 re-issue of X’s debut album “X-Aspirations” but were inadvertently shelved. We’re reviving them to coincide with the 40th anniversary tour by the X line-up that lives on after the passing of all original members except guitarist-vocalist Steve Lucas. Lucas has crowd-sourced a Best of and Rarities collection ("X-Citations") on vinyl, copies of which will be available at the gigs. Read on.
The (mild) hype accompanying the 40th anniversary edition was deserved and - and then some. This is as essential an Australian “punk” album as the Radio Birdman and Saints debuts - even if comparatively few people noticed at the time.
The reputation of “X-Aspirations” as the ultimate in primal, spontaneous and minimally brutal music fron this part of the world (Australia) has grown with every re-issue, and this re-mastered vinyl version is surely the last word.
Sydney-reared and as street-level as a band could be, X had all but been destroyed by reputation and reality by the time they went into Trafalgar Studios in 1979. Venue owners despised them and the crowd they attracted. Gigs inevitably ended with a full house, physical damage, spilled blood and a warning for the band not to come back.
Whatever your view about recent and current line-ups of the band (and there are naysayers of the Rilen-less version), X in their prime were The Real Deal. On a good night, no other act in Australia could match them for raw intensity with an underlying musicality.
There was something dangerous about X and it wasn’t just the lunatics that followed them, leaving a trail of smashed glasses, broken furniture and self-inflicted flesh wounds behind them.
That’s why the 40-year anniversary package of “X-Citations Vol 1” is so welcome. Picking up on the earliest days of X - the four-piece with Steve Lucas on vocals and Ian Krahe on guitar - and pushing through to the end of original drummer Steve Cafeiro’s tenure, this vinyl collection of 14 songs serves as a perfect reminder - or an introduction for the unaware - to their unique music.