Rollins Band/X

All hail the venerable punks of late-'70s Los Angeles. Yes, it's been a good 20-something years since Penelope Spheeris's Decline of Western Civilization documentary gave an incontinent nation its first glimpse of the West Coast "hardcore" scene. Now, against all notions of conventional wisdom, the middle-aged denizens of that fertile, violent era are back. Like onetime Nirvana sideman Pat Smear reviving his seminal Germs (sans the fashionably late Darby Crash, biopic in the works), alt-country progenitors X and the late-period Black Flag singer-turned-pumped-up IFC talk show host Henry Rollins are pounding the boards in clubs far and wide.

In 1983 I witnessed X's implosion on stage in Champaign, Illinois, and it still stands as one of the most fascinating onstage car wrecks I've ever witnessed. Amazing what a couple decades'll do -- the millennial X is as congenial a pack o' professionals as you could ask for. However, it's their 1983 album, More Fun in the New World, that is most fascinating circa 2006, primarily thanks to the unfortunately current political relevance of the lyrics to "New World" ("It was better before, before they voted for what's his name / This was supposed to be the new world!") and especially the immortally anxious protest song-redux of "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts," which perfectly encapsulates the impotence of the common man in times of "civil wars and uncivilized wars."

Regardless of where one stands on Rollins as a performer/icon, it's hard to argue with the man's positive effects as cultural arbiter. From his 2.13.61 publishing imprint, to the (now defunct) Infinite Zero reissue label (co-founded with maestro Rick Rubin), to his left-leaning, free-thinking current cable chat show, ol' Hank has consistently striven to use his influence for the common good (read: exposure for underserved but deserving artists and viewpoints) rather than simply lining his own well-muscled coffers. And God love him for it.

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Scott Faingold