Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review #63: The Germs - (GI) (1979)


Year: 1979
Genre: Punk Rock
Slash Records
38 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

As one of the first hardcore bands I got into, the Germs are considered to be one of the originators of that style of punk, along with X, D.O.A., and Black Flag. Finding out about them from the fact that Pat Smear was at one point a guitarist for Nirvana, and learning that this was his main band, I was curious to see what these Germs guys were about. And I liked it. They made great music. Their performances sounded insane (in a good way). But beyond the drunken performances, the peanut-butter smearing, and the supposed ineptness at playing instruments, were well-written, artistic lyrics which provided somewhat of a look into the philosophies of Darby Crash, the band's mysterious and dangerous frontman.

While the more famous songs from the Germs all come from the "Lexicon Devil" single, the great majority of under-appreciated Germs songs can be found on this album (not as under-appreciated as "Sex Boy", though). The music is in a faster, harder, more abrasive direction and is often considered the first hardcore punk LP. It's also the last "official" Germs release that came out during the life of Darby Crash.

1. What We Do is Secret
Shortest song on the album. Amazing lyrics describing the "secret police" employed by the government and those in authority who eavesdrop on citizens. It's short, but the music for it is really cool-sounding and energetic and captivating (like most Germs songs are).

2. Communist Eyes
The Germs were (and probably still are) one of the few bands in the punk rock scene to be critical of communism (it is said that Darby had fascist leanings). The lyrics describe from a hypothetical insider's point-of-view the flaws of communism and why it fails to deliver what it promises. I love the backing vocals during the chorus part. A great up-beat riff in the verses and the choruses. My favorite song on the whole album.

3. Land of Treason
This one's faster than the previous two. Very complex-sounding lyrics. Kind of depressing-sounding riff.

4. Richie Dagger's Crime
An under-appreciated but catchy song (even has a little solo in it). It's a song about a social outcast who lived a bad life, "but he was satisfied".

5. Strange Notes
A fast one. A song about a character named "Billy Druid". I really don't know what he's really singing about too much, but it seems to be either depression or insanity. Somethin' like that.

6. American Leather
I like the chorus for this one. I think the lyrics are supposed to depict street life among American youths or something like that, but I'm not great at interpreting complicated lyrics, so I wouldn't be so sure...

7. Lexicon Devil
This is a lesser-known re-recorded version of the old classic. It's faster, harder, and more brash than the original version, so it's really a matter of taste which you like better. Both are pretty catchy and energy-filled, still.

8. Manimal
Starts with a slow intro. After about twenty seconds, the song speeds up, and Darby opens the first verse with the immortal line, "I Came Into This World, Like a Puzzled Panther..." -- the song mainly seems to draw analogies between human life and animal life, concluding that humans are no more animals themselves. Good song.

9. Our Way
A slow song. I always liked this one. A low-down, trippy riff from the guitar of Pat Smear. The first thing Darby says in the first verse is "Clara would be proud to know us..." -- Clara who?? Dammit, I want some sort of citation for this. Or at least a last name. Hell, even a middle name will do. Still, it's not as long as it should've been. The lyrics are pretty insightful, about society's plight for but slight reluctance to true freedom.

10. We Must Bleed
Another really good one. The riff is simple, but really effective and sinister-sounding. The combination of the words "We Must Bleed" and the chorus riff with the pounding drums... just sounds good. And then the final chorus is Darby continually yelling "I Want Out Now" (something he did achieve about a year later), and after he stops singing, the rest of the band keeps playing for another minute. It's great. End of Side 1.

11. Media Blitz
Another song I really like. "GOT TELEVISION. GOT SUPERVISION." -- the song really takes off from then, and it's a great song about the behavior-control tactics employed by the media and the government (kind of an extension of the theme of "What We Do is Secret"). Lyrically sounds a bit like something the Dead Kennedys would write. My favorite line: "forget the truth and accept your curse". A little sound clippets of radio programs are played inbetween the last two verses.

12. The Other Newest One
Once again, great songwriting from the Germs. The charm of this one really comes from the bass (played by Lorna Doom). Love the chorus. I think it's actually supposed to be a love song, too. Somewhat slower tempo.

13. Let's Pretend
A little faster. It's a good song. I can't think of anything else to say. Good lyrics. Good riff. Good beat. Good bass. Good vocals. It's a good song. Wait, I just said that.

14. Dragon Lady
I like how they threw the brief solo-guitar injection into the chorus of the song. Pretty up-beat sounding. Sounds like in a short section they play a riff that sounds just like the one of the bridge of "No God". Not sure if that was an intended self-reference or not, but it still sounds cool.

15. The Slave
This one's very fast and pretty short (only slightly longer than the first song). I think it's supposed to be about drug-addiction or something. A bizarre noisy rhythm guitar solo is made by speeding up and slowing down a track of a single chord being played on a guitar in one ear.

16. Shut Down (Annihilation Man)
The last song on the album. This is the longest song on the whole album (about 20 seconds short of being a whole 10 minutes long!). It was recorded from a live performance rather than in the studio like the other songs. It's kinda slow but not too slow. Sort of stream-of-consciousness improvised lyrics. Towards the end you can even hear a little bit of piano in the song. Very long and messy. Unfortunately, it all ends there.

So that's "(GI)". By the way, did you know why it's called (GI)? The band used to get banned from a lot of fucking clubs back when they were first starting out, so they would sometimes book themselves gigs as (GI), which stands for "Germs Incognito" (ha ha) so that the club-owners would think they were a different band. After this album, the band didn't really release anything else too notable in Darby's lifetime, but there were a few self-released EPs here and there. Of course, after this album the Germs became even more well-known than before, having an LP to prove that they could do more than just make noise on the stage. However, as a part of Darby Crash's "plan", he committed suicide by heroin overdose on December, 1980. While this would have likely resulted in a large public notice, John Lennon's assassination took place the very day after he died, so his death did not garner as much recognition as he had hoped. Still, the Germs are remembered and adored by fans today. Many people don't believe there will ever be another band like them again. You never know, though...

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