album list
XL Capris
Xploding Plastix

X  (US)

X, 'Hey Zeus!'

Hey Zeus!  (1993,  46.04)  ***½/½

Someone's Watching
Big Blue House
Clean Like Tomorrow
New Life
Country at War
Arms for Hostages
Into the Light
Lettuce and Vodka
Baby You Lied
Drawn in the Dark

Current availability:

Mellotron (Chamberlin?) used:

Hey Zeus! was both X's comeback album in the early '90s and, it seems, their farewell, though one should never speak too soon, I suppose. Growing out of their early LA punk origins, and passing through an unfortunate pop-metal period in the late '80s, by the time three-quarters of the original band recorded this album, they had moved into an area of melodic grunge, for want of a better phrase. It's actually loads better than that sounds, with strong songwriting across the board, although fans of their early work are likely to be disappointed, I suspect. Lyrically, they're as sharp as ever here, with much barbed commentary on the American Way Of Life; pretty much as you'd expect then, especially given their status as scene elders.

There's a credit for 'keyboards: Patrick Warren and Tony Berg' (producer), so given Warren's known proclivities for using various tape-replay machines, it seems highly likely that he plays the Mellotron (or Chamberlin?) string swells on Lettuce And Vodka. It's quite possible that it crops up elsewhere, too, with a couple of lines that could be tape-replay generated, but could also be generic synth, real voices, guitar, or several other things. As a result, while this is a good album and definitely recommended to anyone into the tuneful end of punk (not that this is actually punk at all), I'd give it a miss on the Mellotron front.

Official site

See: Poor Little Knitter on the Road

XL Capris  (Australia)

XL Capris, 'Where is Hank?'

Where is Hank?  (1981,  40.42)  **½/½

World War 3
Fat Boy in the Swimming Pool
Red Bikini Runaway
Refrigerator Town
Hey Marvo
Police Exhibit
Button B
On the Beach
Shark Horror
Parramatta Road
Hi Rise Heart
Ou est Hank?

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

XL Capris are proof positive that Australia had at least some of the same models of car as the UK in the '70s, the Capri being Ford's sporty number, for those not in the know, the especially zippy XL being particularly beloved of boy-racers far and wide. They were a punk/new wave outfit, with the approach of the former and the sound of the latter, Johanna Pigott's rather tuneless vocals recalling the worst of that era's 'anyone can do it' ethos. No, they can't.

Their debut, 1981's Where is Hank?, has a kind of simplistic-yet-not-very-gutsy bass-and-reverb-heavy sound, like, say, Joy Division without the good bits, if you can imagine them as Sydney-dwelling beer monsters. Actually, if you've seen the excellent Ian Curtis biopic Control, you probably can. Frankly, little of the material stands out, but then, at least for me, their whole approach grates, so it's far from easy to objectively assess their music. Suffice to say, its best moment (I use the term loosely) comes in the shape of their partial cover of The Isley Brothers' Shout, as performed in the then-quite recent Animal House flick.

Producer Todd Hunter (of Dragon) guests on Mellotron on closer Ou Est Hank?, with brief sax and (non-church) organ parts, unusually, although it's hardly enough to make you need to track this down. XL Capris made one more album, Weeds, later the same year, disappearing into obscurity soon after, although John Peel apparently loved their first single.

XTC  (UK)  see:


Xploding Plastix  (Norway)

Xploding Plastix, 'Treated Timber Resists Rot'

Treated Timber Resists Rot  (2008,  62.04)  ***½/T½

Kissed By a Kisser

The Rigamarole Shell Out
A Rogue Friend is a Wild Beast
The Cost of Resistance
Joyous Insolence
The Full Graft
Bulldozer Butterfly
Austere Faultlines
Band of Miscreants
Arts of Exit
I Want My Violence Back

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Xploding Plastix are a Norwegian duo who combine various eras and styles of electronica to make a surprisingly harmonious whole, at least on their third full album, 2008's Treated Timber Resists Rot. I'm not saying it's for everyone, nor am I saying it's all good, but it's about as innovative as you can be in this field without descending into noise, and certainly didn't offend me, even at an hour long. Instrumentally speaking, there's some particularly cool (what sounds like) analogue polysynth work on The Rigamarole Shell Out, with several other tracks featuring something similar, although it could all be laptop stuff for all I know.

Norway's top vintage keys man, Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, White Willow) plays Mellotron, with strings on Kissed By A Kisser, less of the same on Errata and a more upfront part on Austere Faultlines. It may well be elsewhere on the album (closer I Want My Violence Back's a possibility), but it's rather hard to tell with various synths firing off every few seconds. So; not prog, probably not even something prog fans might like, but an interesting record of its type with a little Mellotronic input. Incidentally, Frøislie also plays Mellotron on the band's side-project, The Electones.

Official site

See: The Electones

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