Review : Germs - (GI)
Blog CriticsWhile there are a number of bands who can lay claim to having issued the first Southern California punk LP, the Germs are definitely not one of them. They can however claim to having released the finest early SoCal punk album, if not the finest with their one and only full-length record, (GI). The album was (and remains) so good, the notoriously cranky music critic Richard Meltzer had this to say about it in his then-contemporary review for the L.A. Times (as quoted in the liner notes), “The album of the year. The most staggering recorded statement so far from the American branch of New Wave. The most remarkable L.A. studio achievement at least since The Doors’ L.A. Woman.”
High praise indeed. Like so many genius works of art, the circumstances surrounding the recording of (GI) were convoluted to say the least. For one thing, there was the decision to bring in Joan Jett to produce. At the time, Jett was in career limbo. Her band The Runaways had dissolved, and she was still a few years away from hitting it big as a solo artist. Both vocalist Darby Crash and guitarist Pat Smear knew Joan from the local scene, and everyone is in agreement that she did an excellent job.
Seattle PiNo matter how good Ms. Jett performed behind the console, it really all comes down to the songs themselves. The original vinyl release contained a total of 16 (!) tunes, and the new Real Gone CD reissue adds the bonus track "Caught In My Eye," which was held back as a potential single. It is a great song. In fact, Pat Smear felt it was the band's strongest of all, hence the idea of keeping it "in the can" for the future. Sadly, there was no real future for the band after Darby Crash's accidental overdose in 1980.
While popular myth has it that the Germs (who also included Lorna Doom on bass, and Don Bolles in the drum chair) were inspired amateurs, who somehow got it together to record a classic, the fact is that the foursome took their music very seriously. As Bolles mentions in the liner notes, "We practiced at least three days a week for like five or six hours." Another surprising revelation is the variety of musical influences each member brought to the table. Bolles was a big fan of "hippie art-noise" (as Smear called it), which included groups such as Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. Pat Smear himself was into Yes and Queen, to name just a few examples....full text
All MusicA blast of self-lacerating L.A. punk in its original glory, (GI) is simply classic; a commanding, rampaging sneer at everyone and everything infused with a particular, disturbed vision. Said vision belongs to Darby Crash, whose proclivities for charismatic manipulation were already well established before he fully spelled them out in lyrics like "Lexicon Devil," here featuring in a re-recording, and "Richie Dagger's Crime." His David Bowie worship was also paramount -- "Land of Treason," "Communist Eyes," and "Strange Notes" are just three numbers featuring his transformation of the apocalyptic aesthetics of albums like Diamond Dogs and Station to Station toward more brutal ends. Practically speaking, his snarling star quality comes through more than his words, but it's more than enough on that front. Pat Smear has an equal claim to being the album's star, though, and for good reason -- not only did he co-write everything, his clipped, catchy monster riffing was as pure punk in the late-'70s sense as anything, wasting no time on anything extraneous. Lorna Doom and Don Bolles keep up the side as a kickass rhythm section, Bolles in particular making a good mark in the first of his many drumming stints over the moons. Joan Jett's production got knocked at the time for perceived thinness, but she and engineer Pat Burnette actually did a great job at recording the band with crisp, strong results. ...full text
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