Punk rocker Exene Cervenka releases country-folk, while still hoping to again lead her X bandmates

Exene Cervenka
with Dexter Romweber Duo and Jerry Redd & the Snowmen
9 p.m. Monday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western
Exene Cervenka is back. Back from Missouri. Back with "Somewhere Gone," her first solo album in a dozen years. Of course, the fact is, Cervenka's never really been absent.
Since California punk pioneers X's last studio album in 1993, she's released two solo discs and four albums with her bands Auntie Christ, The Knitters and the Original Sinners. Even a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis hasn't slowed her down.

"All my records are solo records," Cervenka said. "The Original Sinners or Auntie Christ are solo records, too. I just wanted this to be about the lyrics, more than about the band. I loved what people played on this record, but it's not a band record. It's a little different in that it's more about my lyrics than about what they play."

Released last October, "Somewhere Gone" is a quieter album that pursues a lilting country-folk vibe highlighted by Cervenka's dreamy vocals and preoccupation with love.
As always, her lyrics are ear-catching. "Exotic free-fall into a glass of wine / Precarious pit stop in the land of Nod" opens "Insane Thing," a two-minute ode to love turning worlds upside down. On the rockabilly rave, "Walk Me Across the Night," Cervenka describes herself as "out on a limb, storm-tossed and lost," longing for another's hand, while the pretty, cello-driven "Honest Mistake," turns that tired phrase into a metaphor for attempting the change someone's possibly immutable nature.

Time has done little to transform her feelings about love.

"Love doesn't change, so why would my opinions of it change," she said. "Am I better at it? No. Do I understand it more? Maybe. Am I still in love with being in love? Yes, I'm always in love, and I'll always write love songs."

Lately, she's rediscovered her love for Los Angeles, where she originally moved 34 years ago, after leaving Florida at age 20. Cervenka relocated to Missouri in 2005 because she was sick of the overstimulating miasma of L.A. and had longed dreamed of living in the middle of nowhere.

But after four years of isolation, she was ready to move back.

"I wanted to be where I could think, and I did that. Now I'm back where I want to be," she said.

Also a factor in Cervenka's return was the MS diagnosis, which encouraged her to seek out the friends and family of her adopted home, and an effort to start really taking care of herself. The whole experience was a life-altering one that re-energized her faith in people.

"It changed me profoundly and in ways I'll never be able to go back to who I was before," she said. "All these people I don't know came forward to help me, with advice or experiences or gifts. Or just coming up to me and saying, 'I hope you're feeling OK.' It was profoundly life-altering to see that in people and also to see my friends support me so much. It also makes you think more about living in the moment, and that's really positive."

That carpe diem sentiment may be behind Cervenka's desire to reunite X for another album. Although the seminal punk act continues to tour, she sees no reason why it shouldn't be recording, too. X's musicians took that first step this winter when they convened to record amped-up versions of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and "Jingle Bells," both released through iTunes. Cervenka hopes the project is a precursor to more.

"I want to make an X record. I want to make a punk-rock record," she said. "It's ridiculous. Here I am with the best surviving punk band in the world, and not making a record " that's crazy. So that's what I'm going to focus on trying to do that this year. I'm trying to keep my solo stuff going as well, and then do shows with (X guitarist John Doe)."

Cervenka confirmed she's talked with Doe, her ex-husband, about recording an album together as well.

"We're still talking about it," she said. "I've got a bunch of songs, though, so if he doesn't come through for me, I'll go forward with that, but maybe that will shame him into to doing it."

Cervenka hopes to return to the studio after her current tour. Meanwhile, she's excited to be on the road with guitarist Dexter Romweber, who appears on "Somewhere Gone." Cervenka appears on Romweber's latest release as well, last week's "Ruins of Berlin."

"I've known Dexter for a few years, and he's just fantastic. He's a gift to our culture, so I definitely wanted him on my record," she said. "I'm really excited that they're going to be touring with us. It's going to be fun." "Chris Parker

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