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X - Aspirations / Live At The Civic '79 (1980/2004)





[PL]

Chciałbym przypomnieć zapomniany zespół X z Australii. Moim zdaniem jedna z najciekawszych, wczesnych grup punkowych chyba niesłusznie pomijana kosztem innej punkowej grupy o tej samej nazwie ze Stanów, a chyba o niebo lepsza. W ogóle to, co się działo i pewnie dzieje na antypodach jest bardzo ciekawe, bo muzyka rozwija się tam niejako swoim własnym torem w oderwaniu od całego zalewu komercji. Posłuchajcie, bo warto...

[EN]

X is an Australian punk rock band, formed in Sydney in 1977 and led by the late Ian Rilen. The band has split and reformed several times.

Although X has had several members, its sound has been defined by two distinctive elements: Rilen's basslines and Steve Lucas's guitar. Drummer Cathy Green has also been a frequent member of the band since 1984.

Rilen was also a founding member of bluesy hard rockers Rose Tattoo. During X's first hiatus (1980–83), he formed the post punk outfit Sardine v, with his then wife, Stephanie Rilen. As of 2004, Rilen had settled on a fairly stable line up of his current project, Ian Rilen & the Love Addicts, who included Cathy Green on bass. The band have also issued a CD, "Passion Boots & Bruises."

Steve Cafiero - drums
Ian Rilen - bass
Stephen Lucas - vocals, guitar


The story goes that X-Aspirations, one of the most important and underrated albums of the punk era in Australia, was recorded in a mere five hours. The scoop, published almost 30 years later on the eve of its reissue, was that it actually took just four. "It was a Saturday afternoon at Trafalgar Studio in Sydney," said Debbie Nankervis, who was married to producer Lobby Loyde at the time, in a recent interview with i94bar.com. "The band belted out 13 fantastic songs, one after another." Then they all went out to Manly to see Rose Tattoo and fuck themselves up on weed and beer.

In the exhaustive liner notes of this release, which include the few reviews written about X during their heyday, singer Steve Lucas reflects on why the band never shook off the tag of perpetual outsiders. "We never lost that sense of walking in off the street," he says. "If ever our heads did get up in the clouds, our feet were still firmly nailed to the gutter." It's that sense of the street that still resonates in the songs of X-Aspirations today – even after all the stories of drugs and violence have been worn out and three of the four original members have passed on (as has Loyde).

Originally released in 1980, X-Aspirations is a mix of punk and hard rock with lyrics about inner-city deadbeats. One song is set in "the hospital beneath the Cross" (St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst, next to King's Cross). In another, the protagonist "stayed up last night 'cuz I couldn't sleep/ There was traffic outside goin' beep beep beep." If the words sound simple, well, that's sort of the point. Their minimalism becomes poetic. One of the best tracks, 'Police', relies on the repetition of the words "police" and "bullies", over and over, until you can't tell which one the band are singing about.

"Musically, 'X-Aspirations' is what the phrase 'rough as guts' was coined for. Lucas' hoarse vocals and thick Australian accent are about as subtle as a postcard from Mt Druitt."

Politically, as well, the band were on the outer. On 'Revolution', Lucas sings about being stuck between the cops and the activists in a place where live music has been a story of struggle against authority for at least three decades (if you think cops raiding gigs and venues closing down is anything new, the same year this album was released, 200 officers with Perspex shields turned up to a Midnight Oil concert at the Stage Door Tavern on Castlereagh Street where a riot had been planned to protest the shutting-down of the famous CBD venue)



"Stick it up ya revolution," Lucas sneers at the activists, just one track after giving the finger to the police. "You sound just like a pol-a-TICIAN." It is an act of pure insolence – individual and self-defeating at the same time. "Rock 'n' roll may be no solution/ But it's what I wanna hear," Lucas sings in the chorus, and then repeats, childishly, until the end: "Na na na na rock 'n' roll!" 'I Don't Wanna Go Out' is similar. On that track, Lucas lists the things everyone else is doing on a Saturday night that he refuses to. An early draft of the lyrics also had a reference to staying in "for a taste".

Musically, X-Aspirations is what the phrase "rough as guts" was coined for. Lucas' hoarse vocals and thick Australian accent are about as subtle as a postcard from Mt Druitt, while Ian Rilen's bass is a slow and steady roll of punches to the gut and Steve Cafiero provides a perfunctory backing on drums. Its brilliance lies in simplicity and the melodies are without fault. The first five times I tried to review it, I gave up for drinking beer and singing along instead. This reissue also includes two versions of the superb 'Half Way 'Round The World' and the band's cover of John Lennon's 'Mother'.



After X-Aspirations, the first incarnation of the band fell apart, with Rilen moving his focus to Sardine V. They returned in a different form a few years later, with Lucas and Rilen teaming up with drummer Cathy Green to record the art-punk classic At Home With You (also reissued by Aztec). During the last 10 years, the music establishment has been catching up with the seedier side of things. The Saints, Radio Birdman, Lobby Loyde and Rose Tattoo (who Rilen played with prior to X) have all been recognised in the ARIA Hall of Fame. It's about time X were given their due credit as well. X-Aspirations is a masterpiece of dropout rock, as important to the history of Sydney as (I'm) Stranded is to Brisbane.(Andrew Ramadge, messandnoise.com)

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