Near the end of "The Unheard Music" (at the Four Star), X bassist John Doe quotes a bluesman as saying that "no man or woman knows what real trouble is in this world." Doe muses: "I always took that to mean ' 'cause it could always get worse.' "
That brooding axiom neatly illustrates X's dark, uncompromising vision, which has earned it both a permanent niche as pop cult idols and a precarious perch as a band of outsiders "locked out of the public eye."
"The Unheard Music" does its best to give us a sense of how lonely it is out there on the pop fringe. An intriguing, if erratic low-budget film that follows the L.A.-based band's career over the past five years, it offers fascinating glimpses of the group's personal mythology, home lives, rehearsal process and eclectic musical background. But despite a host of exciting performance footage and some inventive visual effects, it never really captures the band's howling energy or its eloquent, often disturbing spirit.
X spearheaded a burst of sonic creativity that has forever earned the 1977-1983 L.A. underground a permanent place in the rock history books. The film does a nice job of retracing these footsteps, having local punk pioneer Brendan Mullen conduct a comic tour of the Masque, original home for X and many other local standouts. The film makers also have concocted several impressively edited music-video sequences. For "Motel Room in My Bed," they use cheery '50s-style vacation post cards to emphasize the goofy unreality of life on the road; the film's poignant title song unfolds as a spooky travelogue as a half-wrecked house is uprooted and transported to a new locale in the dead of night.