Germs GI Porterhouse Records

This album by Germs laid a cornerstone for hardcore punk

The band’s 1979 debut is included in a new vinyl anthology that’s a must-have for punk collectors.

Along with killer slabs like Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown EP, Circle Jerks’ Group Sex, Fear’s The Record, Germs’ GI record is easily one of the cornerstones if not ground zero for the burgeoning Southern California hardcore scene of the early ’80s. 

Like many budding young punkers, I hardly cottoned to Germs’ classic 1979 debut LP GI. Darby Crash’s atonal wail, filled with venom, bile and nihilism, was a bit too much for my tender teenage ears. I was just barely out of my Sex Pistols and Ramones phase and songs like “Communist Eyes” and “We Must Bleed” just held no reference points for me to hang onto. In fact, it would take years before this razor-filled blaster would permanently burn and burrow its way into my frontal lobes and finally become one of my most cherished records. 

GI by Germs from Porterhouse Records
The Complete Anthology from Porterhouse Records includes GI by Germs

If you were lucky enough to scoop up an original copy of GI or the What We Do Is Secret EP on the Slash label during the early ’80s — or you can afford the crazy prices that the original copies go for on Discogs — then bully for you, but the recent Porterhouse Records release The Complete Anthology, is the only place you will get the GI full length, What We Do Is Secret EP, the band’s debut single “Forming” (!!!) and their contributions to the Cruising soundtrack, all lovingly strewn over four vinyl sides. Previously only available on CD ,the good folks at Porterhouse (X, Circle Jerks) — which is headed up by ex-Montrealer and My Dog Popper drummer Steve Kravac — gives this flawed gem the proper vinyl treatment it deserves. All of the Germs’ recorded output is stretched out over two 180g LPs here and sounds completely gorgeous. I know, the original record was hardly audiophile quality but compared with my played to death bootleg copy, this is like hearing it again for the first time.

For all of you trainspotters, this is indeed taken from the original stereo masters and was remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. Pat Smear’s (yep, the Foo Fighters guy) Rickenbacker guitar has extra smash and bash while Don Bolles’s cymbals have more sizzle on the top end as his wandering kick drum gains a new sense of slam. It’s in the mid-range though where the biggest difference lies as Darby’s vocals sound utterly untethered now, with extra growl and more room to roam and pounce. 

Most of you who routinely check this dark corner of of Cult MTL will obviously have become well acquainted with this classic, but for those of you who would like to see where that darned hardcore thing came from, this is it. It becomes abundantly clear that this is hardly a bunch of drug-infested beach bums mindlessly bashing away. In this case, the included lyric sheet reveals that there is a genius poet at work here. True, Darby’s vocals are the real pill/thrill, but his mouth is full of marbles throughout. Reading along to lines like “I came into this world like a puzzled panther” in “Manimal” cuts to the bone. The band was easily waaaay ahead of their time musically and were clearly forging new roads in 1979 as Black Flag were just revving up. But it really is Darby’s barbs and utter abandonment in performance that would ignite the hardcore movement as well as continue to influence bands today that dare to remain and proliferate outside of the margins. ■

Current Obsession: GI

This column was originally published in the October issue of Cult MTL.

For more about the recent reissue of GI by Germs, please visit the Porterhouse Records website.

See previous editions of Hammer of the Mods here.