Thursday, June 5, 2008

circle in the sqaure

Germs - MIA: The Anthology
I don't know if the Germs were indeed the most perfect of punks as some would have them. Darby Crash's self-immolation seemed almost scripted, even if he was the one writing the script. This anthology is nice and complete, full of Crash's incendiary growls (a welcome difference from the usual bark of US hardcore) and the music has that head-bobbing bubblegum under the all that dirt and safety pins, but I think the Germs' real contribution to the greater cause of human expression is the cover of their sole album G.I.

This anthology cleverly reduces the cover, removing the band and title leaving just the blue circle in the void, which is a rather clever thing to do. Anthologies usually tend to inflate an artist, but when you have a band named for the smallest possible living thing, and whose icon song is the primitive "Forming" reduction is the only way to go. That blue circle against black, designed by Crash and drummer Don Bolles, is a great little painting on its own: an emblem of punk itself - a sad glowing circle simultaneously keeping out and containing the void. The circle is pushed to the wall, off in a corner, apart but somehow managing to levitate off the surface. This circle glows more in marginality than it would were it front and center.

I met Don Bolles once. When he was in the late 80's rock circus Celebrity Skin and touring around as a support group for the pre-techno version of Psychic TV, someone brought the whole band in for an interview during my afternoon show at KLSU. The singer and guitarist took over the studio, playing Queen's "The Faerie Queen" over and over, setting off the Emergency Broadcast System box and reading our music director's scathing review of their album as the answer t every question, Bolles stepped out into the hall and I followed. I was a big Psychic TV/Throbbing Gristle nut at the time, buying into their William Burroughs shtick that every eager mind should go through at some point. I didn't ask him about The Germs because the band existed in my mind as a running joke - anytime me and a friend were at a bar, we'd whine "somebody get me a fucking beeeerrrr" like Crash did in Decline of Western Civilization. I was more interested in an account of Genesis P-Orridge from the front.

I asked him if the Psychic TV people were as weird as they seemed to be, and he gave me a cautious look, like there was something he saw that he was forbidden to reveal. He did say something along the lines of "They are weirder than they seem. Some of the scariest people I've ever been around, and I was in the The Germs." Right then, the rest of Celebrity Skin knocked over the CD cabinet or something while on the air, and he just shook his head as they were quickly ushered out out of the building before the advisor caught wind.

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