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The Best: Make the Music Go Bang

The Best: Make the Music Go Bang cover

There are generally two schools of thought on assembling a career-spanning anthology of a musician of consequence -- you can compile a fan-oriented set that loads up all manner of rare and unreleased tracks alongside the act's better-known material, or go for an album designed for newcomers and dabblers that presents an efficient one-stop overview of their best work. Since X, arguably the best band to emerge from L.A.'s punk scene (no small statement given how good many of their contemporaries were), have already spawned a truly inspired fan-friendly double-disc compilation, Beyond & Back: The X Anthology, The Best: Make the Music Go Bang reasonably goes in the opposite direction. Boasting no unreleased material (though a few cuts are hard to come by these days), this two-disc package instead offers a healthy representation of X's seven studio albums and their 1988 live set (though oddly, the 1995 semi-acoustic disc Unclogged doesn't make the cut). Compiled by bassist, vocalist, and songwriter John Doe, The Best: Make the Music Go Bang just skims the high points from X's catalog, but oh what high points they are -- disc one culls the gems from the band's first four albums (Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and More Fun in the New World), and it's a stunning reminder of why this band was so important, with Billy Zoom's roots-thrash guitar lines, John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake's precise but furious rhythms, and the hot and sour harmonies of Doe and Exene Cervenka sounding as potent today as they did in 1980. Disc two covers the more underappreciated Ain't Love Grand, See How We Are, and Hey Zeus!, as well as the live set Live at the Whisky a Go-Go on the Fabulous Sunset Strip and the sole album from Doe, Cervenka, and Bonebrake's country-leaning side project, the Knitters. While it's not hard to understand why these albums have never been as popular with the group's fans, the selections here make a good case for the continued strength of the band's work, especially on the post-Zoom See How We Are, and if you're willing to listen past the obnoxious over-production of the Ain't Love Grand cuts, you'll discover that the songs are great and Doe and Cervenka are in excellent voice. At over two and a half hours, The Best: Make the Music Go Bang is an intensive introduction to this band whose bulk might scare off casual observers, and loyal fans will already have nearly everything here (beyond some rare single sides). But if you want a thorough tutorial in a truly remarkable band and a solid dose of quality listening, this more than fills the order, and anyone who hasn't heard X is advised to give this a spin as soon (and as loud) as possible.

Review by Mark Deming

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