Of all the bands to come out of the Los Angeles punk scene, the Germs were always the best cut out for a tacky biopic. Their story had it all: the male-female lineup, the tragic ending (singer Darby Crash killed himself with heroin), and, of course, the celebrity cameos (Joan Jett produced the Germs' one album; Go-Go Belinda Carlisle was briefly a member; guitarist Pat Smear later went on to join Nirvana and the Foo Fighters). The world will get to judge for itself next summer with the release of What We Do Is Secret starring Shane West as the ill-fated Crash.
But the definitive film treatment of the Germs will likely always be their segment of Penelope Spheeris's 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. Because of that movie, to me and thousands of others the Germs will always be the band with the singer who was so wasted that his manager considered duct-taping the microphone to his face so he wouldn't drop it as he stumbled around the stage. And partly because of that movie, I have always had trouble believing people when they say the Germs were great. The band's recorded legacy is slight (everything fits on the MIA compilation CD) and, frankly, not that impressive. The live performances available on YouTube and elsewhere are, like those in Decline, notable mostly for Crash's incoherence. I guess you had to be there.
And now you can, sort of. The surviving Germs first reunited last year for a jaunt on the Warped Tour. Their singer? Actor Shane West. It strikes me as a cynical, somewhat morbid attempt to cash-out the band's legacy. But, hell, I'm thinking I'll go see them.
GERMS, The Casbah, Thursday, December 27, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $20.