Soul Jazz Records whips out another Punk 45 series, this time shining its laser focus on Los Angeles from 1977 to 1981 with a collection of bands that leaned hard on the definite article, namely the Weirdos, the Urinals, the Germs and the Bags. Some bands represented here are ones you’ve probably heard of, but never actually heard while others had illustrious careers following their time in the underground. L.A. had its distinct sound (a little “heavier”, a little less bent on the artistic and very often much darker than what groups in New York were up to), and you’re reminded of that here 45 seconds to three minutes at a time.
Whereas New York bands tended to get gobbled up by major labels (or their subsidiaries), the Los Angeles outfits relied on upstart imprints of their own. Dangerhouse, Bomp!, What? and others set the tone by setting this young fresh fellows (and ladies) out into the world. These were bands that came from the Hollywood club The Masque (c.77-79) and then, later, ones that crawled from the beaches and suburbs and toward underground infamy. Mix all that punk angst and cheek together with a dash of surfing or skateboarding ideologies and you had a particularly caustic brew that is as legendary as the songs these bands sang.
The 22-song compilation opens with the Middle Class’ “Out of Vogue”, a blistering blip that sets the stage for X’s sublime “We’re Desperate”. X was one of the bands from this batch whose star would rise the highest, landing a big record deal and becoming friendly with former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. If Manzarek didn’t exactly believe that the punks were the second coming of his band or that they were downtrodden existentialists who took a page from the tattered notebooks of his pal Mr. Mojo Rising, then he certainly felt comfortable blurting that in interviews in the coming years.
And there was a bit of that old L.A. spirit at work here: The Germs (represented here with “Forming”) and the Bags both had a special kind of power and mystique if not always the hammer of the gods. That said, outfits such as Circle Jerks, the Dils and the Urinals might not have made nice with the former UCLA film students who sang “Moonlight Drive” and “Soul Kitchen”.
As far away from that era as some of these groups could be others predicted the sleaze of the Sunset Strip that would rise and fall a decade later. Axl Rose and his crew were certainly aware of Circle Jerks and the Germs while T.S.O.L. would actually inch a little bit closer to L.A. metal of the era come 1987. That said, the material presented on this single disc sounds very much of its time and its place and you can feel the smog baking your lungs as you chug down “ABCD” by the Randoms or Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains”. Heck, even Iggy and the Stooges turn up with “I Got a Right”.
Not everything will be to everyone’s liking (Simpletones) but others will fully make up for that (the Weirdos).
A lovely 64-page booklet accompanies the release with exclusive photographs and interviews and features on the bands and labels whether the Posh Boy imprint or the aforementioned Urinals.