Music News

The revival of this iconic punk band gives us a bad case of Germaphobia

Seriously, just punch me in the fucking head.

Severe cranial trauma delivered with extreme malice would've been less painful for me than watching What We Do Is Secret. The 2008 film was, or at least marketed itself as, the story of the Germs — the legendary L.A. punk band that screeched to halt in 1980, the same year singer Darby Crash died of a fully intentional overdose at the age of 22.

Most Germs fans, myself included, never got to see Crash. For years, we only knew him as the catchphrase-spouting manimal ("Somebody get me a beee-yuhhh!") from the punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. We loved him because he was drunk, self-destructive and loved to fuck with people. But those who dug deeper realized he was also — no lie — one of the most original and incredible poets that punk rock ever produced, a feat even more impressive considering he wasn't some nerd snob like Patti Smith.

But What We Do Is Secret? Shrill, corny, formulaic: It hit every bad note it could get its hands on. Even worse, it was boring — something the Germs never lived long enough to become. But the true kick in the crotch to many Germs fans came in 2006, when, while filming Secret, actor Shane "Darby Crash" West — who was two years old when the real Crash died and had since become best known for his role as the rockin' doctor Ray Barnett on ER — decided it would be a good idea to join the surviving members of the Germs and start touring. As the Germs.

Shit, they didn't even have the decency to call themselves the Germs of the 21st Century.

I saw the Germs' guitarist Pat Smear play once. It was at the Denver Coliseum in December 1993; he was a touring member of Nirvana. Smear looked ridiculous up there: grinning hugely, wearing a dog collar or something, and hopping up and down like a chimp as Kurt Cobain — at that point not long for this world — mumbled venomous verse through a wall of hair. Yup, that's right: Smear has had the dubious honor of outliving two iconic, suicidal bandmembers. (Note to self: If I want to reach anything resembling a ripe old age, never let Pat Smear join my band.)

Now, if Smear tried to get Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic to recruit an actor to replace Cobain — and then hit the road as Nirvana — an entire planet would be howling for his dick on a spit. And rightfully so. Why, then, is Smear being allowed to get away with it in regard to the Germs? Because the Germs were never as famous as Nirvana? Because Crash wasn't as cuddly as Cobain? Because people are dumb? Hard to say. All I know is this: For true Germs geeks like me, the thought of seeing the sham Shane West lineup hurts even more than a forced viewing, Clockwork Orange-style, of What We Do Is Secret.

Then again, if there's one thing Darby Crash always seemed to get off on, it was pain.