X_____X: Local Boys Make Good

X___X's record, "X Sticky Fingers X."

album art and design by John Morton

photo by Betsy Voinovich

X_____X (pronounced “ex blank ex”) returns to its Cleveland birthplace next Saturday, August 23, at the Beachland Tavern. If you’ve heard the stories and know the debate surrounding the question of where punk began, you know that the city of Lakewood, Ohio is in the running for having produced more than its share of musicians who created the form. Lakewood High graduate John Morton is among the first having founded the electric eels in 1972 with fellow LHS classmates Dave E. McManus and Brian McMahon.

X_____X, described by Ektro Records’ Jordan Mamone as being a “tighter, more rocking successor” to the electric eels, is a band formed in 1978 by John Morton which “tore through Cleveland like a Dadaist cyclone” for six months before leaving for New York City.  Initially comprised of Morton on guitar, fellow electric eel Dave E. McManus on vocals, and former Mirrors drummer (and future editor of the Psychotronic Video Guide) Michael Weldon, the lineup shifted to Morton on vocals and guitar, Andrew Klimeyk (also of Death On A Stick/Ugly Beauty/Scarcity Of Tanks) on guitar, CLE Magazine editor Jim Ellis on bass, and Anton “Tony” Fier (later of Pere Ubu/The Feelies/Lounge Lizards/Golden Palominos) on drums. The name was chosen so anything could be put between the two X’s, such as a gig they played as “X Charlie Manson and the Family X.”

This year, a compilation was released on Ektro Records entitled “X Sticky Fingers X,” by “X The Rolling Stones X.” This LP includes the two 7-inches they recorded for Drome Records, whose retail space once was right next to the Phantasy Theater on Detroit, “A/Your Full Of Sh*t,” “No Non ¢s/Approaching The Minimal With Spray Guns”, as well as live material and practice tapes. These contain some electric eels classics, such as “Agitated” and “Dolly Boy” as well as songs that would later appear on other releases by other bands, such as “The Social Whirlpool,” (one of the tracks featuring Dave E.) later recorded by The Styrenes, and “Drapery Hooks (Of My Love)” and “Felt Hammer,” both later appearing on Andrew Klimeyk’s solo 7-inch.

Also appearing on the album is a “cover” of “I’m So F*cked Up,” originally performed by John Morton’s visual-art group Johnny And The Dicks, a band that did not play any music, instead “posing, really cool…like punk (or no wave) musicians in a band” as Morton explains in the liner notes. Standout tracks include “A,” “The Social Whirlpool,” “Don’t Rock The Flowers/Felt Hammers,” and “No Non ¢s.” These and several more songs include great riffs, annoyed vocals, and excellent and infectious art punk stomp. The record is definitely of interest to any electric eels/X_____X fans or any punk/no wave fans in general.

X_____X will be playing 8pm on August 23 at the Beachland Tavern on Waterloo Road. The evening’s lineup will be John Morton (of course), Andrew Klimeyk, Craig Bell (of other notable Cleveland bands Mirrors and Rocket From The Tombs) on bass, and Matthew Harris on drums. Opening for them will be fellow local art rock band, Home & Garden, as well as local singer-songwriter Val Seeley.

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Volume 10, Issue 17, Posted 10:53 AM, 08.19.2014