X: The Unheard Music: DVD

Apr 05, 2006

Finally available on DVD after years of lingering in legend and obscurity on out of print and deteriorating VHS tapes and obtuse Laser Discs. This is hands down the most visually stunning “documentary” about a band—hell, movie in general—I’ve seen in recent memory, and it was originally released in 1985. Husband and wife team Alizabeth Foley and W.T. Morgan created the perfect motion picture incarnation of X’s raw, volatile, and honest—if sometimes kitschy—heart and soul from the years between the Los Angeles and Under the Big Black Sun albums. Partly remarkable arthouse (yet unpretentious) vignettes that serve as pseudo music videos and segues, part live footage, and part tasteful band documentary, the film focuses on the band, obviously, but it also ends up capturing crucial elements of L.A.’s musical past... many of which are of L.A. remembering its musical past despite it only being a few years after the fact. My favorite reminiscence is by Brendan Mullen, owner of the Masque, taking you down in to the thoroughly destroyed pit that used be his club and its graffiti. He details the no less than eight parties who called for and finally forced its closure (including the City of Los Angeles itself, the Fire Department, The Public Health Department, and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce). I’m a big fan of Westway to the World and The Filth and the Fury documentaries (Clash and Sex Pistols respectively). Both are visually creative, insightful, and at times humorous and heartbreaking. The Unheard Music has all of that with the advantage of capturing the band as the events were happening, when they were their most creative and vital; getting the honest feelings, opinions, and actions of people before time could smooth out all the rough spots. I’m sure there were some embarrassing moments excised from this film as well, but I prefer to think this is X as they really were in the early ‘80s. Technical aspects: There aren’t much in the way of special features, although there is the option to play the live portions only (which is sort of cool), chapter selection, and various audio formats. There’s a spelling error on the cover: Karem John Monsour is the Director od (sic) Photography, but who looks that closely at the credits on the back of a DVD? The film also captures Ray Manzarek being a cheesy douche... but any film or written word of Manzarek does that, so I wouldn’t call it special. –Stevo (Image Entertainment)