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The Arts/Cultural Desk; Section E
MUSIC IN REVIEW: POP
Sweet Love Odes And West Coast Punk
By ANN POWERS
The New York Times
Page 4, Column 5
c. 2000 New York Times Company
John Doe has always been one of punk’s movie stars, with disorderly good looks and a talent that helped define the style. In the great Los Angeles band X, he and his former partner, Exene Cervenkova, formulated a romantic, roots-conscious West Coast punk in songs that nodded to the Beats and to the fallen dreamers on Hollywood Boulevard.
Now Mr. Doe has become a mainstream celebrity, cable television style, with a regular part as a groovy dad on the WB network series ” Roswell .” But music remains his main expression, and at a Wednesday solo show he demonstrated how time has refined his approach.
The songs that began his set were sweet love odes that revealed Mr. Doe’s beginnings as a lyrical poet. He sang them in a high register, pulling back his resonant baritone and sounding more like an adult-contemporary crooner than the man who had once growled songs about pornography and car wrecks.
With an amiable laugh, Mr. Doe acknowledged that this might not have been what the crowd came for. ”Fresh is good, stale is bad, but if you don’t know any of the songs you get mad,” he said. He offered up ”Poor Little Girl,” an X song with the requisite cast of edgy night crawlers.
After that Mr. Doe selected tougher numbers from his newer song bag. They showed evidence of the driving rock rhythms they have when he plays with his band, the John Doe Thing. One song mused on watching friends die; another addressed an alcoholic pal. ”I never drink like you, but I held back your hair like a girlfriend would do,” he murmured.
The sweetness Mr. Doe has tapped sheds perspective on his gritty view of life. In X, he may have been a definitive punk, but he also wanted to be a great country singer. As his midlife proceeds, he is headed firmly in that direction.
– ANN POWERS