2020 is a tough year. Tough, tough, tough, tough, tough. In the middle of a year that rivals the insanity of 1918, 1941, and 1968, something unexpectedly wonderful happened. In April of this year, while people were dying in New York at the rate of 1,000 a day, four people in California – John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake – released their first album together since 1985.
Listening to Alphabetland is like hearing a new Ramones album or getting a phone call from a dear old friend you haven’t heard from in ages. It is a lot to expect of any group of people, to live up to the accomplishments of their youth, that part of life when you have all the time in the world. But X do it.
As Exene puts it on the albums closing track, All the Time in the World:
We are dust it is true and unto dust we shall return me and you but it was fun while it lasted All the time in the world turns out not to be that much
Everything about Alphabetland reaffirms the genius of the band’s four members. It is fun, and fast, and smart, and it artfully walks the tightrope between anguished and joyful. Even the way the album got it’s name is great:
Originally the song was called ‘Mercury,’ but Billy kept referring to it as ‘Alphabetland,’ like it was some 1950s board game he remembered, even though the lyrics never use the word ‘Alphabetland’ – only ‘alphabet wrecked’ and ‘alphabet mine.’ A relationship gets wrecked and words are meaningless. We finally relented, because it’s like, okay, Billy’s going to call it Alphabetland regardless of what the title is.John Doe
Do yourself a favor and take a break from whatever you are doing and spend the next two minutes and fifty eight seconds of this tough, tough, tough, tough, tough year listening to some genius in our midst.
Tearing up the sidewalks pouring wet cement Erasing your initials alphabet wrecked I watched you pour white gasoline to cover up your scent Burned your name to cinders alphabet wrecked blue you wear like martyr blue atom bomb bruises, cold war flu A blind streak of light tearing through the pines electric non-fiction alphabet mine Molten river riding high like a fever in the shine No more words for you alphabet mine blue you wear like martyr blue atom bomb bruises, cold war flu OH MERCURY, YOU SHOULD SKATE ON SILVER BLADES, FIGURE EIGHTS ON A FROZEN LAKE Tearing up the sidewalk pouring wet cement erasing your initials alphabet wrecked Molten river riding high fever in the shine No more words for you alphabet mine, alphabet mine, alphabet mine