1. "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene" (Los Angeles, 1980)
No other punk band could write a song about the pathology of sexual predation and have it come out sounding so darkly alluring. Then again, no band had a guitarist like Billy Zoom, whose opening riff draws a through line from "Johnny B. Goode" to Johnny Ramone.
2. "White Girl" (Wild Gift, 1981)
All of Wild Gift is a testament to X's greatness—it's one of the best albums of the '80s—but "White Girl" is the undisputed classic, a heavy and hooky doomed-love song given extra metatextual weight by the fact that John Doe was harmonizing with his then-wife, Exene Cervenka, while singing about another white girl entirely.
3. "Come Back to Me" (Under the Big Black Sun, 1982)
X's third album is haunted by the death of Cervenka's sister Mirielle, and nowhere is her ghost more present than on this wrenching '50s-style slow dance, which, from a musical perspective, proved the band would not be slaves to tempo, volume or any of punk's preordained rules.
4. "The New World" (More Fun in the New World, 1983)
Given some of her recent statements, Cervenka might have voted for Trump, or Gary Johnson, or a lizard she found in her backyard, but that doesn't dilute the power of this rootsy protest anthem. It was written for Reagan, but the fill-in-the-blank chorus ("It was better before they voted for what's-his-name") ensures it evergreen status for many administrations to come.
5. "See How We Are" (See How We Are, 1987)
After a detour into overproduced '80s cheese on 1985's Ain't Love Grand, the band ended its studio career by leaping into full-on heartland rock, with mixed results. But considering that Springsteen is rock 'n' roll's last enduring lodestar, any potential X renaissance will probably start with its last great song, a tender-hearted ballad that manages to out-Bruce the Boss.
SEE IT: X plays Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., with Small Wigs and Skating Polly, on Friday, Dec. 2. 8 pm. $28 advance, $30 day of show. All ages.