Germs – (GI)

Punk hit an impasse in ’79. The Pistols didn’t survive Frisco, and by that time The Clash took taxis to-and-from penthouse accommodations. What started in New York’s Bowery as a reaction to elitists’ commercialized music had itself become elitist. So young West Coast punks splintered, rejecting three-chord Pistols and Patti Smith for harsher, disposable, dissonant speed-chords. Dave Marsh was quick to dismiss it, saying, “anyone who takes this stuff seriously would kill themselves!”

Darby Crash, aka Bobby Pyn, had been a Bowie fan, met Joan Jett at a concert and formed the Germs, who’d prove to be the most influential West Coast post-punk/hardcore band. Darby growled lyrics. Thrashed on the floor. Cut himself. This was pre-GG, but somehow his legacy would influence Allin and Sonic Youth and the Reatards.

It makes no sense to postulate what might have been the best punk song ever. “I Got a Right” by Iggy and “White Light/White Heat” by the Velvets come to mind, but without question the Germs’ “Forming” was something unprecedented. Recorded live as Darby audibly busted beer bottles over his head, it’s not on this CD reissue but as rock critic – make that the only rock critic who was ever worth a shit – Richard Meltzer has remarked, “(GI) is the most remarkable LA studio achievement since The Doors’ L.A. Woman,” which probably made Darby wince.

I wouldn’t call (GI) a great record – it’s not Fun House or Pink Flag – but it has that persistent, unrefined, “can’t be articulated” agitation that makes a band sound believable. It’s like hearing “Lexicon Devil” and “Manimal” all over again for the first time. “Richie Dagger’s Crime” lifts the veil of secrecy long enough to actually seem hummable. The record got no airplay. The band was banned from playing live and Darby bled all over rock ‘n’ roll as evidenced by Penelope Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization performance. At a time when most of the country was fascinated by Blancmange or Prefab Sprout, the Germs stomped a mudhole in our ass.

[Real Gone Music]