‘X: The Unheard Music’ on Amazon Prime

Billy Zoom, Exene Cervenka, D.J. Bonebrake, and John Doe are X in the rock doc 'X: The Unheard Music.'

X: The Unheard Music (1986) is one of the great rock docs of all time.

Shot over a period of five years or so by W.T. Morgan, it is a lively, playfully-directed, scrapbook-style portrait of the seminal L.A. punk band of the eighties, filled with interviews, stirred through with tongue-in-cheek archival clips and highlighted by a wealth of live performance footage shot specifically for the film, including footage of the band in the studio recording “White Girl” for their second album, “Wild Gift.” In the era of early MTV, they were the real deal, and even the proto-videos created by Morgan for the film have a down-and-dirty authenticity and a sense of humor that honors the band’s aesthetic.

John Doe and Exene Cervenka articulate themselves well, Billy Zoom is a smiling charmer and D.J. Bonebrake’s time signature demonstration is a wonder. Witnesses to the band’s importance to the music culture (even though they were unheard on commercial radio of the day) include legendary L.A. deejay Rodney Bingenheimer and former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who became a fan and produced their third album. But it’s not simply a band bio, it’s a survey of the music industry of the day and the struggle for independent music in the corporate mindset, which Morgan puts on display next to their story.

And remember, this is a film best enjoyed by following the directions given in the opening credits: “Play this movie loud.”

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Also on VOD from Amazon Video and available to own on DVD and Blu-ray.
X – The Unheard Music [DVD]
X – The Unheard Music [Blu-ray]

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About Sean Axmaker

Sean Axmaker is a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, The Seattle Weekly, Keyframe, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org). He was a film critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for nine years and a longtime home video columnist for IMDb and MSN Movies, and his work has appeared in Indiewire, Today.com, The Stranger, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, Filmfax, Psychotronic Video, and "The Scarecrow Video Guide." You can find links to all of this and more on his shamelessly self-promoting blog at http://www.seanax.com/

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