It's rather ironic that while Los Angeles was the capitol of the American recording industry in the mid-to-late '70s, most of the seminal bands of the original New York punk rock scene (the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads) were able to score major-label contracts, but nearly all of their West Coast contemporaries were ignored, having to rely on fledgling independent labels like Dangerhouse or What? if they wanted to be heard on plastic. Consequently, several important bands, such as Crime and the Screamers, managed to slip through the cracks without ever releasing a proper album, and the Weirdos, who were one of the first major bands to emerge from the L.A. punk underground, broke up in 1981 without making an LP. (They did reunite for a spell in the 1990s, recording an album called Condor with the help of friend and fan Flea.) Fortunately, the Weirdos did manage to release a handful of singles and EPs during their 1977-1981 heyday, as well as demoing plenty of material that never saw release, and Weird World, Vol. 1 collects 14 superb cuts that set the record straight -- the Weirdos were, quite simply, one of the best and brightest American bands of punk's first wave. Dix Denney's hard, angular guitar lines suggested melody without sacrificing any of his propulsive punch, while the various rhythm sections were invariably tight, hard-driving, and energetic (the band went through four drummers and five bassists in five years; one of the group's bass players, Cliff Roman, was originally their rhythm guitarist, and wrote a handful of superb songs, including "Teenage" and "Life of Crime"). And vocalist John Denny was a genius frontman; manic, funny, and just a little disturbing, John could pour a world of passion and meaning into a nonsense lyric like "Bop helium bar tonight!," and his more coherent numbers, like "We've Got the Neutron Bomb" and "Pagan" were as hilarious as the Ramones but with a genuinely ominous undercurrent their funny-punk brethren couldn't touch (check the claustrophobic "Solitary Confinement"). Weird World, Vol. 1 is hardly the final word on this great band, but if you want concrete proof that the Weirdos were the great unsung heroes of L.A. punk, you could hardly do better.
Weird World, Vol. 1 Review
by Mark Deming