Having released three of the most acclaimed rock n roll albums of the early '80's in as many years and jumping the indie ship to a major label for the third, More Fun In The New World would be the second album X made for Elektra records and become their forth album released over all. It would also mark a series of "lasts" for this band. It would be the last "punk" album X would make before and after the disastrous "Ain't Love Grand" album of '85, it would be the last time we would be treated to the stripped down, freight train gone off the tracks sound and style of the band, the last producer Ray Manzerak would collaborate with the band on, and it would be the last time guitarist Billy Zoom would truly shine on record before leaving the band in late '85. Perhaps X's toughest sounding, hardest hitting record to date, it would serve to end a few things about this band that had so quickly given us so much. Change was just around the corner, for better or for worse. Call it X's last great punk rock stand, or simply call it their fourth album. Whatever the case may be, it's as explosive, hard charging, and emotionally raw a record as X ever made. And it serves well to wrap up four consecutively released albums of some of the best punk rock ever committed to record.
The album kicks off with the hard, rootsy, social/political rant "The New World". Billy Zoom's ringing guitar and John Doe's nimble bass work lead the way here as Exene and John sing and harmonize in their by now familiar style about "the bars being closed this morning / They must have been voting for a new President, or somethin'".It's a tale of hard times and hard living in Ronald Reagan's early '80's recession plagued America, and it puts a bit of John Doe's and Exene Cervenka's midwestern folk roots on display. A "punk folk" song if there ever was one, it get's things started on a nice steady footing before the fireworks get started.
On more familiar ground for the next few songs, the band treats us to the anarchy punk inspired "We're Having Much More Fun", which is not so much about lawlessness as it is about having a good time no matter what may come, and features the great line "We'll crawl through you backyard / And whack your yappin' dog!". Which just about sums the tune up. It's a song indeed about having no holds barred, drunken sweaty fun, with just a bit of lyrical dirt thrown into the mix to give it an edge. Coming fast on it's heels is the twangy, guitar driven and energetic "True Love Pt. #1", which finds Exene waxing poetic about the pitfalls and sins of everlasting love while the band rips and roars over the top with the sharp guitar licks of Billy Zoom leading the way. And as if to acknowledge his soon to be ex wife's complaints (the bandleaders were married at this time) John Doe checks in next with the shimmering and pointed "Poor Girl". "Poor little girl / Ran away for good" he sings of his oft drunken lover, leaving the ball in her court. "Take what she gives you / Don't cry when you kiss her" he continues in this matter of fact sober eyed tale of acceptance, and it's telling that Exene sings just three words on the entire track. "Hold me tight!" she pleads, to which John responds "But I couldn't get it right!". And so it goes on this record in the continuing saga of John and Exene, man and woman, husband and wife. Just as it's gone in the past.
The now classic and oft quoted "Make The Music Go Bang" comes storming along next to remind us despite the grown up romantic woes of the songwriters involved, it's still about the music in the end. With the band charging hard straight through this one, John and Exene wail joyfully all over this track like two kids in a punk rock candy store that just can't get enough. "Bang, bang, make the music go bang / Brilliant shining and nasty" they sing in a punk rock style twang. "Let me hear the guitar sound like a traaain". And with Billy Zoom laying down precise and roaring guitar work, it does just that. Up next is X's now well known cover of the Jerry Lee Lewis classic "Breathless" that finds the band flexing their rockabilly muscles as they have so many times before, and the quiet and thoughtful "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts". An interesting social commentary about everything from the then war in Central America to the state of punk in North America, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts is a boldly confessional song, and also a profoundly sad one. "I hear the radio is finally going to play new music / You know, The British Invasion" Doe sings, and then questions "But what about The Minutemen / Flesh Eaters / DOA / Big Boys / And Black Flag / Would the last American band to be played on the radio / Please bring the flag". And while this may sound like a bit of bitter grapes in this age of the information superhighway, for punk bands that were around when it all began, radio was the only way to be heard besides playing small, suffocating gigs. But of course at the time the airwaves were completely closed to what are now recognized as some of the best and most influential bands of all time. How times change. Too little too late, for many.
Moving back into familiar territory to kick off the second half of the record, things get off to a hot start with the blistering, woman on the edge tale "Devil Doll", which features some of the fiercest guitar work the nimble fingered Billy Zoom has ever commited to record, while John Doe and drummer DJ Bonebrake lay down a storming and solid foundation to hold it all together. Followed quickly by the intense and fiery hard luck domestic abuse story "Painting The Town Blue" and it's a one two punch that is hard to deny. The band is as tight as ever here, the lyrics sharp and meaningful, the music wild and intoxicating. "Roses are red / violence is too" John and Exene harmonize in their now familiar and unique vocal style, while the band plays it straight and true. "Everyone knows I'm painting the town blue" they finish, putting a fresh spin on an old saying. It's a play on words that is familiar to anyone who is acquainted with this band, and it works just as well here for the umpteenth time as it did the very first.
Heading toward the close of the album we are treated next to the skilled song craft of John Doe on the living on the edge, mid tempo rocker "Hot House". As radio ready as any ZZ Top song of the day, it does indeed leave one scratching their head as to why this music and much more like it couldn't get the time of day from any AOR program director in the country still playing half baked, decade and a half old hippie tunes. But with only one "new music" station in the nation at the time, the road was long and hard, indeed. Yet another John and Exene drunk and in love song follows with the tuneful, funny and sad "Drunk In My Past", about promises made and promises broken, and this leads into the fired up and angry punk rock highlight "I See Red". Certainly the fastest and most breakneck song on the album, it tears and careens down the road like a semi truck that has lost it's brakes as the two desperate lovers of the song wail and bitch and fight and argue as only a pair of people who have been there and done that can, and the album closes with the decidedly un-X like funk rock of True Love Pt. #2. Who knows, maybe they figured if the punk rock couldn't get things started for radio, maybe some Clash style funk would? It's a spirited and bouncy song with nothing but fun on it's mind and it serves the album and band well in closing one of the strongest chapters in early '80's punk rock history.
Perhaps the sharpest, most focused, blazingly rocking album this band ever released, More Fun In The New World stands alongside X's previous three albums as a bold and poetic statement to what punk rock can be in the creative and artistic hands of skilled songwriters and capable players, and also as a sad end of sorts to a band that had given it's all to get so little in return. X would step away from their punk rock roots for their next album, come back a strong but different band after that with a new guitarist in tow, and then break up all together before coming back twice more in the '90's. But for one brief moment in rock music history they gave us four of the richest, boldest, and most original albums of songs as has ever been committed to record. And the bands influence is perhaps even more so today then it was then. Brilliant, shining, and nasty indeed.