Exene Cervenka 

Exene Cervenka

Punk goddess Exene Cervenka will visit Tucson on Friday in a not-to-be missed incarnation reminiscent of the band that made the whole world fall in love with her in the '80s, the legendary X. While her new band, Original Sinners, has no counterpart to John Doe or Dave Alvin, it's worth remembering that we didn't know who they were, either, when X emerged as the West Coast's answer to Television and Blondie. We responded to their energy, smarts and wit, all of which are abundant in the Original Sinners' three-guitar line-up.

The music on the Original Sinners' debut is the kind of high-speed punk best played deafening, leavened sparsely by punk ballads tinged with the surf and country influences that distinguished X from their East coast and British counterparts. Only two short phrases--tucked like nougat within the punk country "Too Many Lies"--hint at earlier X forays into acoustic instrumentation, or Cervenka's recent, relatively grown-up folk-rock releases.

The Original Sinners apply their country references and surf licks sparingly, though, in this overall roaring collection. The highlight is actually the searingly serious "Aluminum Flavored Honey." Cervenka's lyric limns the denouement in a co-dependent relationship, underscoring the mix of emotions with her own wrenching guitar solo. On the light side is the utterly nonsensical bassline quoting "Shortnin' Bread" in "Who's Laughin' Now?," perhaps the ultimate "I showed him!" break-up song. The opening track is an instant singalong, "Birds And Bees," with stop-action guitar hooks by Jason Edge and Sam Soto.

Throughout, the undulant hammering of a wicked rhythm section keeps the pressure on. Mat Young plays with superhuman dexterity in a mix that makes his drums sound like they're in the bottom of a steel canyon. Bassist Kim Chi manages to keep double time and be clever, too. She also sings, providing fans a rare chance to hear two female vocals explore Cervenka's hallmark dissonance and near-miss harmony aesthetic. Sinners? Probably no more than you and me. But original? No question.


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