X – The Unheard Music – Blu-Ray
From 1980 – 1985 a small group of aspiring filmmakers decided to follow the legendary punk rock band, X, around and put together a documentary on the band. X was one of the pioneers of the Los Angeles punk rock scene and the most successful and longest lasting. X eventually signed to a major label and put out a handful of really good records that while not chartbusters, certainly did quite well and brought the band a larger audience. The band’s influence on music is undeniable and wide-reaching and today they are regarded as punk rock royalty. They were also extremely talented musicians whose abilities and creativity eclipsed most of their peers.
The movie tells the story of X as well as that of the individual band members. The band already had two albums out by the time they started filming this movie and they had already built up quite a following. After giving the history of how the band formed through interviews with the various members, the film delves into the early years playing underground clubs like the Masque and various other places. You learn a lot about each member of the band, their musical background, their interests and influences. The band member interviews do a great job of making the viewer feel like they are getting to know each person and some of the stories are as humorous as they are informative.
Being that this is a documentary on a music group, the band’s music is prominently featured in the film. There is a ton of footage of the band performing songs from their first few albums as well as more artistic videos and imagery being show while the band’s music is playing. The former giving the viewer a great taste of how great the band is live and the latter fitting in nicely with the band’s imagery that was largely centered around lead singer, Exene Cervenka’s artwork. The visual style of the film is a perfect complement to the band and their record cover art. It was obvious that the filmmakers were fans of X and understood their style and what they were about.
The film covers the topics of how the band recorded their first album with Ray Manzerak of The Doors and how the band eventually wound up singing to a major label. The Los Angeles music scene, the imminent closing of the Whiskey (which either never happened or was short-lived as the club is still open today), and a variety of other topics are covered by the film and by the time it is over you really understand how unique and great X was/is and it’ll make you want to listen to them repeatedly waiting for the day that they tour again.
While obviously shot before HD technology was around, The Unheard Music does benefit from the Blu-Ray treatment staring with a brand new transfer. The picture features vivid colors and as sharp of a picture as you could ever get from the source material. It is 16×9 and it looks great, especially for something shot over 25 years ago. The audio has two options: stereo or 5.1 surround. The 5.1 surround was disappointing as the emphasis ended up being the vocals coming through the center channel at a level that overshadowed the music, and the kick drum coming from the subwoofer and overshadowing the rest of the drums. The result was a very flat sounding kick drum/vocal combo with guitars in the background. The stereo track, however, sounded full, evenly mixed and was very satisfying. This isn’t surprising considering the audio wasn’t originally recorded or planned for surround sound and trying to convert stereo music recordings to 5.1 surround rarely ever works well.
The movie runs just shy of 90 minutes and is incredibly enjoyable from start to finish, in fact the only complaint I could muster up is that it wasn’t even longer. This silver edition features some nice bonus features. First is interviews with John Doe and Exene, both conducted recently, that has them talking about their memories of the film and they give some insight about certain parts of the film. It was about 20 minutes long and a great compliment to the movie itself. There’s also an interview with the filmmakers, the original theatrical trailer, and a slide show that shows off Exene’s artwork in an X songbook.
Any fan of X will love this movie if they haven’t seen it already and if they have, this new transfer and cool extras make it a must-have. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the band would do well to give this a watch as not only will you be introduced to a lot of the band’s best material, but you’ll learn about the history of the band and the individual members too which is well worth the price of purchase.
Don’t have a Blu-Ray player? There’s a regular DVD version too