I called Andrew in the afternoon and we made plans to meet in Echo. I still had a couple hours to kill and my roommates decided the best way was lunch in Chinatown. Full of salt and rice, we decided to walk back to the loft. It’s not a long walk, but carrying that many pounds of sauce in your stomach under beating of the sun gets to you. When I was lucky enough to get a call from Nick, I quickly took a left and met him in Little Tokyo.
Nick was buying a knife and I studied his choice. Watching a craftsman select his tools generates a certain fascination. The shopkeep eagerly spoke with Nick. Respectfully bringing Nick’s attention to superior products he may not have known. Speaking, in depth, about each blade he carried. Knowing nothing of knives, I sat and listened.
Nick and I wanted to get a little shitty and he decided to relieve himself of his car. We made plans to meet in Echo after he dropped it off and I called Andrew to move our rendezvous a couple of miles down the road.
While I was on the way, Nick was overcome by responsibility and I wondered why people even have dogs. I got out of the car and haunted Sunset, interrupting a date by grabbing a beer and reading my phone. “It’s like, I don’t know. How are you even supposed to do this?” said a voice next to me, tugging at the collar of her sweater. I don’t think anyone has the answer to that, but her date certainly didn’t and responded that it was “about energy and stuff.”
I finished my beer and headed across the street to Origami. Walking into Origami is like walking into Pitchfork. I was entertained for about five minutes before I wanted to say, “yeah, and what about the music on it?” Still, they have some good records and I was excited to take a look as soon as I could get the lattes out of my way. Holding a copy of Damaged, I realized I was the woman tugging at her collar. Swiping through every record in the store I became more attached to finding one than finding the right one. I was afraid I would take it home and in a couple days ask it “what are we?” and it would respond with its title.
Leaving the store, I felt my ass begin to vibrate. Hoping it was my phone, I reached for it and found Andrew on the other end. He was in Silver Lake. I made my way over, and met him at Vacation twenty minutes later. He was nose deep in the cardboard boxes they use as record bins and holding a stack that made me blush. I forcibly put his Cat Stevens selections back and replaced them with Knock Me Out! – The Venture’s take on a garage rock album. He was captivated by an early pressing of White Light/ White Heat and we were discussing the option. Truthfully, it’s my least favorite VU record. I think the songs are better live, and overall that the band was better off after John Cale left. Standing there, I found Wild Gift and excitedly palmed it.
Andrew was stilling looking around for Christmas records when I approached the counter to lessen myself of $15. “Isn’t this record, like, a dud?” asked the longhair standing behind the counter. “You like X?” I asked politely, because of course you do – you’re at a record store in Los Angeles. “Never really heard them before”, he responded. Curious, I asked him what made him think it was a dud as he flipped the Howard Johnson record he was spinning. He didn’t make much of an effort to answer and handed me my change after walking back to the register. “Well, you’ve got some more of their albums” I pointed out before offering “any of the first four are great.” His face contorted like a lemon just told him his aunt died. “I can’t tell if you’re serious or if you’re just making fun of me” said the poor bastard, and the feeling was mutual.
Waiting for Andrew (which might as well be the name of my memoirs) I was gripped by a thought. There’s a fetishism to a band’s first record. Especially if they become considered pioneers, like X. There’s a tendency to view changes in production value, aesthetic, structure, and style as degenerative. Or, oppositely, that a lack of change is a lack of growth. That there is a baseline from which to draw these critiques, the début record.
Mostly you’ll read that if you want to know X, listen to their début Los Angeles. It’s not my favorite. My favorite is Wild Gift, their second effort tightens and slightly polishes a careening synthesis of nascent Punk and jaded traditional Rock ‘N’ Roll. Los Angeles is fresh, Wild Gift is focused. The reason X would soon move to a major label, Elektra, and give us another classic album, Under the Big Black Sun. Wild Gift was named album of the year by Rolling Stone, as well as both the Los Angeles and New York Times. It is by no means a dud.
Everyone with an internet connection considers themselves an expert in ancient American underground rock. The formulas are as numerous as they are insipid. The result is usually the same: criticisms of records you’ve never actually heard. Looking for information that can be consumed over knowledge gained by experience. Telling the kid with his wallet in his hand the record he’s buying isn’t any good when you’ve never listened to it. I wish I had just been buying a knife.