ALPHABETLAND: the Unexpected New Record by X: A Very Personal Review

Seated inside of an office within a large hospital and next to a stack of industry-related magazines. I looked over at the side table and on top was NEUROLOGY TODAY or something similar. I don’t remember the specific name. “Why the hell is Exene Cervenka of X the Band on the cover of this magazine?” I recoiled.

I’d driven my brother to an appointment, related to #HuntingtonsDisease, which Ken harbored the gene for and developed, and which I for some reason do not have. We were both born with a 50% chance of catching that which our daddy, Edmund III had. I guess I inherited the name, Kenny the disease.

I read the article about Exene having #MultipleSclerosis and how she orients her medication while on tour to optimize her ability to be onstage for a couple of hours. My perspective read that she would spend her whole day struggling and conserving energy for a couple of optimal hours on behalf of the experience of their fans. A true inveterate performer.

I recall seeing X play during the Sprecher Brewery anniversary party at Juneau Park in downtown Milwaukee. I’d never expected for the opportunity to see this band, that started practicing in 1977, let alone in my own city, for FREE, during in a open air festival.

That show took place during a foggy spook of a night and I recall being confused, while driving past in search of a parking spot, in seeing that the band was onstage even though we were 10 minutes early. I now imagine this might have been a result of Exene’s optimal prescribed window (or, who knows, any other random conditions. Not everything is a result of our damned ailments).

At some point, long after I’d finished reading the magazine article in the hospital, and was enjoying replaying their lyrics in my head, my brother emerged from his appointment with the neurologist. My heart was filled with meaning and metaphor while we drove home. Ken’s always been better at taking things for what they are, and me, the silly poet, I’ve always felt the need to ascribe some existential meaning to every, often unimportant, moment.

When I was a kid I admired Michael J. Fox for having the guts to be in front of a camera and continuing to act despite clearly living with Parkinson’s. I recall reading that he had a similar strategy to Exene in regards to performance and medication timing.

Huntington’s Disease was an ever-present specter throughout my childhood. Like a loud-snoring bunk bed sibling that might spend the next 30 years sliding a plastic bag over your head while you slept. By the time I’d started high school, aside from doctor’s appointments, my dad didn’t leave the house. That always rankled me, no matter how I tried to get him out into the world, if only to push him around the block in the wheelchair because the sun was out…my dad just wanted to close the drapes and be done.

X put out a new record today. I discovered this through Buzz’s Garage on WMSE 91.7FM. I’ve listened to it three times so far now. Maybe four times, I don’t remember. No doubt, ALPHABETLAND is an X the Band record. They’ve got it. They still possess the kernel of what they are and what, together, they have been. They’ve lived and evolved as humans and came together to distill that indescribable amalgam of what they are separate and together.

I’ve cried a few times already while listening to ALPHABETLAND. I’m still impressed with their songwriting, their musicianship, their story as a group of people creating music more encompassing than the sum of their parts. Granted, my tears probably have more to do with what their music means to me in my life than theirs. Regardless, it was their songs that elicited the response and these reflections from my soul.

This picture is of the poster Eric Von Munz made for their spook foggy Sprecher Brewery performance above Lake Michigan that I watched while my 6-year-old swayed with me while seated atop my shoulders.

X and their music and what it means to me touches a chord I can’t quite explain. You just have to listen to their music. And maybe it won’t be there for you. At that point I wouldn’t know what else to say. But it sure reaches a place for me.

Here is where you can hear, and own, X the Band’s new record. Enjoy it. I know I am.