A dog, its last breaths drowning in the heat of the summer, experiencing death at the hands of Las Vegas traffic. A good samaritan, stopped in the middle of traffic, nurturing the dog's last living hours, despite the heat and her own possible death at the hands of terrible drivers. Myself- I'm a passerby -sympathetic, but not enough to stop and help. Here I am, hours later, still thinking about it.
Thanks to the SST Blasting Concept page I was just introduced to the Modivation website, an online portfolio of SST associate Modi Frank's film-making achievements. In addition to the interesting/funny Rollins-related material on the site, there are plenty of videos and short films related to the X/Blasters L.A. roots rock camp. Of course, the most intriguing of all of these would be Bad Day, a western short-film Ms. Frank co-wrote with Exene Cervenka, who also acted as the film's cinematographer. The cast includes John Doe, Chris D, Dave Alvin, and Kevin Costner. I have yet to watch the damn thing, but considering my intrigue with L.A.'s 80's country/roots rock scene, it's on my summer to-do list.
That said, my real interest lies in another video on her site - Dave Alvin's version of "4th of July". Of course, most people are familiar with X's version of this song. My own deep familiarity with X leaves me more stoked on the demo version of this song, which is a little more rootsy and less over-produced, as featured on their anthology. What do I mean by that?Well, thanks to the parlance of 1980s recording techniques, some of X's most underrated, and poignant post-1983 material suffers from a sound that is the exact antithesis of the vibe they're trying to convey. That is, the downtrodden working-class Southern Californian vibe that is vividly expressed in their lyrics, and usually so under-represented within country music, is unfortunately offset by the "big" production values that ruin so many albums recorded in the 80's- a lot of this has to do with reverb, reverb, REVERB! Thus, the whole "See How We Are" album seems more like a remnant of major label misjudgement than a proper roots/country music statement on the bleakness of Reaganomics. Regardless, as with most of the "See How We Are", I understood what they were trying to do and was still a fan of it.
After clicking around and watching different videos on the Modivation site, I was ecstatic to find a more stripped-down version of "4th of July" by Dave Alvin, the man who penned it originally. Of course, considering his close association with X, I wasn't surprised that this version existed, however I was very surprised at how different his version sounded- more roots/country-rock oriented than either of the familiar X versions. Despite his major label affiliations, I think his lesser successes beheld him to a less-overproduced standard, hence his superior version. On top of that, the video Ms. Frank made captures exactly what I'd always imagined the lyrics would correspond to- your typical working-class So Cal/Southwestern apartment complex. Considering how little this archetype is represented within country music, I fucking love this video. I hope you do, too.