It's a bit odd to have a full-blown, star-studded tribute to a band that only released one album, especially when that band was better-known for their aggressive, audience-baiting performances than their songwriting abilities. Nevertheless, the Germs were a cult favorite among underground rockers for many years, partially due to the mythology surrounding their self-destructive lead singer, Darby Crash, and partially due to their claim as the first punk rock band in Los Angeles. And that explains why A Small Circle of Friends: A Germs Tribute was created. Allegedly a full four years in the making, A Small Circle of Friends features a full 20 tracks from such alternative rock stars and heavy hitters like L7, Mike Watt & J Mascis, Meat Puppets, Matthew Sweet, Free Kitten, NOFX, the Melvins, Flea, Gumball, Dave Navarro, that dog., D Generation, the Posies, and various one-shot supergroups like the Puzzled Panthers (Thurston Moore, Mike D, Kira Roessler, Dave Markey) and the Holez (Pat Smear with Hole). Nearly every one of the artists deliver passionate, affectionate performances, but they can't quite save the songs from being rather mediocre. After all, what made the Germs compelling were the performances, not the songs themselves -- apart from "Forming" and "Sex Boy," the songs were not that memorable. Still, fans of either the Germs or any of the individual artists involved in the tribute will find something of interest on A Small Circle of Friends. And despite the evident effort of everyone involved in the album, A Small Circle of Friends remains one of those tribute records that you listen to once and then file away.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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