From Canadian outlaws to cult-status innovators, the word-of-mouth legacy behind XBXRX has given the band enigmatic rock-god status since it formed in 1997. Known primarily for their live show, commonly described as a destructive dance party resulting in damaged equipment and angry promoters, the members of XBXRX have proven themselves to be forbearers in their own niche. Playing noisy-yet-danceable protest music produced by the likes of Steve Albini, Don Zientara, Ian Mackaye and Weasel Walter (who is now the band’s drummer), XBXRX’s recorded output is impossible categorize.
When the band formed in the Alabama Bible belt in the late ’90s, the members were between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. Except for Walter, the members (the number of which often changes) remain unnamed and often don disguises in public. After releasing their first full-length, Gop Ist Minee, in 2000, they toured rigorously and released countless seven-inches before getting burned out and going on hiatus. They began work on Sixth in Sixes last year after relocating to Oakland, California. The band’s first record for emo stalwarts Polyvinyl Records (whose relationship with the band stemmed from a mutual friendship with the Mates of State), Sixth in Sixes stands out from the glut of no-noise records because of its poignancy and simplicity.
Unlike many of their contemporaries (the Chinese Stars, the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, AIDS Wolf), XBXRX succeeds by refusing to indulge. The lyrics are simple but accusative, more along the lines of Minor Threat than the irony-drenched elitism of Arab on Radar. This is particularly noticeable on the cop-hating anthem “Pigs Wear Blue”: “Pigs wear pink and bathe in mud/ Pigs wear blue and bathe in blood.” Walter’s menacing production works well with the vocals, never upstaging them. The record is littered with sonic variation, including the gong that opens “Self Indulgent” and the slowed-down groove that starts “In Memory of Our Lives.”
In a scene dominated by affected hipsters who get by with cheap wit and sexual euphemisms, XBXRX has raised the bar yet again. With neither Hella’s mind-numbing riffs nor the Locust’s chic fashion sense, the members of XBXRX are on a higher wavelength than their irony-loving peers. Like the oft-ridiculed hardcore bands of the late ’80s, XBXRX is actually trying to make a statement.