Album review: Various Artists, Songs in the Key of X (1996)


By Steve Newton

In the liner notes to this collection of mostly new tunes “from and inspired by” the cult TV series The X-Files, the show’s executive producer, Chris Carter, takes time out from justifying yet another product marked with the guaranteed money-making X-Files logo to explain his deep-rooted love of rock music.

Seems that when he was a teenager in the ’70s Carter was “goaded by larcenous classmates” into ripping off both a Steppenwolf and a Led Zeppelin album from the local K-Mart. I find that a little freaky in an X-Files kinda way, because the same thing almost happened to me, except I was either too chicken or too honest (maybe both) to pull off the dirty deed at the Woolworth’s of my youth. So a nervier high-school pal of mine grabbed the targeted LPs—by the J. Geils Band and Jethro Tull, if I recall correctly—and casually walked home with them. Today he’s a well-respected high-school principal, and I’m the rock ’n’ roll addict who never pays for CDs.

Mulder! Scully! Something strange has happened here! Bring the flashlights!

X-Files freaks who don’t get enough of the show’s eerie, whistling Mark Snow theme on a weekly basis can own it when they pick up Songs in the Key of X, as well as some intriguing new tunes (by Frank Black, Foo Fighters, and Soul Coughing) and some questionable ones (Danzig doing a bad Black Sabbath impression and Meat Puppets doing a too-perfect R.E.M. one).

Speaking of R.E.M., I’m afraid this disc tries just a little too hard to be artily weird when William S. Burroughs recites the lyrics to that band’s “Star Me Kitten”. Hearing the octogenarian Beat bard growl “Fuck me kitten, you are wild” is a tad too scary for even this horror-loving listener.

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