Originally released in 1985 The Unheard Music covers the LA band X, who on the reissue’s back cover are credited with changing the face of punk music with their original and vibrant style. The film is more than just a product of its time due to the music and the style of filmmaking.
The background and formation of the band are covered with Billy Zoom and John Doe both speaking about an advertisement for band members that both put in LA’s paper, The Recycler and how they called each other due to the similarity of the wording of their advertisements. Billy Zoom, John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake all speak about their musical experiences before the formation of the band and how they all had musical knowledge. Billy Zoom speaks also speaks reading a review of a Ramones record where the critic trashed it due to their only being three chords, dumb lyrics and short songs that were over too fast. All the other members musical experience Exene Cervena’s lack of music background although her background in poetry helped to provide song lyrics.
The film uses a lot of short clips from fifties TV and utilizes both programs and commercials. There’s a montage which uses shots of news-clippings whilst one of the band’s songs plays over. Sure, now this homemade music video is now commonplace on YouTube but this was made many years before the internet. There’s a clip made from a guy from a huge record corporation talking about signing a band and then the head of Slash records contrasting the two very different points of view using some quick editing. The head of Arista is then spoken to after X have signed with them and the first head of the huge record company talks about regretting missing out on the signing.
A Young DJ called Rodney Bingemheimer who had a show without a playlist on FM station KROQ is contrasted with the more commercial radio stations. A young Jello Biafra also in the studio, shows how this movie is a product of its time as does the covering of the closure of LA’s Whisky A-go-go venue which broke a number of bands from the particular time period and a lot of the graffiti helps when Exene points to it. The first venue X played, The Masque, is also closed and the owner gives the viewer a tour.
Not only is this an excellent piece of counter-culture from the Reagan era but X may well win new fans with this re-release as the collage technique in the film puts it above many other band biopics. The extras are enjoyable and worthwhile with recent interviews with John Doe and Exene Cervena and revealing old footage of interviews with film-makers.
Originally written by yours truly for Cinemania