X

We're Desperate

Composed by Exene Cervenka / John Doe

Song Review by

In the liner notes to the Beyond and Back: The X Anthology, X vocalist Exene Cervenka summed up the song "We're Desperate" with three words: "Too many apartments." First recorded in 1978 for the band's first independent single (and later re-recorded for their second album, Wild Gift), "We're Desperate" is an alternately harrowing and hilarious story about life along the squalid margins of Los Angeles. A self-styled hipster finds herself living in a run-down flat that's filthy and cramped and where nothing seems to work; left to her own devices, she sums up her life by saying, "We're desperate," and then cuts herself down to size with the self-depreciating postscript, "Get used to it." While Cervenka's anxious wail (matched by John Doe's full-bodied vocal support) makes this woman's life (and her crummy home) sound just as awful as the title would suggest, there's a subtle irony and less-subtle hyperbole in the lyrics that suggest as grim as all of this may be, there's something a bit funny about it as well. And while the herky-jerky bark of Billy Zoom's guitar hardly makes the song sound comfortable, the crazed but precise rhythms laid down by D.J. Bonebrake (influenced by Captain Beefheart) push the dichotomy even further -- his beats are so good you want to dance to them, and so fractured that it's all but impossible, which matches the inherent contradictions of a song about bohemian poverty in one of America's wealthiest cities just fine.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Wild Gift 1981
X
Rhino / Slash 2:00
The Decline of Western Civilization 1981
Original Soundtrack
Los Angeles/Wild Gift 1988
X
Slash 2:02
D.I.Y.: We're Desperate: The L.A. Scene (1976-79) 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:03
Faster & Louder: Hardcore Punk, Vol. 2 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:04
Live From the Masque, Vol. 2: We We Can Can Do Do What What 1996
Various Artists
Unity Label Group (ULG)
Beyond & Back: The X Anthology 1997
X
Elektra 2:00
CMJ the Year in Alternative Music 1981 1998
Various Artists
Chronicles / Polygram 2:00
No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion 2003
Various Artists
Rhino 2:01
The Best: Make the Music Go Bang 2004
X
Rhino / Elektra 2:03
Live In Los Angeles 2005
X
Shout! Factory
Punk 101 2008
Various Artists
Rhino 2:02
Black Hole (Jon Savage Presents/California Punk 1977-1980) 2010
Various Artists
Domino / Mixed Repertoire 2:03
Adult Books 2015
X
Munster / Munster Records / Superior Viaduct
Dangerhouse: Complete Singles Collected 1977-1979
Various Artists
Munster 2:02
Original Album Series
X
Rhino / Warner Bros.
No Image
X
Elektra / Rhino 2:00
No Image
X
Porterhouse
blue highlight denotes editor's pick