I feel pretty silly for missing the boat on X_X (pronounced “ex blank ex”), a short-lived Cleveland punk band led by guitarist John Morton of the Electric Eels—an equally warped prepunk combo that injected serious sonic damage into art-rock in the early 70s. But in my defense, X_X existed for a mere six months in 1978 and released just two singles, both for the Clevo underground imprint Drome, which also released some great early material by the Pagans. The four-piece X_X lineup included Anton Fier (Golden Palominos, Feelies) on drums and guitarist Andrew Klimek (Red Dark Sweet) on guitar—and they occasionally employed power tools as instruments.
Earlier this year Finnish label Ektro Records—run by Jussi Lehtisalo of the great art-punk band Circle—and its Full Contact imprint released a definitive 16-track X_X collection called X Sticky Fingers X (filling in the “blank” with a shot at the Rolling Stones classic). The vinyl pressing was only 350 copies—Permanent Records says it ordered 50 and sold them all—and the only way to buy it now is through Ektro’s Web site. You can also listen to the brisk 36-minute album on Spotify, which is regrettably how I had to hear it.
The stuff is gloriously raw and snotty, and its slate gray veneer and antisocial air makes it sound more like New York no wave than most punk of the time. Below you can check out the song that opens the collection, the furiously unhinged, wildly lurching “No Non ¢s,” pronounced “no nonsense” (the band apparently liked to make simple things a little bit harder than they needed to be).
Morton has re-formed the band, prompted by the reissue, and the current version consists of Klimek, bassist Craig Bell (Rocket From the Tombs), and drummer Matt Harris. X_X makes a rare local appearance tomorrow night at the Empty Bottle. Also on the bill are Cleveland veterans Home and Garden, a great band whose members also played in Pere Ubu and Tripod Jimmy; its lineup now includes Tony Maimone, Tom Herman, Robert Wheeler, Scott Krauss, Keith Kornajcik, and Angel Mendoza, and its set will feature music by those related combos. Plastic Crimewave Syndicate opens the show.