Wild Gift is the second album from the Los Angeles based punk rock outfit X. Coming close on the heels of there critically acclaimed debut album Los Angeles which was released just over a year earlier, this much anticipated follow up promised to be a good indicator of whether the band was indeed deserving of all those "Best Band/Album" of 1980 mentions it had garnered just several months earlier, or just another band passing through the Rock n Roll Mill that had chewed up so many young and talented bands before them, and then spit them out as something washed down and compromised.
With Wild Gift X answered all doubters and believers at once with what can only be described as an out of the park homerun. Harder, edgier, and more mature then the album which came before it, and with improved songwriting as well, Wild Gift is a slice of lowdown living and even lower down good times, all wrapped up in a punk rock romance X was continuing with there city, there music, and in the case of co-songwriters and lead singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka , with each other.
The album gets off to a bouncy start with The Once Over Twice, an almost musically poppy tale of heartache, heartbreak, and wanting a change but getting "some more scotch instead". It's this song, but even more so the next, that set's the musical, lyrical, and spiritual tone for the entire album. We're Desperate, the albums second track, is nothing short of a punk rock masterpiece and has the sound of someone trying to stand up and fall down all at the same time. Shambling, rambling, but ever so precise, this song completely sets up what is yet to come. A song about "playing too hard when you ought to go to sleep" and "needing a new address every other week," We're Desperate threatens to breakdown musically throughout, yet catches it's breath in it's choruses in which John and Exene shout and scream with tired defiance "We're desperate-Get used to it!" And the band plays it straight and true. And so resolve is found to go on. Whether they can pay the rent or not.
Musically speaking, the sound is harder and the performances tighter then what are found on it's predecessor. Many of the songs were written some years earlier along with the ones recorded for Los Angeles, but simply wouldn't fit on that album and were held back for the next. So in the studio the band had the advantage of knowing many of the songs very well for having played them night after night for some time previous. And it shows. The music and performances have the sound of a band in full stride and with a clear vision. Without Ray Manzarek's organ intruding on affairs as it had done on Los Angeles (although he remained on as producer for this album, as well as the next two) the band was left to lay down the music with guitar, bass, and drums alone. Billy Zooms rockabilly style guitar licks and DJ Bonebrake's swinging drumming style are the perfect compliment for Doe and Cervenkas wild, intertwined vocal harmonys and exchanges. And on songs such as Beyond and Back, In This House That I Call Home, White Girl, Adult Books, and Universal Corner, the chemistry of the players comes shining through. Rockabilly, four bar blues styles, pop punk, and even a bit of latin rythmn are all explored here, as well as straight ahead punk rock. But it always sounds true and always sounds like a tight unified band playing toward a common purpose. Most of all it sounds like X maturing into a grand full scale Rock n Roll band. And that's a very good sound indeed.
Exploring more personal themes then found on Los Angeles and stretching out a bit musically without losing there soul, Wild Gift is the sound of a band having a good time despite the heartache of life and love, and digging into the trenches when things get tough. Poetic, punk, traditional, romantic, and rocking all at the same time, this album avoids the sophmore slump experienced by many young bands and delivers the goods in spades. A well deserved number 334 on Rolling Stones top 500 albums of all time, Wild Gift from X still stands nearly twenty five years later as a testament to what great Rock n Roll can be. If you can just manage to sing through your broken heart.